19 thoughts on “The Myth Of Property

  1. Mitch H.

    That’s not what he said. He claimed that because property doesn’t “precede the state” that objections to redistribution are nonsensical and foolish. It’s a broken syllogism, but the idea that property is a creation of the state (or *a* state) isn’t. Legal doctrine is all that distinguishes between a squatter and a landowner, possession and ownership – and that law doesn’t exist in a vacuum, minarchist fantasies of mercenary, freelance law courts aside. The law which lends authority to title must, somewhere, have a man with a gun willing to enforce that authority. And the title itself in practice have originated from a grant under sovereignty.

    1. George Turner

      Unfortunately for his argument, property long precedes the state. The only reason the state even bothered keeping records of deeds is to prevent fraud, and general such use of written records in England barely predates the settlement of the US. The prior system just required a ceremony between the buyer and seller of a piece of land, performed on the property itself.

      Some kind of informal real-estate system recognizing property rights becomes a requirement as soon as people start planting crops, otherwise harvest would be a free-for-all and gardens would be continuoulsy looted.

      1. Will McLean

        Technically, a tiny number of existing property owners can derive their ownership from pre-polity claims. For the vast majority of currently owned private property, Yglesias is correct.

        1. Edward Wright

          Your statement entails a logical fallacy. The fact that A precedes B, temporally, does not prove that B stems from A, logically.

          The mere fact that person A is older than person B does not prove that person A is his B’s father. The fact that person A is older than panting P does not prove that person A is P’s artist.

          Similar, the state is older than most private property does not prove that the state created private property.

          By your argument, you owe not only your property, but your freedom to the state: The state existed long before you did. Therefore, your freedom does not derive from “pre-polity claims” but from the state.

          If the state granted you your freedom, it has the right take it away, at any time, for any reason, just as it has the right to take your property at any time.

          You would probably not agree that the state has the right to sell you into slavery, but you cannot make a logical argument against it, either, if you hold the doctrine that rights precede from the state.

          1. Will McLean

            You are refuting an argument that I’m not making. My private property is dependent on two inputs. The first is my labor and that of my ancestors. The second is the fact that we lived and live in a state that enforces those rights, has built infrastructure that makes me more productive, and grants artificial monopolies like copyright that could never be enforced in a state of nature. Some portion of the difference between what property I would have accumulated and kept in a state of nature and what I actually have may be justly taxed by the state.

      2. Edward Wright

        It doesn’t take a lot of education to know that private property wasn’t invented by the state. As G. Harry Stine said, all you have to do is watch a litter of puppies — *they* understand the concept of private property.

        This is what socialism has bred. Intellectuals who know less than a litter of dogs.

  2. Al

    IOW: Before lawyers, no one ever owned anything. They just possessed it. Because cleverly defining ownership to mean “in a legal sense” requires “legal”.

    The badger owns that hole. You’re welcome to dispute it with him. No cheating by using anything you don’t own.

  3. Mitch H.

    Clever and brutal lawyers were kings on the American frontier. Andrew Jackson, for instance, was a dubiously-educated but yet quite ferocious and successful lawyer in frontier Tennessee, eventually going on to serve a successful and notable term as Superior Court Justice for the new state. There’s some great stories in Remini’s first volume of his biography of Jackson, including one where the then-Judge faced down an armed lunatic who had invaded his court to point a pistol in Jackson’s face. He basically disarmed him with concentrated menace and a hard glare.

  4. Leland

    It’s not the law that lends authority to title, it is the gun. If you don’t understand this, try going after the badger with a rolled up copy of the US Constitution to smash across it nose.

    1. Al

      Although, I wouldn’t mind going after the badger with Andrew Jackson. That is a good point. :D

      Florida wasn’t won with paper either.

  5. Der Schtumpy

    “…prior to the existence of the state.”

    I can only ass-u-me that by ‘state’, he would also include family groups of hunter gatherers, then tribes of hunter gatherers, prior to small tribal farms in there as, ‘the state’. So he’s saying that the ‘family’ owned Ugg’s bronto skin cloak, Ugg did not.

    I’m betting Ugg would gladly break into his new personal property, beat the snot out of him for a chunk of meat and then gladly SHARE in the societal bounty of that new home, rather than sleeping a damned drafty cave!

    Of all the stupid, hypocritical idiots, he’s JUST today’s winner.

    1. Trent Waddington

      If you want a bigger stupid, hypocritical idiot, go talk to a minarchist about property. I’ve been discouraged to discover that many of my fellows have this watered down concept of property which amounts to:

      property: the right to compensation for damages caused by others.

      Somebody trespassing on your land? What harm does that do? If you really want to stump them, ask ‘em what recourse an owner should have if someone improves their property without their permission.

        1. Trent Waddington

          It doesn’t matter. Even if the owner agrees that it is an improvement, he has a right not to have his property improved without his permission. Property is not just due compensation for trespass, it’s about prior constraint, .

      1. Der Schtumpy

        I’ve talked to a few, they existed in great numbers near the university when we lived in the student ghetto near NCSU. One of the last rousing conversations I had was about how ‘just’ paying my rent, shouldn’t ‘guarantee’ me a parking place’ even though my apt number was on TWO of them.

        It was the most ill conceived, half-@$$ed, muddled, nonsensical conversation I’ve ever had with someone who was NOT taking hallucinogenics.

  6. ken anthony

    To own anything you must meet the challenge to ownership. Force or threat of force is that challenge.

    You meet that challenge with counter force. A group with agreed upon reasonable terms taking possession of unowned property meets that challenge. The larger the group the better.

    It is an absurd overreach in that case for some political body outside their jurisdiction to tell people in possession of property that they don’t own it.

    Before there were states, there were people. Before any land could be owned it had to be claimed. Anyone using the term grant is displaying an ignorance of the fact that all grants are preceded by a claim. You can’t grant what you do not own.

    The main difference between a state and an individual is the amount of force they can bring to bear. But even the force of the state has its limits. Especially 20 light minutes away.

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