The Complete Definition Of Property: An Excerpt from Propertarianism

[P]ropertarianism differs from Libertarianism by:

1) First, Propertarianism argues that the principle of involuntary transfer – a prohibition on not only fraud theft and violence — but also involuntary transfer in all its forms, including “cheating”, or privatization of the commons, is the boundary that determines ethical use of property, because it is how humans act in all states of development, regardless of the allocation of property they rely upon in their culture.

2) Second, Propertarianism recognizes that the institution of property is a prescription for the monopoly of use of a resource, including one’s self, but that each time a person respects someone’s property, he bears a cost by doing so. This cost in forgone opportunities is how we pay for the norm of property.

3) Third, Propertarianism extends libertarian ethics by the expansion of the definition of property to describe what people demonstrate that they believe is property, rather than what we hypothesize that it should, could, or might be the optimum definition of property. This leads us to the conclusion that all societies posssess property rights. But they are allocated in superior and inferior ways. And superior and inferior because individual property produces an economically superior outcome, and humans universally demonstrate a preference for economically superior outcomes, because those outcomes grant them greater opportunities for positive experiences.

4) Fourth, propertarianism describes principles and formal institutions that allow voluntary cooperation at scale where cheating would prohibit voluntary cooperation in the market, without those prohibitions on cheating. These principles require calculability, contracts instead of laws, and ‘houses’ whether representative or direct, that facilitate cooperation between classes who have disparate interests. This is the one and only legitimate use of government: to prohibit cheating – indirect involuntary transfer by other than theft, fraud or violence. Oddly enough, in the marketplace, we sanction the ‘cheating’ of competition, thus violating one of the natural ethical principles of human cooperation. But we sanction competition in order to provide incentives for innovation, and reduced prices. It is this pair of ethical problems that government, whether that government be a constitution and free market judges, or a vast totalitarian capitalist state.

[L]ibertarians argue that:

1) All human rights can be expressed in terms of property rights — and moreover, that the only rights possible for humans to possess are those that can be expressed as property rights.

2) That an advanced economy is not possible without property rights because humans cannot calculate and plan a better future, nor do they, nor can they, have the incentive to do.

3) Establishing Personal Property as a formal institution will lead to a peaceful social order of moral norms — meaning that norms will evolve that allow people to plan and execute actions independently without the necessity of violence, theft or fraudulent behavior. And in this peaceful environment will experience the comfort of familial relations even in the competitive marketplace.


[L]ibertarianism as a sentiment is a broad classification of political sensibilities, but what they share in common is a desire for liberty, and a preference for limited governmental interference in that liberty. In philosophical terms, libertarianism is a preference for private property as the best means of organizing a society. In other words, the best allocation of property rights is purely to individuals, rather than purely to a hierarchy, ore purely to a commons, or any mixture in between.

Libertarians and Propertarians differ on:

1. Origin: Whether “Markets Evolved” and regulation is a form of theft, or “Markets Were Made” and regulations by shareholders or their representatives are an expression of property rights. In practical terms, this is a derivation of principles 1, 2 and 3 above, since regulation is an attempt to solve the problem of involuntary transfers, fraud due to asymmetry of information, and fraud due to external involuntary transfers.

2. Justification: Whether i) we derive property rights from the practical necessity of creating a division of knowledge, labor and trade — in which sense property is utilitarian. Or ii) whether we derive property rights from an abstract moral commitment to the individual — in which case it is an ideal. Or iii) whether there is some natural or evolutionary law that we should observe. Some might argue all of the above (iiii).

3. Cause: Whether i) the system of ethics that evolves from private property begins with the Rothbardian assumption of the non-aggression principle — from which we can derive private property — as a purely moral abstraction. Or ii) whether, as I have stated, we pay for our property rights by forgoing our opportunity for using violence, theft and fraud. If the latter, then by consequence, people pay for the norm of property – and in fact, pay for ALL norms. And as such, failing to observe norms is a theft from the shareholders of those norms.

