Q&A: Creating Property Rights

Asked by Butch:

Is it impossible to create a Libertarian order of ‘property rights’ with private courts and enforcement? Or is it simply cheaper to centralize the rents into a central organization, which is why we don’t see the private courts, arbitrators, etc. that libertarians think can replace the state?

Curt responds:

1) Let’s contrast Crusoe’s Island, where the sea forms a fortress around his territory, and the distance poses an unbearable cost of crossing… with reality: the North Black Sea steppe, and the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean in the center of the fertile crescent.

What is the cost of developing the institution of private property on Crusoe’s island versus on the horse-plain, or the alluvial plain?

The cost of suppression is much higher everywhere OTHER than where it is already subsidized by a major power: in this case, the sea. (or in eastern Europe or the European ghetto: one of the major powers.)

Meanwhile, we have outgroup members who are conquering, enslaving, killing, raping, pillaging, robbing, and if for some reason they can obtain the technology or numbers to do so AND there is conflict that they feel needs resolution.

Now, given that in consanguineous bands, the only private property you do not have to share is that which is un-sharable, and up until we have farming, tools, territory, and therefore inheritance, we really own most things collectively because attempts at privatization are seen as ‘greed’.

So at the low end, we have to pay the high cost of suppressing local and even familial rents, so that property can be placed in utilitarian hands willing and able to put it to productive use.

Above that, we must suppress crime in its various forms: violence, murder, theft, fraud — all of which inhibit cooperation.

Above that, in the middle we have to suppress local ‘rulers’ and gangster’s ‘rents’.

And above that, we must suppress external forces and organizations from attempting to take the territory and order it differently from how we are choosing to order it.

So whether we choose the false narrative of Crusoe’s island and do not see the costs, or we choose the empirical examples of the different regional territories and civilizations and we do see the costs, is one of whether we want to honestly expose or dishonestly obscure the high costs of creating that condition of liberty that we reduce to “property rights”.

The incentive to restore the ‘natural’ order of parasitism, from the ‘unnatural order’ of productivity, is always with us in every culture. Because man is a rational creature, and chooses what is rational — and parasitism is rational.

2) Once we centralize costs and use them to suppress local costs, we can then begin to suppress central corruption (rents) by outsourcing and thereby creating competition.

We can eliminate the need for monopoly production of commons through assent, and can instead create the opportunity for a market of commons prohibited only by dissent (law).

But the costs of maintaining this vast apparatus of suppression of rents at every level, and conquest and predation at the top and bottom remain the same: huge. (Which the puritans understood but the libertarians do not).

3) But either true = true, and moral = moral, and therefore natural law = law, or we will devolve the society.

So as far as I can tell we require a monopoly judiciary at the top, a monopoly king to resolve matters not decidable by other means, and a monopoly natural law for which all decidability stands.

To say otherwise is to say one wants to obtain benefits without paying for them (parasite), or that one wants to extract parasitism from others by circumventing natural law.

Butch’s Notes

Short Answer

The short answer is “No, a Libertarian order of property rights with private courts and enforcement is not possible”.

The reasoning provided above is that unless a monopoly judiciary exists, then there is an opportunity to extract rents (parasitize) on the judicial process. Basically, as in low trust societies, the legal system is up for sale to the highest bidder. A monopoly judiciary is a central requirement to sustaining a regime of ‘property rights’.

Island Privilege

The above post essentially explains ‘island privilege’: the sea subsidizes high trust because it prevents parasitism and predation from neighboring tribes. ‘Property rights’ is a high trust normative commons (shared behavior). In order to create ‘property rights’, parasitism must be incrementally suppressed (hence Curt Doolittle’s Incremental Suppression Service) and Curt lists the increments of parasitism:

  1. local: friends and family (see nuclear family, empty nesters)
  2. local: community members (violence, murder, theft, fraud, etc.)
  3. middle: local rulers/gangsters (justice for hire, libertarian ‘arbitration services’)
  4. highest: external forces/groups (tribal conquest)

Those living on islands are insulated from the highest level of parasitism (it is suppressed by the sea), so in effect, the process of building high trust is subsidized by the sea.

See: bonobos, a gynocentric group which lives south of the Zaire river, protected from invasion by chimpanzees.

See: galapagos islands, many creatures almost completely devoid of fight or flight response thanks to being protected from all large predators by the sea.

Property Rights and Liberty

Property rights and liberty are essentially different views on the same phenomenon. Liberty is an order where individuals are allowed to choose their own means of production. Without property rights, then division of labor is not necessary, therefore liberty is not necessary.

