Land Ownership - The anarchist divide

in anarchy •  last year

As I've been working on the first book in my series on law I realized that there are a couple of very important areas that fall outside of rights.

Everyone that I'd call a "real" anarchist shares the following ideas:

  • We own ourselves
  • We all have basic inherent, unalienable and equal rights

Basic rights

Basic rights stem from self ownership. In law, "property" actually means rights.

From self ownership one should conclude that everyone has at least the following rights:

  • The right to travel
  • The right to communicate (or not)
  • The right to associate with others (or not)
  • The right to trade with others (or not)
  • The right to the fruits of ones labor

Notice that the following is not really a right as it requires the labor of someone:

  • Sustenance - If you have the right to sustenance then you have at least some ownership of other people. Via the fruits of your labor you clearly have the right to eat and drink that which you grow/gather/hunt.

Sustenance requires use of land... and this is the only real divide that I see between various groups of anarchists/voluntaryists.

Land Ownership

There are many different methods of approaching land ownership that range from individual exclusive ownership to complete communal ownership.

Indigenous / native peoples methods

Most modern indigenous people have a mixed societal ownership where the tribe/society claims use of a general area of land, has various commons type areas and/or buildings including growing areas, and also has more private ownership areas consisting of each families shelter and the area immediately around it.

Some indigenous people have a roaming society where they are hunter/gatherers and travel in larger areas that they generally claim the right to use.

In many cases their claim to land is a use/stewardship claim and not an exclusionary claim. For example they don't build fences (except perhaps around crops in some cases) to limit other people from traveling through the land they use for sustenance.

Statist Land Ownership

Today, although they may play lip service to "public" property and "land ownership", people calling themselves government claim to own/control all land around the world exclusively and tax everyone who makes use of it (whether they admit it is a feudal system or claim that people own it themselves doesn't matter... if one must pay a tax to use something then it is not theirs).

Anarchistic Land "Ownership"

Personally, I believe that letting people claim exclusive ownership of land beyond what they actually need is the source of a lot of problems (e.g. people claiming to own thousands of acres and not using it... simply excluding its use by others) but restricting exclusive use of land (ownership) to only one's shelter is also a bit strange to me.

This is likely the problem addressed historically in the united states by "adverse possession", where one who makes use of unused land claimed by another for a certain period of time can claim ownership of it.

Where does it make sense to draw the line on land ownership?

I'd expect that this would be a matter for each local society to work out amongst themselves... but find it to be a very interesting (e.g. hard) question.

As long as no one is willing to initiate force against others and everyone respects the rights of others to the fruits of their labor I'm not sure it matters as much as many seem to think.

If some people decide to form a commune, create common gardens, orchards, buildings, and share everything (except perhaps their personal effects) then that should be for them to decide.

If other people decide to have some common areas and some exclusive use areas (say their homes), then that again should be for them to decide.

If yet other people decide to have few (or even no) common areas then again, that should be for them to decide... even though doing such a thing means much more work.

Of course, the problem then comes down to dispute resolution and what is "reasonable" to claim exclusive use of.

All I know for sure is that "ownership" of land by legal fictions ("the state", "corporations", etc.) has led to the destruction of the right of people to be left alone as everyone must work for money to pay those demanding that they pay a land tax or move somewhere else.

Personally, I like the native american approach where tribes (societies) claimed stewardship of the land they needed for hunting, gathering, and growing crops and families within the tribes had their own small homes and personal effects.

You can argue that communal ownership of tools is a good thing (I'd agree) but I'd never argue that if you made a tool I had any right to make use of it without your consent unless you explicitly made it public domain property.

Anywise, just something I've been mulling over for a while.

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