The Propertarian definition of property is expansive, it far exceeds the Lockean rationalist theory of property, which is limited merely to objects. See Operational Property for an expanded discussion. Conservatives tend to intuit a large range of property, far beyond what Libertarians intuit. One of the most interesting forms of property, at least it should be of obvious interest to conservatives, is Informal Institutional Property:
d) INFORMAL INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY: Informal (Normative) Institutions: Our norms: manners, ethics, morals, myths, and rituals that consist of our social portfolio and which make our social order possible.
“Those properties in which we have invested our forgone opportunities, our efforts, or our material assets, in order to aggregate capital from multiple individuals for mutual gain.”
A social portfolio which makes our social order possible. That sounds very important to me. Things that make our social order possible are profoundly important to me.
No libertarian can conceive of a set of norms being a form of property, although they are something in which we invest, and something that we defend. This may seem abstract, so let us develop a concrete example of Informal Institutional Property, a normative commons with which we are all familiar: White privilege.
White privilege is a normative commons. A norm is a standard of behavior. A commons is a property that is maintained by a group, because it brings economic benefits to the group. A normative commons is a set of behaviors that brings benefits to a group.
Many know the tragedy of the commons dilemma often quoted in Austrian economic theory. In this situation, the commons is destroyed. How is it destroyed and how is it maintained? For a commons to exist, the group must pay a cost: opportunity cost. In the grazing sheep example of the tragedy of the commons, the herders allow the field to be overgrazed and destroyed for all. Each herder who does not overgraze the field pays an opportunity cost. He has the opportunity to grab all the resources for himself, and deprive them to the next guy. When he only grazes responsibly, he forgoes the opportunity to grab all the resources for himself. Forgoing this opportunity is the opportunity cost. If everyone forgoes the opportunity cost, the commons is maintained, if they do not pay the opportunity cost, the commons is destroyed.
In a normative commons, each person who forgoes the opportunity of breaking the norm, then pays the cost of maintaining the norms. So, when one lives in a White area, common areas such as shops (markets) will likely be open for browsing, because the norm of behavior is to not steal. Each time a White goes into a store and does not steal, he pays the opportunity cost, equal to the value of the items not stolen. By paying this cost, the norm of keeping shopping areas open to browsing is maintained. Areas with large numbers of Blacks experience increased incidence of crime. In these areas, the risk to shop owners or other providers to allow Blacks free access exceeds the benefits of open browsing (with a main benefit being increased economic velocity). Thus you see convenience stores with no common area, that only sell what can be passed through a bullet-proof teller window. The commons has been destroyed.
Or perhaps someone will follow Blacks through a store to make sure they do not steal, while allowing Whites to browse freely, in this case the normative commons is extended to White co-ethnics, but not to Black co-ethnics. The Whites are the beneficiaries of this normative commons, because they (as a group) pay the opportunity cost of maintaining it.
It is common knowledge that Black cab drivers will often drive past Blacks and pick up White passengers instead. This White privilege is accrued to the White ethnic group because the members of the group tend to forgo the opportunity to rob the Black cabbie. Black cabbies understand this and accord the privilege to the White ethnics who will maintain the normative commons. Blacks could earn this privilege by paying for it through maintaining the normative commons. Unfortunately for them, enough of them create the tragedy of the commons for their own co-ethnics by abusing their privilege and not forgoing the opportunity cost.
Privilege is said to be unearned (though I doubt any form of privilege is really unearned). White privilege is not unearned. It is bought and paid for through the cost of maintaining the normative commons. To insist that the privileges accorded to Whites (who maintain the normative commons), be accorded to ethic groups who do not pay the cost of maintaining the commons is futile: market forces will ensure that the privilege is only accorded to those who pay for it. Call it racist if you want. It is simply the market at work.
Whites as a group defend this normative commons vigorously, using education, shaming and other tactics. Most middle-class Whites will have definite memories of how they were taught not to steal, and why stealing is wrong. Though certainly none of the lessons included the concept of a normative commons or informal institutional property.
This example should help you grasp exactly how a set of behaviors (norms) are a property. They are a property because they are defended. They are created through investment, paid for by forgoing opportunity costs. The social portfolio of these normative commons are what allows Western civilization to flourish with a stable social order. They are the tools that have led to the economic dominance of the Western peoples, and now the increasing dominance of the civilized Asian peoples, which defend a rich set of normative commons. The value of this particular property should not be underestimated.