Related Post


—“I’ve heard many say they don’t believe the government should create and enforce laws that require certain actions be taken, such as for personal safety, general public safety, and reduction in personal injuries and resulting lawsuits, etc….I’m not going to say every Libertarian is like this, but I’ve heard this kind of thinking from such adherents a few times. I personally don’t agree with political ideals that treat each person as a practical island. A diverse, highly interconnected and fluid society cannot function that way, and I think it would probably end up being economically inefficient and unhealthy, ethical considerations aside. Of course, Libertarianism is more complex than that one issue, but it’s one that I disagree with in particular”— Athena (From Quora)

That’s right Athena. None of us is an island. Even Crusoe got to his via boat.😉

Unfortunately, there are foolish people in every political philosophy. Libertarianism is not immune, any more than is progressivism or conservatism is immune.

Unfortunately, once ignorant, socially incompetent, intellectual adolescents here the term “non-aggression principle” they apply this ideological hammer to everything that looks vaguely like a nail; the same way progressives use equality, diversity, and racism; and the same way that conservatives use meritocracy.

All three points on the political triangle advocate their priorities over those of the other two. Progressives advocate nurture, caretaking, and prevention of harm and all but ignore social capital and liberty. Conservatives advocate the accumulation of social and behavioral capital equally with liberty and caretaking. And libertarians advocate liberty at the expense of caretaking and social capital.

Libertarians place higher moral weight on liberty than the other groups do. And as such, their political preferences take on the name that represents that preference: Libertarianism.

Libertarianism is an evolutionary extension of Classical Liberalism. Classical Liberalism is likewise a revision of Greek Political philosophy. Both of which are the result of unique european preference for sovereignty (aristocracy).

Unlike all other world political traditions, which attempt to concentrate and manage the limits of power. Classical liberal institutions rely upon the balance of powers and consent among those powers. This reflects the european ancient prohibition on monopoly of political power. The prohibition against tyranny.

Chieftains, Kings, Presidents are judges and administrators, empowered to resolve and prevent conflicts by the ascent of their peers (other nobles – which should be translated as ‘business owners’ because that’s what farmers and craftsmen who are heads of families are).

The libertarian intellectual research program seeks to totally eliminate the coercive power of government, while at the same time providing the institutional, organizational, and procedural means by which people can cooperate and prosper, without the bureaucracy, corruption, self interest that results from monopoly bureaucracy and political representation.

Now, Rothbardian Libertarianism, which copies the ethics of the Jewish ghetto, advocates Anarchy – no government at all, calls itself ‘Libertarianism’ in a linguistic attempt to claim the they are the sole proponents of the preference for liberty. A fact which frustrates the other ‘libertarian’ factions, who are more intellectually honest.

While Classical Liberal libertarians may prefer something between… “Private Government” that resembles Lichtenstein, the small germanic states prior to German unification, or most clearly, the English model of layers of private government we call constitutional monarchy, but which is merely a continuation of ancient anglo saxon methods of government.

So, continuing the tradition that makes use of the separation of powers and the prohibition on bureaucracy and professional politicians, libertarians divide the functions of government into different institutions.

Technically speaking there is only one necessary institution of government: The common law. All other political institutions are not necessary, put preferences. Some libertarians would prefer to limit government to this one function, and other libertarians would like to make use of all of the functions I list below.

(1) Law: judges (courts) which adjudicate differences (conflicts) based upon just one universal law of private property and the common law, and naturally evolve the common law as was historically practiced by judges. Under this common law, everyone has universal ‘standing’ so members of corporations, politicians and bureaucrats who are today insulated from law suits by a requirement for ‘standing’ would not be, nor would those special privileges for government employees exist. Instead, people who care could control companies and other organizations both with market pressure AND with legal pressure.

*The conflict over the definition of property.*
Now some libertarians (the ones that most likely seem immoral (because they are), suggest that the definition of property is that which we can both verify by our own senses: our bodies and the stuff we know we own: IVP (Intersubjectively verifiable property). These are the people that obsess over the term NAP (the non-aggression-principle).

While the NAP and IVP (NAP/IVP) are sufficient criteria for ethical relations between states, the NAP/IVP limits you to prohibitions on theft and violence. But this leaves open all the unethical and immoral behavior that all societies prohibit of their members.

