What exactly is property?


Leandro Castelluccio

(Image obtained from: link)

The notion of property has been an issue of intellectual debate over the centuries and has inspired various ideological movements, some defending private property, others defending collective property.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “property”, in the sense of possession of something, is defined as:

“An object or objects that belong to someone”

In general, property has been treated in multiple ways, affirming or denying it, saying that it exists or that it is really an illusion, that there is public or private property, that the property should be public or that it should be private or a mixture of both. The initial problem lies in the previous definition of property. What does it mean that an object belongs to someone? This does not clarify what property is, it does not give any profound meaning to the term. Now, if we analyze what “belonging” entails, we might come to the notion of “being able to use something”. That is truly the property of something, the possibility of using it. What does it mean then to have something? Well, to be able to use that something for one’s purposes. Therefore, the notion of property can be better understood as the notion according to which an object is used according to the purpose of a particular person, when that object is placed within the purposes of an individual.

Does it make sense for a subject to acquire property over things? At first instance there would seem to be no justification in reality for both acquiring property over certain things and not acquiring property over certain things, however, in a state where a subject should provide for himself the means of survival, the possession of a hunting tool for example, is necessary to ensure the very fact of maintaining the life of the subject, if he had no tool no other consideration would make sense, since there would be no subject, he would not subsist, in this case. Thus, there would be no reason in reality, outside the subject, that he could not acquire the property of an object, it would however based on reward and its higher states (this concept is developed in my work “Proposiciones” – see menu publications), taking into account that he does not initiate a conflict with other subjects, because it would deny the high reward states, and thus he may possess something that he has found and that is not owned by another person, or something that arises from the modification that the subject itself makes of objects, for example, a created artifact, a work of art, etc., and also an object that is acquired by mutual agreement.

The notion of property at the political-social level, for the relevance of a State, is maintained by the defense function that the State carries, which is the extension of the criteria of the search for high reward states in a particular subject, as developed in my work “Proposiciones”. One can perfectly take possession of something, taking that for the first time that which does not belong to another and exchanging or accepting by voluntary agreement what is of another. When one takes ownership of something for the first time, it should be made explicit, so that others can identify this and not generate a conflict.

Several questions have been raised regarding the existence or not of property, or if it exists, the fact of whether it belongs to one or the other or to all people. In reality, things do not belong in themselves to a particular subject, which implies that they do not belong in themselves (as a metaphysical fact in reality) to other individuals outside that subject. To say that things belong to someone or to everyone would imply a kind of mystical connection between an object and individuals. But in reality there is no justification of why I cannot get ownership of something. The question is when such action implies a conflict with another subject, because there would not be in reality a justification for the active part, the action of one that implies taking possession of what another already has, be taken over the other and its possession, if this is done, it will be for what it rewards a particular subjects, although it does not imply high reward states. As one does not have to live constricted to the desires of others, which are the true basis of their actions and their moral principles and who often allude to the fact that property is not one’s own, one will seek to defend oneself, for the reward that implies, and because in addition one defends the high states of reward. An action towards a subject that deprives him of his property or takes it away would justify the defense of the subject, understanding that this is part of guaranteeing the possibility of high reward states, the ultimate possibility that a subject can aspire to in his life, and as I clarified before, the function of a State, once understood that every ethical principle is based on reward, I establish that the best possible state should prevail.

A state that denies the high states of reward in subjects, leads them to having to defend themselves on their own, and one will seek to defend oneself to ensure high reward states, as much as one can aspire in one’s own life. An action against property would involve a conflict, in reality there would be no reason why the action of one subject to take the property of another should be imposed on the ends and possibility of action of the other subject regarding his possession, if it is done it would be for the reward it implies, even if it is denying the high reward states.

The point is that one cannot establish that something is not the property of another in general terms, that such thing as property does not exist, and based on that then deny the possession of things by the person, since it would imply that one also does not possess tproperty, there would be no reason in reality to impose possession by one person instead of the other, for which a subject would have a good reason to defend himself if another wishes to take his property, the conflict implies an active action over a passive state, a subject who does nothing and  someone who wants to take away his property. One can say the opposite, that things belong to everyone, but that would mean that things do not belong to anyone. Let us go back to the definition of property, the property of something is to have something for one’s purposes, to use something for one’s ends. If two subjects have different purposes for an object, and if it is said that the object belongs to both, no end is possible because there is a contradiction, one should have its property and no other so that the object can be used for a specific end.

