Life Without The State (addendum)

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.
Never mind.
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?


8 responses to “Life Without The State (addendum)

  1. The last one. When it comes to property, it makes sense to treat things- be it real estate, chattels or whatever- as abandoned if its owner does not as much as make a decent effort to maintain it for as long as this hypothetical pub landlord has(n’t).

    I’d say the squatter/new Landlord is not a thief or trespasser, but rather an entrepreneur.

    Now, there’s a lot of its and buts to this principle, most of which need a case by case analysis. For instance, if you build a secure shed somewhere and use it as storage space for valuables for years, I doubt that there’s any moral claim to take is and claim it’s been abandoned. In a more obvious example, going away to Florida for a couple weeks doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned your home here.

  2. Fuck me, that was quick, you commented before I even worked out why the post wasn’t at the top of the page 😉
    It’s a moral issue I think…
    This is a beautiful old (grade II listed and that’s another issue I will perhaps revisit) building that has been basically left to rot into it’s own footprint.
    So, were I to occupy, renovate and build a thriving business here and the person who technically owns this building were to turn up and claim the building (and business) as his own, I am morally justified to use force to remove him? Or not?

    Also, there has been some painting done on this building recently, perhaps this would be a better example… even the fencing was erected by the landlord of the adjacent tower blocks.

  3. I never really managed to get past your first sentence – why did you have to use that awful word, “gotten”? It is one of the grossest words in our language. The last serious work I know of in which a British author used it was in Gulliver’s Travels, all others since having consigned it to the linguistic bin. Unfortunately, our generally English-ignorant cousins across the pond have managed to drag this aberrant vulgarity out of its deserved obscurity . How about: “…I kind of slipped out of the habit…”? Or, better yet: “…I have slipped out of the habit…”?

    I am not also known as “Angry Ranting Man”, but I do fully support him, sad fools that we may be.

  4. Largely with Mr Civil Libertarian here. All I’d add is that if the state went tomorrow there’s no reason to throw away the entirety of common law with it, which means you’d still have existing precedents for adverse possession changing ownership if someone came along later and demanded to know what you thought you were doing “‘homesteading’ on Grandpa’s old bit of land he left me”. Whether the time period would be the same or not I don’t know because I’m not sure if that’s in common or statute law. Without checking I’d guess the latter so maybe it could vary. I can’t think of any reason why an urban end of terrace semi that’s passed by hundreds of people daily needs to be in adverse possession for the same length of time as a remote farm paddock rarely visited by anything but goats that rarely if ever gets throughly looked over on a single visit.

  5. Many of these ‘abandoned’ buildings are simply left alone until the council grants a viable planning consent, trust me on this one. The problem is often not with the owner but in fact with the council.

  6. I think that is probably the case with the building pictured, as it’s listed.

    I’m also not averse to bitching about language, although I was previously unaware of any controversy over the word ‘gotten.’

  7. 12 years to obtain good title to real property (land) unless it belongs to the Crown or some government organisation, in which case it’s 20 years (if memory serves). You need to fence it off and maintain it for that period and see off any other people. If the original owner arrives before 12 years are up, he can reclaim possession, but he may have to recompense you for improvements – e.g. if you built a house on formerly empty land. This would not preclude you from selling the house before 12 years are up – you can buy an insurance policy to cover the possibility. This way abandoned properties are recycled. Boarded up premises usually have ‘security’ to regularly check for intruders and alert the owners. Obtaining possession of occupied buildings would be pretty much impossible – unless, say, your name happens to be Herr Hitler and you’ve just invaded. The EU may do this one day.

    If you find moveable chattels, including cash, lying around and hand them in to the police, they give them back to you if unclaimed after about 3 months.

    Winston Smith

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