So for all intents and purposes, NAP/IVP legally institutionalizes permission for immoral and unethical behavior like scams and every other possible means of deception and criminal behavior. ie: it’s the ethics of the ghetto.

The rest of us who are NOT observers of the NAP/IVP and therefore not members of the ever-present vocal minority of Rothbardian ghetto-libertarians, have been trying to distance ourselves from these ‘thin libertarians’, or ‘immoral-tarians’ or as the conservatives call them ‘aspie-tarians’, who are busy advocating Rothbardian Ghetto Ethics.

The movements that distance themselves from such are called ‘thick’ libertarians who intuit, feel, think, believe, or what have you, that the NAP/IVP Rothbardian Ghetto Ethics are insufficient criteria for the formation of a polity whose members possess liberty.

Some of these people are banded together into the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians”. The BHL’s do not have a plan. they just know that Rothbardian Ghetto Ethics are somehow not right. The criticism of BHL’s is that they don’t have a plan, and that any solution they talk about simply expands the state further.

Others want to make use of private institutions to provide public services wherever possible. Some other people (on my side of the fence) are fairly rigorous and extend property rights to all those things that people act as if are a form of property, and therefore allow us all to adjudicate our disputes in court without the need for a third party. This is a very simple solution to a very difficult problem.

Other people want to return to the past – which isn’t going to happen unless we reinvent the church, treat it as an independent wing of the government, and return most domestic social services to control of that branch of government. (This is not a crazy idea really, since it’s that set of services that have expanded most and consume most of the budget, and the failure to separate that service from the commercial functions of government has probably led to our current state of conflict.)

(2) REGULATION/INSURANCE: The purpose of regulation is to prevent harm, particularly irreversible harm, and to use the polity as the insurer of last resort. To accomplish regulation, the libertarian preference, rather than reliance on a monopoly bureaucracy, is to use competing insurance companies.

(Now, before you run away with criticisms, you’d have to understand how rigorous libertarian theory is on this topic. How universal standing, universal personal accountability, affect this. Today you cannot easily sue the guy who sold the poor family next door a cable plan that made them debt slaves, but under libertarian law you could. So people who want to ‘do good’ in the world would be able to, and not dependent upon approval of bureaucrats for it.)

3) COMMONS: Developing all the infrastructure that we need and desire. Some infrastructure is necessary for competitive survival, some is preferential, and some is a luxury. However, it must be possible to construct commons, even if they are constructed by private firms.
Most libertarians would deny this and state that commons are the responsibility of private parties, otherwise we get into taxation.
Most libertarian solutions suggest we vote our tax dollars to those things that we really want ourselves over the internet, sort of how we run auctions on Kickstarter.
Others suggest that we use a lottocracy (people are randomly selected like juries and proposals are put in front of them and they choose which ones.) The idea is to eliminate politicians who are open to special interest groups.

(4) CHARITY: Most libertarians want a return to the civil society where people conduct charity personally, and where it is the defacto ‘job’ of a lot of people to administer it. I think those of us who are a bit more institutionally creative, see five or six solutions to the problem of charity. (I’m going to address this later because I’m running out of time.)

5) CREDIT: borrowing money on behalf of the populace for the production of commons. Most libertarians would argue that if a population can print its own money then it is doomed, however, I won’t address that argument here.

6) DEFENSE. (Not much to say here that isn’t obvious) Other than that under fifth generation warfare (what terrorists do) our ancient tradition of forming a militia, and training it under the Swiss model is probably the most effective military with the least international intervention we can come up with. Our current model doesn’t work well. And it will just get worse.

Others have demonstrated how to create private firms that provide defense, however, history has told us that such groups never are effective compared to an armed citizenry.

At present, nuclear weapons are an insurance policy and a necessary one. One’s freedom of self determination probably depends upon possession of nuclear weapons.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. My main purpose is not to enumerate all possible libertarian institutional solutions, although If I had a little more time I’d do that since I think the internet community would actually like that. It’s to (a) position the ‘everything is a nail’ Rothbardian’s as what they are – the passionate lunatic wing of liberty; (b) outline the underlying problem we’re trying to solve as the elimination of monopoly bureaucracy that always accumulates to the point of predation tyranny and failure; (c) show that we have thought (a lot) about how to continue the western tradition of divided government as a defense against tyranny, and that we have some solutions to it – most of which rely on just expanding the methods of our ancestors.

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute





One thought on “Q&A: Creating Property Rights

  1. Pingback: Q&A: Creating Property Rights | Reaction Times

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