One can state that the goods produced by one person belong to that person, since they imply an extension of one’s life and one’s generation means, one’s own mind (according to this criterion), but not the natural resources used to elaborate the product. This is not true, since in reality no resource belongs or does not belong to someone, there is simply no metaphysical relationship of property in reality, between the resource and oneself, there is no abstract connection pertaining to reality outside the mind of the subject. But unjustified would be in reality that one prevents someone from taking possession of a natural resource, someone can have the possession of something that no one has claimed in the first place, having the first contact with it, and so preventing a person from having as property a natural resource, which has previously acquired its property would involve the consideration of one’s criteria of  the possibility of action of another with respect to certain objects in nature that he has already claimed possession, or where another has acquired such possession by agreement. Such consideration (and criterion) of those who want to take what someone else has generated or acquired on their own without initiating a conflict with anyone, the imposition that implies is not justified in reality, since reality lacks such criteria, one would have a good reason to defend oneself.

Taking into account the notion of property as the fact in which an object is used according to the purpose of a particular person (if one cannot use an object for one’s purpose then it is not one’s property), it can be argued that the notion of a public good contradicts the very notion of property. Everything that is called property presupposes its connection with an end, this is what we express with the term property, if we say that something belongs to everyone, where there are individuals with different purposes, these oppose each other, contradict each other, the object cannot then be a function of a particular use, according to an end, since there will be simultaneously an opposite ends, if the good is called public. This implies that in order for a so called public good to be used according to a specific purpose, some entity must assume a priority power over that good and use it according to its own purpose. This implies that as long as an object is associated with a certain purpose, it will never be truly public, where everyone can use it according to its convenience, necessarily someone in particular or a group of individuals with the same purposes, possesses the true property of the good or object and make of it what they want. The end that this entity pursues for the good may be shaped by the vote of the citizens, through a democratic process, but the nature does not change, the good will be destined to the end of the majority, in opposition to what a minority wants, it can never be truly public and be used for something, unless the total population agrees unanimously with a particular end, but that is something very difficult to happen.

One can suggest the criterion that public ownership means a momentary right for an object to fit an individual purpose, so that one can use an object for one’s purposes for a certain time. Thus, a good could go through each of the individual goals for a certain time, but I would argue that nothing good could come out of that, and it is not what is happening now, as to say that something can approach the idea of belonging to everyone. Moreover, in reality that would be an extension of the ends that certain subjects have, those that have the power to impose them, on how certain goods can be used, there would be a limit, an end that would belong to certain individuals, which indicates that an object is to be used momentarily for the convenience of each person in a society, that certain objects pass momentarily for the interests of each individual it is the end for those objects of those who have the power to impose that end, that criterion, they are the ones who maintain the true and ultimate property of them.

When one says that an object does not have to be exclusive to one and implements this, it is one that has the property of the object, because one imposes one’s purpose, and seeks that this is sustained. When there has been talks of eliminating private property, in reality, what happens is that now a group of people own what was previously of another, the property is simply transferred, it is never eliminated, if in fact a good is used for something, that is, depending on the purposes of someone in particular, the whole idea of ​​the elimination of property is a facade for expropriation and gaining benefits and power for those who advocate these policies. The fact is that private property is not removable as long as there is life, if someone uses spaces and objects for certain purposes there is property. If someone wants to eliminate the property of another by locking him in a prison, there must be property for those who want to eliminate it. If someone wants to eliminate their life and end their property, there must be property to do so.

It has been argued that the fact that natural resources belong to everyone serves as a justification for a universal salary for all from where money arises, since one must pay for the use of a resource that would actually be everyone’s. But as I have already established, resources do not metaphysically speaking belong to anyone in particular, property arises and one protects it oneself or at a socio-political level by a State, from the notion of the possible and unjustified in reality, and the high states of reward, which implies the notion of conflict and defense, and of an end that a particular subject pursues, an object cannot have opposite ends and be used, one end would necessarily have to be considered before the other. But outside of this, money as a subsidy for a universal income independent of one’s work, would be arising from the goods produced, which imply the physical and intellectual work of individuals, one would exhaust at a certain moment the value of a resource, money could only come from the production and the added value, the value of the work of one’s mind. Is it also one’s mind, and one’s physical body the property of another, a universal resource that everyone can dispose of? Whoever does not want to be a slave must defend himself if others seek to enslave. In addition, such payment or subsidy would imply a relationship between the resource and the individual, as if a connection existed between both things, this again is a mystical connection, nonexistent in reality, one may have reasons to deny property to someone, but there are no reasons in reality to do so, nothing in reality ultimately justifies one’s criterion nor its imposition. If we seek high reward states, the property is something to be defended. I do not say that a universal salary is not something feasible (as long as it is done based on the possibility of high reward states), simply that the previous justification is a bad one.

