Ownership and Property Defined

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What is Property?

Ownership / Property is an abstraction which describes norms by actors in relation to the subject of ownership.

The above is not merely a definition of property, but an accurate description of what property actually is.

In orderly to adequately answer any question of property, one must recognize:

  1. The value(s) one intends to promote.
  2. The type of property system(s) (norms) which best promote those values.

A few example reasons why I value property, and value a particular construction of property *(i.e. not "king owns everything")* is that I value the production of wealth, cooperation, autonomy, stable/predictable management of resources, return on investment, responsibility, human wellbeing, mutually beneficial relationships, non-violence, anti-parasitism, and a diverse array of similar values.

Related Concepts


Norms are sets of preferred human behavior. The preference aspect of norms is often represented through concepts of justice, morality, desire, rights, and ethics. Behavior can either be represented as actions to be performed (i.e. responsibility for one's actions) or actions to be refrained from (i.e. don't steal, don't hit, etc).


Abstractions are concepts that exist in the mind, and while they may occasionally represent something in physical space, the abstraction itself is intangible. Property and ownership themselves do not 'exist' in the sense of physical matter or substance. There is no physical connection or physical metadata on the subject-of-ownership which describes it's rightful owner. Yes, one can attempt to mark property through titles, engraving, metadata, or similar methods however this mark in no way guarantees rightful ownership (i.e. me writing on paper that I own 'your' car doesn't make it so).


Typically, the "actors" have the ability act, and the ability to make decisions in regards to their actions, and posses the capacity to engage in cooperative mutual relationships. Typically these actors are human, however the author recognizes the possibility of non-human cooperation.

Subject of Ownership

The subject of ownership is typically labeled "the property". This property is the object (tangible, intangible, or otherwise) that is considered owned. This subject may be land, houses, cars, software, art, designs, computers, animals, capital, actions, labor, stocks, identity, and privacy. For the purposes of this article, no assumptions will be made in regards to "correct ownership", but instead merely recognize that these things may often be considered "owned" or treated as the subject of ownership.

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