Controlling Property

What is property? This seemingly simple solution ends up being quite complex when you realize that nobody can agree on the matter. A libertarian will tell you that your property is whatever resources you’re able to homestead or voluntarily trade for. A mutualist will tell you that your property is whatever you’re putting to productive use. A statist will tell you that your property is whatever the State allows you to keep after it has collected its desired taxes. A communist will tell you that you don’t own any property but you might be allowed some possessions of the community can come to a consensus on the matter.

Property isn’t something granted by an organization or by “society.” It certainly isn’t divined by nature. Property ultimately boils down to what you are able to exert your control over. Libertarians, mutualists, statists, and communists usually become quite upset when I point this out. Part of their displeasure arises from the fact that they only understand control as it relates to force. Control can be exerted in many different ways though.

Let’s say I build a house surrounded by a fence and declare the fence and everything inside of it my property, is it my property? A libertarians will say that it’s my property if I either homesteaded the land or voluntarily traded with somebody for it. A mutualist will say that it’s my property if I’m making productive use of the house and the land within the fence. A statist will give me some wishy washy answer about how it’s my property but the government also has the right to control it in whatever way it sees fit (this is probably the least sensible response). A communists will say that it’s not my property but communal property. In actuality though, it is my property so long as I can prevent others from taking it.

Arguments over the nature of property steam from a desire to control property through argumentation. When, for example, anarcho-capitalists claim that private property rights are a natural right derived from homesteading or trade they are trying to convince other people to recognize anything that another individual homesteads or trades for as their property. However, argumentation isn’t the only means of trying to control property. Statists opt to control their property through a proxy. They believe that if all property claims are controlled by a heavily armed gang then everybody’s property rights are protected. It’s a ridiculous belief in my opinion because it actually makes everything the property of the individuals who compose the gang. Egoists hold up their middle fingers at everybody and just declare everything to be their property. I think they tend to recognize the nature of property better than anybody else.

By hook or by crook, if you can establish your control over something then it becomes your property. How you control your property is up to you. I personally prefer starting with argumentation since it is the lowest cost mechanism I know of for controlling property and I see no point of controlling property if I have to spend more to control it than it is worth to me. But being able to backup your claim with force is also important because you’re not going to be successful at convincing everybody else to respect your property claims. An anarcho-syndicalists, for examples, gives no shits whatsoever about Lockean homesteading and will simply seize whatever means of production you’ve claimed as your property.

2 thoughts on “Controlling Property”

  1. Your “statist” might be ranged as legalist to fascist, the former arguing that ownership is what the law says it is, the latter that it’s what his law says it is. At that point, you’ve pretty well merged with the anarcho-syndicalist, who says it’s what he says it is, hang the law anyway.

    1. Even if a statist is a legalist it doesn’t change the fact that the State owns all property since it has a monopoly on law. With a monopoly on law, what legally qualifies as “your” property can change on a whim (for example, the passage of something like civil forfeiture can suddenly render your cash as property of the State so long as one of its agents decides you’re carrying a suspicious amount).

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