There is a notion that could be associated with property, but whose criterion differs from the previous one, and that is of belonging in the sense that something is part of something else, but it is different from something that takes part of the purposes of a subject, the fact that something is part of something else does not grant a justification or right in a metaphysical sense for it to be used for one’s purposes, if that is part in some sense of oneself, one can look for all kinds of membership criteria and relationship with oneself, but that two subjects are part of the same community is not a right or metaphysical justification, in reality, that one of those subjects enslaves the other for their own purposes.

Many States have decreed that certain things, such as national waters, the minerals of the earth or archaeological remains that may be found, etc., belong to the State. This does not go according to the high reward states, because the State is coercively restricting the acquisition of goods by people. Let us remember that the State exists to defend against the conflict, to guarantee the possibility of high reward states, that is its primary function, with such a restriction the function of service to the person is being broken, because the State should not limit unnecessarily the possibilities of people, that is, any limit that exerts outside its primary function (which is not intended to guarantee such a function) would be contrary to its purpose, so that the State would not serve the individual, as to guarantee or respect their possibility of high reward states. People have agreed to finance the State within certain margins that must be respected, the State cannot be an autonomous entity that has its own contrary objectives different to those in accordance with the high reward states. A person can acquire goods and exchange with others, and in this scenario one can acquire something that another may have wanted or wants, but we have the possibility to do so, and this is keeping in tune with the high reward states, if the State restricts the possibility to do so, there is an abusive situation, it is as if a person could get the property he wanted by simple mandate, denying any possibility that another could have to get it, as if a person were to say that all the fruits of a certain species that grow in the country were now of his property and the person does what he wants with them. I detail this difference, because many believe that the fact that other people are made with large quantities of goods is a restriction or denial of people’s ability to acquire goods, it is not the case, because one can acquire goods, perhaps one liked a certain thing and another bought it, but this falls within the possibilities that people have, and one has to remember that someone does not own something simply because one wants it, or one is born in the country where one finds such goods, as I remarked before. And it is in accordance with the high reward states that we have that possibility and that it is not restricted, limited or coercion is used in the use of goods and spaces for one’s purposes.

One may ask: is it not also abusive that the State is the only one that has a police force and judges people for wrongs against others? Because property is defended by a State. Why not better have different States in the same place with different police bodies or different groups of people with their own police bodies to protect them? The problem is that there would be a wrong treatment to the individual, if States or groups of people have different laws there can be situations where for a State or group of people there is a conflict between two people and for another State there is not, there must be a law that is fulfilled for all equally if we want to act on and resolve conflicts, so certain laws should be applied to all equally and in this sense there can be deviations where a group does not will apply them. A common framework must be applied to resolve the conflict, it can be said that there can be groups with their own police bodies but that a person will be subject to the laws of the space included by that group or State, regardless of the origin of that person, but unless the groups involved are in agreement with this, that will have to be imposed, either by a higher hierarchy group, encompassing the others, say “the State”, to differentiate it from group A, B, C, or State A, B, C, or by the group that considers that there has been a conflict. Here what is worth, first of all, is the force of imposition with which the group has to impose that rule and abide by that, this is respected if the action has transgressed within the space of the group, the group or State of the accused may support or not. And what is left aside is the reasons, that is, if the arguments or criteria to say that the person has committed a transgression are valid or not, you can defend or attack what is considered valid, but what counts in this case is not validity but the greatest force. Having only one State does not remove the fact that there are bad laws, but the contest to change them for good laws is intellectual and persuasive, that is, appealing to the use of arguments, rather than force, that is the place where the contest should be driven. We do not generally observe that there are Nations in conflict with others because individuals of one Nation transgress the laws or norms in another, for several reasons, but there is a topic of magnitude and costs, but if the scale decreases, and the spaces are reduced, I believe it is more likely, and would become more frequent. If a personal police force defends an industrial complex and there is another group with intentions to impose and steal with enough force to do so, it will be much harder to repel it, as well as protecting a person against aggressions from other groups. A massive force given by the State is more likely to counterattack such transgressions. And again, validating the laws in a State gives us a better scenario, I believe, for the intellectual debate of these, not a simple validation by force. Those laws must be the only ones and there can be no contradictory laws. If the laws do not make distinctions, they are good or bad regardless of where you are or what group you belong to, by the very nature of the individual: should not we all have the same laws? What we must work for is for the argument that they are good laws, appropriate for our high reward states and maximum reward states. And if we are going to have the same laws, in principle a single State is enough for a given territory.

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