First of all, apologies for my lack of posts recently- I have kind of gotten out of the habit, plenty of posts get brain-drafted, especially now that the news is full of Real Stuff Happening but don’t quite make it as far as the WordPress site.
I’ve been reading a lot of Hoppe recently, and his writings often concern property, to whit property being either something you’ve bought, or something ‘previously unowned’ that you have mixed your labour with- heather you collected on the moor, a plot of land in the wilderness you built a farm on, you know the sort of thing. What’s been troubling me is at what point does something previously owned become something unowned?
The reason I’ve been on this train of thought is that in my surrounding area there are various buildings that are derelict, abandoned by the owners (mostly pubs, ok you got me there) and they obviously DO belong to somebody… but.
Now, I don’t want to get all moral and socialistic here… I don’t want to start saying things like ‘the community deserves better than to have these derelict buildings around’ and ‘the council should take them over’ and things like that, but what I would like to explore is whether at some point a squatter becomes a homesteader.
Forget the town for a minute. Imagine that somebody claims a piece of land in the wilderness. They build a log cabin, till some soil… then get fed up, or die, or marry some sort in the local town and move there, whatever. They leave. Twenty, thirty, forty years later you, homesteader, are scouting about looking for a place to live and raise your crops… this place is a good place, but the remnants of the log cabin still remain. Can you rightfully claim it? If the cabin is gone entirely, could the descendants of the previous owner turf you off, even after you spent maybe half your life improving that land, perhaps to a better state than that long-forgotten homesteader? In short, does a one-time claim to property, even if not exercised for many years, count?
So, back to the town again. Records possibly exist (although not always) so is it correct in this case? If not, why not? Is it correct in the wilderness but not in the town due to the record of the owner? Is it never correct? You could go crazy on that one… never sure if any land ever belonged to anyone before. Imagine the ramifications if people started laying claim to land that held important things. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Vatican, The Bank of England. Hmmm… If you could prove it… ok.
So. What if no record exists?
So now, for the final part of this thought experiment… we are doing this,without a state. Yesterday, the revolution happened, the State withered away and an anarchist situation entailed. There are no ‘official records’ no ‘official judges’ and only private solutions to these problems. You took over an abandoned pub, moved in, and started a thriving business. Nobody has cared about or visited or improved this building for several decades and it has lain unused for all this time. Are you a squatter? A trespasser? Or have you mixed your labour with something previously (albeit merely recently) unowned?