This approach to forgone opportunity costs more accurately describes the european aristocratic manorial ethic because particular norms are necessary for land holding. As I state elsewhere, the difference between the Rothbardian ethic and this ethical extension of Rothbard and Hoppe, is that the Jewish tradition is diasporic and unlanded. The Christian tradition is a landed tradition, and there are high costs to a social order for holding land. (Aryan is probably more accurate a term, since it predates Christianity, but it’s a tainted term)

4. Institutions: The preferred institutions for enforcing property rights: which political system they prefer. From the anarchic to the private monarchic government, to the classical liberal republican government. Propertarians Differ on which institutions that they prefer.

I argue that the set of institutions that each author advocates is determined by the author’s heritage, and therefore the origin of those differences lies in the a) size of te population b) the diversity of the population in ability, identity and norms, c) the need for landholding or not. And that differences between the author’s viewpoints are meaningless, other than perhaps valuable in describing the variety of societies that can be created using the institution of property.

Rothbard’s anarchism is just an instantiation of a Jewish diasporic religion. Hoppe’s private government is an instantiation of German Nationalism. And my classical liberalism is an instantiation of English imperialism. These forms of government are all possible to accomodate within the propertarian ethic: a total homogeneity of belief in a religion, a tribal homogeneity of a small territory. Or the multi-tribal demands of a federated alliance. Propertarian ethics inform us as how to structure each political order. The order itself is determined by circumstance and is constant across all human populations. But the Popertarian ethic applies equally to each.

5. Limits: On the limits of property rights (at what points one’s rights begin and end). For example, some would argue that the right to property is infinite regardless of the circumstances of others. Some would argue that property rights are a norm that is subject to limits at the extremes. So, for example, if I have gallons of water in a desert I cannot let the man before me die of thirst. Some would say I must simply give it to him. Others would argue that the man owes for the drink of water at a later date at market price, but that I cannot refuse to give it to him under this condition of duress simply because he currently lacks a means of payment. I support the latter position since it does not violate the principle of property it only presses my assets into a receivable. Otherwise I am profiting from suffering which is an involuntary transfer, not a voluntary exchange.

6. Ethics: The responsibility or lack of responsibility for symmetric knowledge in an exchange. Stated as “In any exchange the seller has an ethical obligation to mitigate fraud from the asymmetry of knowledge.” Classical liberals and Christian authors advocate symmetrical-knowledge ethics. Anarchists and Jewish authors advocate asymmetrical-knowledge ethics. Rothbard and Block are asymmetrical advocates. Most classical liberals lack the knowledge of Rothbardian/Hoppian ethics necessary to articulate their values in Propertarian terms. However, the classical liberals as well as the Hayekians, both advocate symmetrical-knowledge ethics whether they articulate the ideas effectively or not.

7. Warranty: Implied warranty is a derivation of Symmetrical Knowledge Ethics above. Expressed as: “In any exchange the seller must warrant his goods and services to prevent fraud by asymmetry of information.” Classical liberal and Christian authors imply warranty. Anarchist and Jewish authors expressly deny warranty. (I address this elsewhere as the BAZAAR EXCHANGE ETHIC vs the WARRIOR EXCHANGE ETHIC.)

8. Externalities: “No exchange, action or inaction may cause involuntary transfers from others”. Whether or not there is a prohibition against all involuntary external transfers (classical liberal and Christian authors), or a prohibition only against state conduct of involuntary transfers (anarchist and Jewish authors).

9. Exclusion (Ostracization) Whether individuals can aggregate into groups have the right of exclusion. That is, to prohibit individuals from a defined area. While all seem to agree that individuals must have the right of passage in some way, others deny groups from forming a boundary and in effect prohibiting immigration.

10. Scope: The scope of property rights. All societies select a different portfolio of Property Types to which they apply different allocations of control to the individual, the group and the political authority. We know today, that several property rights are necessary for economic calculation and to provide individuals with incentives to serve one another. But that knowledge has not always been available. Societies evolved more than chose those rights. That evolutionary process was chaotic and debilitating for some societies and enabling for others.

