Property : What is Property

What is Property

The concept of property encompasses the concept: [The owner] | [ownership] | [the owned], remove any one of those components and ownership is meaningless. Further, ownership describes [a theory of justice regarding the behavior of non-owners, in relationship to that which is owned], in short a non-violation or [non-tresspass] against ownership.


Ownership is an abstraction, a concept, a human construct. Ownership is then manifested through human action, and how humans act in regards to persons, tangible objects, or even intangible objects. Ownership is also an "ought," meaning it proposes that humans should act in certain ways.


Oughts are meaningless alone, however can be objective and meaningful when discussed in the context of specific pursuits and goals (see #1). "A person ought X in pursuit of Y" makes sense, however is imprecise (see #2). It is far more precise to say X promotes Y (see #3).

1. "A person ought smoke."
2. "A person ought smoke in the pursuit of a nicotine craving"
3. "Smoking promotes the satisfaction of a nicotine craving"

Ownership promotes…

As noted earlier, ownership only exists in the mind, however, ownership promotes and undermines a variety of pursuits/values. As such, one might objectively claim "if a person values pursuits A,B,C, and D, they ought respect ownership." The answer to "why ownership" is therefore contained within the pursuits that ownership promotes.

Notes: Some other time I will make a list of values/pursuits that are promotes/undermined by ownership.

Ownership as a Truce**

Like the golden rule, "Respect my property and I will respect yours, disrespect my property and I won't respect yours." There is nothing binding or metaphysical about ownership, however it is commonly understood that both parties are better off (mutual benefit) if they respect eachother's property (the truce), and that breaches of the truce may be responded to in kind.

Ownership Truce as a Technology

The mutually beneficial truce tends to be far more inclusive and adaptive than mere ownership in a simplistic 'hands off my tomatoes' sense.

  • Often, this truce includes the concept of non-violence (or inversely non-violence truces include ownership). These truces tend to be linked based on the underlying values, and as such, it is understood that it is "legitimate" (consistent with the truce) to respond to one type of violation (i.e. a theft) with another type of violation (i.e. forcefully physically retrieving the item).
  • Given a small breach of the truce, invalidating the entire truce-status of the violator would be destructive and contrary to the values/pursuits the truce intends to promote. As such the concept of proportional response has become integral to these truces.
  • One could imagine scenarios where certain claims of ownership (i.e. "this house is now property of the state") violate or undermine the intended purists/values of ownership.
  • Given emergency situations and hypothetical situations that distort incentives and values, it is understood that a person should breach the truce to the least extend possible - and that such breaches don't undermine the overall truce (i.e. steal bread/water, not the Ferrari).
  • Property norms regularly adapt to practical application, and must do so in order to maintain consistent with the promotion of the underlying values and pursuits. As such advancements in ownership 'truces' have adapted to include concepts of easements, fair use, contracts, unenforceable contracts, partial ownership, stocks/bonds, privacy, copyrights, anti fraud-extortion-embezzelment-threats, abandonment, absentee-ownership, title-agencies, and arbitration.
  • A healthy truce will likely involve a healthy dose of disagreement and application of Occam's Razor. However, failure to understand an ownership concept is not sufficient to discard it. Advanced property concepts may superficially appear to contrast with simplistic understanding of property rights, however generally these advanced concepts are applications of another type of ownership. *(i.e. ownership of an easement).*
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