Article by Cal Nogov on June 7, 2016
Property in this article refers only to Real Estate. The land and things attached to it. The question in the title, “What constitutes legitimate property ownership and when is a property deemed abandoned?” I consider these two things linked. It is also the reason why an Anarcho-Capitalist world would not be a feudalist world as critics contend.
The U.S. government claims ownership of the land from sea to shining sea. Is this legitimate ownership? I assume every anarchist says no to that. For if not, we already live in an anarcho-capitalist world and we just happen to be living on corporation U.S.A.’s land and if we don’t like it we can move to somalia.
What about the Lousiana purchase? Corporation USA acquired this land through purchase, doesn’t that constitute legal property ownership? What about Corporation USA’s agents Lewis and Clark exploring and homesteading the west. Is that sufficient for legitimate ownership?
Purchasing and homesteading are both perfectly acceptable forms of acquiring land legally without coercion or violating someone else’s rights.
So what’s the difference? In a word: Use. But use is where this story begins, not ends.
Let’s run through a few scenarios.
A man owns a house he acquired legally. He lives there. It’s his private property. One day he decides to buy a new house, so he does. His old house he tries to sell but can’t. He tries to rent it but can’t. (the reasons he can’t sell or rent it is inconsequential for the scenario) He maintains this vacant house for a while, but eventually gets tired of the maintenance and stops maintaining it. Is this house now abandoned and available to be homesteaded by someone else? When? How long a time frame? In the world of government the answer is, it is never abandoned as long as he pays his taxes, or if he stops paying taxes, then the state will after “X” amount of years take and auction off the house. In a stateless society, does this man just own this house forever even though he has defacto abandoned it? What’s your opinion?
A man is a cattle rancher. He has 1000 head of cattle so he acquires 1000 acres of land to graze his cattle. (homestead or purchase). He erects a barbed wire fence around the 1000 acres. Great. He owns it. He has all rights of private property over those 1000 acres. One year he doesn’t replenish his herd and tells people he is leaving it vacant for one year because the years of grazing has taken its toll on the land and it needs to recover. The following year he replenishes his cattle herd. One year he decides to stop ranching and tries to sell or rent the land, but can’t. He has defacto abandoned use of the land. Does he still own the land? After how long is it considered abandoned and available for others to homestead? What’s your opinion?
A man gets rich after inventing a product that sells great. He buys a large estate, 1000 acres, and maintains the house and surrounding land. Great. That’s his private property. Then he acquires adjacent land through purchase and homestead and more adjacent land through purchase and homestead eventually parceling together say 100,000 acres. He leaves most of this 100,000 acres vacant and wild. This is now the kingdom of Bob and Bob shall be its king. Anyone stepping on to Bob’s land is subject to rule by Bob. Anybody caught poaching Bob’s deer in Bob’s kingdom shall be subject to execution. Even though Bob lawfully acquired this land, is this legitimate ownership? Or, did he acquire it and immediately abandon it by not using it? What’s your opinion?
A man builds a fence around yellowstone park and now charges $5 to enter. Is this legitimate ownership? What if instead he builds a parking lot and a gift shop a restaurant bathrooms etc at the edge of yellowstone park and charges $5 to park or use the restrooms (waived if you make a minimum purchase at the restaurant or gift shop). People can avoid his $5 fee by not parking on his lot, but can still visit yellowstone park. Is there a difference between someone who stakes off a large area, does nothing to it, and charges admission versus an amusement park who stakes off a large area and builds rides and restaurants and stuff and charges admission? What’s your opinion?
How about a farmer. He’s got a lot of land to grow crops. He’s using the land, it’s his. If he stops growing crops, has he abandoned it? What if the crops are trees that take 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years to mature? If no one is allowed to own a forest for the future wood from trees you’ll run into a tragedy of the commons situation where everyone is rushing to harvest the trees prematurely before the next guy does. What’s your opinion?
There are countless scenarios. This is a pretty good sampling.
When I envision the future, I see a stateless world. In my mind it’s not if, but when. The reason I ask your opinion on these scenarios is because I see the answers coming in the form of discovery, natural or common law if you like. The rules of real estate if you like. Similar to how Gold and Silver established themselves as money. Similar to price discovery on a free market. No one dictated that gold and silver be money. No one dictates the price of something on a free market.
For example, what is the price of a hammer? There is no fixed price for a hammer. It’s always in motion. It may fix itself for a short while, but it fluctuates based on millions of people’s opinions of what a hammer should sell for. It’s also different in different locations. Even though it changes, you generally know about what a hammer costs.
So would be the rules of real estate. Established through millions and billions of people’s opinion on what constitutes legitimate ownership of property and when is a property deemed abandoned.
When I envision a free world with private property, I see lots of vacant, abandoned and common property as well. Unlike today, where the nations of the world claim dominion over everything within their borders and not a scrap of land is unclaimed.
The road in front of your house if you live in a neighborhood would be a common easement with people coming together to maintain it as prosperity rises. Many types of private roads would also exist. Vacant and abandoned property would be plentiful for use.
I don’t see a lot of rental property existing in a free society like it does today. I think rental properties, for the most part, would be vacation and short term rentals. Hotels. Private vacation rentals. Short term housing between permanent residences. Business rentals would probably still exist in strip malls and such. It would just be more convenient for business operations to rent rather than own in many instances.
I don’t see Homeowner’s association properties existing. They could, but I don’t think they would simply because; why would I agree to an associations rules over a property I own and have all the rights of private property. What benefit is there to restricting the use of my property or allowing someone else or a collective a say over my property? I see common maintenance contracts in condo style buildings, but not HOA’s as they exist today.
I see upward mobility being much easier. I see the cost of housing being much cheaper than today.
How would all these rules be enforced? There is a lot written on enforcement in a free society. I’m not going to go into that here. Seek out that information if that is a primary concern of yours.
I see private property as the basis for freedom. The anarchists of old saw, for the most part, communal property as the basis for freedom. We’ve seen the results of communal property on both national and small colony scale. The results of communal property are destructive.