Contingent Property

While one truce may be normally granted, it may be contingent upon acceptance of another truce.

The Source of Property

Normally, one may be more than happy to grant a variety of truces including non-violence, self-ownership, property, and autonomy without much question. Respect and cooperation in regards to these truces may generally result in balanced, productive, and responsible relationships between parties involved - and as such - the granting of these truces may seem "automatic."

This article will explore a subtle trick used to exploit this seemingly "automatic" granting of a truce, and explore both how and why these truces are not automatically grated, even by their strongest advocates. This article also follows up on, and returns to the concept of property as a truce of mutually beneficial relationships.

Not Automatic

Take perhaps the simplest example; a thief. Person-A is a property-respecting hard worker, who cares for and produces several tomatoes. Person-B comes along and takes those tomatoes without Person-A's willing consent. Presuming noting else unusual happened, generally Person-B is considered to be in violation of the truce of property, and labeled a "thief." Further, it is generally considered "just" for Person-A to reclaim a similar quantity of tomatoes (or perhaps greater quantity), and as such we see concepts like self defense and restitution treated as "legitimate" or non-violations of the truce of property. The "thief" (person-B) is being treated according to his own standards, and ownership is not automatically granted regardless of circumstance.

Clever Thief

If Person-B were clever, he might engage in the following dialogue:

  • Person-B: "You agree that it is unjust to steal my wheat"
  • Person-A: "Agreed, that would be a violation"
  • Person-B steals tomatoes from Person-A
  • Person-A: "How dare you take my tomatoes! I'm here to reclaim wheat from you"
  • Person-B: "I never agreed that those were YOUR tomatoes, nor that anyone should be able to own tomatoes"
  • Person-A: "What about when we talked about not stealing?"
  • Person-B: "We agreed to not steal wheat. I never consented to tomato ownership"

The subtlety in the above dialogue is that Person-A agrees respect the ownership of Person-B, contingent upon himself being treated similarly in return. Person-A may normally be quite happy to respect the ownership of wheat on the part of Person-C,D, and E as those persons return the favor with a similar balanced and mutually beneficial truce.

Regardless of the tricky behavior of Person-B, what Person-A illustrates is, while one truce may be normally granted, it may be contingent upon acceptance of another truce.


Given divergent property norms, a behavior under one truce may be the norm, while under another may be a violation. While these behaviors may result in balanced relationships within the truce, the behavior may be imbalanced towards those outside. Similarly, outsiders may not automatically be granted the benefits of a truce, if they don't accept all parts.

  • Two communists or mutualists may be engaging in a mutual relationship though capital-sharing, but by denying exclusivity and ownership to a capital-owner or producer, engaging in an imbalanced and exploitative relationship.
  • Two propertarians who restrict access to their property may be engaging in mutual relationships, however if they were to demand access to the mutualist capital and resources, they would be placing the mutualists at severe disadvantage.
  • Two intangible-property abolitionists may be engaging in a mutual relationship by freely using eachother's intangible wealth at will, but piracy of the work of a non-consenting artist may be an imbalanced relationship.

A fantastic example is open-source licenses, which require derivatives to be open-source as well. This allows software developers to collectively benefit from their own and other's contributions. Anyone who violates this agreement would also violate the pact of mutual trust and benefit, and as such, it is consistent for these open-source project to deny access and use by those who don't agree to their terms.

Truces are not only divergent in style or property-systems, but also an individual may have unique truces with other unique individuals. A person may agree to a strict property-truce with one person, while a more mutualist-style truce with family members, an open-source truce with an open-source community, an exchange truce with a customer, and no truce at all with a thief or conn artist.

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