The scope of property includes the following questions:

  1. Community / Shareholder:While ‘community property’ violates the principle of calculability, and in an advanced, large, mobile society, is impossible to administer without involuntary transfers, and further, is subject to the tragedy of the commons, and bureaucratic appropriation, those problems are solved by issuing quantities of shares, even if they are highly restricted, for currently communal goods.Some libertarians eschew the concept of community property, because they wrongly believe that such a thing implies the existence of a bureaucratic government and/or a corporeal state. But community property can be created through shareholder agreements specific to each instance of it, and numeric shares, even if they are illiquid and subject to dilution, are calculable. And as calculable, the problem of enumerated rights and responsibilities, as well as the ability to price abuses in order to both buy-in to communities, and to enforce restitution upon abuse, is solved. General laws need not be created in such cases. The outcome is also beneficial: immigration and childbirth become solvable cost subject to pricing. And the fact that such prices would be exposed is a significant enough reason for some to advocate this strategy, and for others to fight it.
  2. Norms: Since norms require restraints from action (forgone opportunities), and property itself is a norm paid for by restraints from action (forgone opportunities), then all those who adhere to norms, ‘pay’ for them. Therefore norms within a geography are a form of shareholder property, and violations of norms are involuntary transfers (thefts) from norm-holders to norm-destroyers.
  3. Artificial Property Whether to permit Artificial Property or not. In practical terms, this is a derivation dependent upon “ORIGIN” above. Since if markets were made, then their owners have a property right to create artificial forms of property – (because different portfolios of property types are artificial norms that vary from group to group.)
  4. Types of PropertyThe anarchist libertarians have artificially narrowed the concept of property to suit their desired ends. Property exists in those forms that people ACT as if it exists. If the anarchists choose to suggest otherwise, they refute their own arguments for the Praxeological necessity for the institution of property. Humans demonstrably act as though there are four categories of property:
    I. Several (Personal) Property
    Personal property: “Things an individual has a Monopoly Of Control over the use of.”

    1. Physical Body
    2. Actions and Time
    3. Memories, Concepts and Identities: tools that enable us to plan and act. In the consumer economy this includes brands.
    4. Several Property: Those things we claim a monopoly of control over.

    II. Artificial Property

    Artificial Property: “Can a group issue specific rights to members?” This topic is dependent again, upon the ORIGIN question above. If markets are made, then the shareholders of the market may create artificial property of any type that they desire. Including but not limited to:

    1. Shares in property: Recorded And Quantified Shareholder Property (claims for partial ownership)
    2. Monopoly Property such as intellectual property. (grants of monopoly within a geography)
    3. Trademarks and Brands (prohibitions on fraudulent transfers within a geography).

    III. Interpersonal (Relationship) Property

    Cooperative Property: “relationships with others and tools of relationships upon which we reciprocally depend.”

    1. Mates (access to sex/reproduction)
    2. Children (genetic reproduction)
    3. Familial Relations (security)
    4. Non-Familial Relations (utility)
    5. Consanguineous Relations (tribal and family ties)
    6. Racial property (racial ties)
    7. Organizational ties (work)
    8. Knowledge ties (skills, crafts)
    9. Status and Class (reputation)

    IV. Institutional (Community) Property

    Institutional Property: “Those objects into which we have invested our forgone opportunities, our efforts, or our material assets, in order to aggregate capital from multiple individuals for mutual gain.”

    1. Informal (Normative) Institutions: Our norms: manners, ethics and morals. Informal institutional property is nearly impossible to quantify and price. The costs are subjective and consists of forgone opportunities.
    2. Formal (Procedural) Institutions: Our institutions: Religion (including the secular religion), Government, Laws. Formal institutional property is easy to price. costs are visible. And the productivity of the social order is at least marginally measurable.
    3. Land.

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