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Tangible goods owned or claimed by one or more individuals

Property, in the abstract, is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In this context, it is one or more components (rather than attributes), whether physical or incorporeal, of a person's estate; or so belonging to, as in being owned by, a person or jointly a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation or even a society. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things, as well as to perhaps abandon it; whereas regardless of the nature of the property, the owner thereof has the right to properly use it (as a durable, mean or factor, or whatever), or at the very least exclusively keep it.

Featured Topics

  • Capitalism - Economic system where the means of production are privately owned
  • Economics - Study of the means that human beings use to satisfy their individually desired ends
  • Free Market - The uncoerced, consensual exchanges of goods and services between individuals, antithesis of the State
  • Free trade - Exchange of goods and services without barriers

Notable Topics

  • Business - Commercial activities that provide goods and services
  • Economic Barriers - Legislative and other processes that inhibit economic and financial advancement
  • Economic Freedom - Absence of coercion or controls over economic activities
  • Health Care - Preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and other services related to the health of an individual
  • Private Property - Ownership of assets by individuals or non-governmental legal entities
  • Technology - Practical application of engineering or technical processes


The Anatomy of the State, by Murray N. Rothbard, Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought, Jun 1965
Examines several attributes of the State, including how it maintains and grows itself and how it deals with other States
Man [needs] to use his mind to learn how to take the resources given him by nature, and to transform them [so they can be] used for the satisfaction of his wants and the advancement of his standard of living ... The only "natural" course for man to survive and to attain wealth ... is by using his mind and energy to engage in the production-and-exchange process. He does this ... by finding natural resources, and then by transforming them (by "mixing his labor" with them ...), to make them his individual property, and then by exchanging this property for the similarly obtained property of others.
"And the Pursuit of Happiness": Nathaniel Branden, RIP, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Dec 2014
Memorial essay, including some personal recollections, with emphasis on Branden's work on self-esteem and self-responsibility, and a preamble on the quoted phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence
Smith offers an entirely plausible and satisfying explanation for Jefferson's omission of property:
... [T]o have mentioned "property" as an inalienable right would have proved confusing to eighteenth-century readers. At that time "property" could refer to the moral power of dominion over one's body, labor, actions, conscience, and so forth; or it could refer to external objects. In the former sense, "property" was regarded as an inalienable right, but this was not true of "property" in the narrow, more modern sense of the term. We can obviously alienate our external property by transferring ownership to other people ...
Aristotle Understood the Importance of Property, by Richard M. Ebeling, 27 Sep 2016
Discusses Aristotle's views on private property and property rights (contrasting them with those of Plato), the "ends" of human life, economics ("household management"), wealth acquisition, prices, money and related topics
[Aristotle] believed that a right to property often led to a spirit of benevolence and liberality toward others ... [He] seemed to think that there was a healthy balance on the issue of property in society when property was private, so as to reap the benefits from the greater productivity and work that would be forthcoming under such a system. At the same time, he believed that the fruits of property should be generously shared with others by a spirit of benevolence on the part of the those who had prospered from the ownership and use of property, in the form of hospitality and charity.
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 3, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Oct 2006
Reviews the wording and ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the first income tax law after it, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad (1916) and the Constitutional debates back in 1787
All [the Pollock v. Farmers' decision] did was rule that taxation of income from property had to be apportioned among the states. The reason is that it regarded a tax on such income as equivalent to a tax on the property itself ... One Anti-Federalist warned, "By virtue of their power of taxation, Congress may command the whole, or any part of the property of the people." ... If we want to be free of income taxation (and all the rest) we will have to effect an intellectual revolution that will convince people that no one, no government, has the right to deprive peaceful people of their property.
Carl Menger: The Founder of the Austrian School, by Joseph Salerno
Biographical and bibliographical essay, discussing his life and work and delving into various aspects of Austrian economic theory as presented by Menger
Inherent in the idea of economizing is the notion of property ... property is neither "an arbitrary invention" nor merely an aggregation of heterogeneous objects. It is a praxeological category that refers to a purposively created structure of goods that is adjusted through the operations of economizing to serve the structure of ends aimed at by an individual actor. According to Menger, "[A person's] property is not ... an arbitrarily combined quantity of goods, but a direct reflection of his needs, an integrated whole, no essential part of which can be diminished or increased without effecting realization of the end it serves."
Civil Liberty and the State: The Writ of Habeas Corpus, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, Apr 2002
Highlights of English and American history on the writ of habeas corpus, in particular the 17th century conflict between Charles I and Edward Coke
Francis Hirst ... points out the important connection between civil liberty and ... property: "It has not, I think, been noticed that in this great affair, property and liberty combined in self-defense. The leading patriots in both Houses were men of property ... They pressed the argument that freehold property, as well as freedom, would be endangered if the law and legal remedies were subordinated to the arbitrary will and power of the Crown. Thus the passing of the Petition of Rights provides another illustration and proof ... of the ... truth that the freedom of citizens is inseparable from their freedom to hold property."
Ferguson, Adam (1723-1816), by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
In barbaric societies, ... property had ceased to remain communal, and private wealth, most often in the form of agricultural products and animal herds, had developed. Despite the existence of unequal possessions, however, a formal institutionalized system of laws regarding property had to await the development of civilized society. It was in response to the emergence of that complex of rules regarding the possession and transfer of property, ... that political institutions appeared. In summary, Ferguson argued, government was a creature of property, and property was an artifact of civilization.
Related Topics: Adam Ferguson, Society
Government, by James Mill, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1820
Discusses the purpose of government, the means for attaining that end and various related questions and objections; rationalises that representative democracy, as exhibited in early 19th century Britain, is most conducive to "good Government"
It is sufficiently obvious, that, if every man is liable to be deprived of what he possesses at the will of every man stronger than himself, the existence of property is impossible; and, if the existence of property is impossible, so also is that of labour, of the means of subsistence for an enlarged community, and hence of the community itself. If the members of such a community are liable to deprivation by only a few hundred men, the members of an Aristocracy, it may not be impossible to satiate that limited number with a limited portion of the objects belonging to all.
John Locke's Top 5 Radical Political Ideas, by Brandon Turner, 29 Aug 2016
Brief discussions of "five features of Locke's political thought that remain particularly important": natural equality, property, consent, resistance and toleration
Locke's theory of property, found primarily in Chapter Five of the Second Treatise, is important and curious in a number of ways. Because we are obligated to preserve ourselves, because the earth is given to men in common, and, Locke argues, because labor is the means by which we convert the earth into sustenance, we each have a natural right to acquire private property by "mixing" our labor with the earth. This represents, in the first place, a natural law account of the origin of property and thereby supplies a kind of conceptual brake against the purely conventional accounts of property found in Hobbes and elsewhere.
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution [PDF], by Murray N. Rothbard, Cato Journal, 1982
Examines the principles of tort law, how to determine what is just property and how to deal with invasions of property such as air pollution
No action should be considered illicit or illegal unless it invades, or aggresses against, the person or just property of another. Only invasive actions should be declared illegal ... each person justly owns whatever previously unowned resources he appropriates or "mixes his labor with." ... no one has the right to legally prevent or retaliate against "harms" to his property unless it is an act of physical invasion. Everyone has the right to have the physical integrity of his property inviolate; no one has the right to protect the value of his property, for that value is purely the reflection of what people are willing to pay for it.
Libertarianism: Left or Right?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 2007
Examines the origin of the political terms "left" and "right" and makes the case that libertarianism is "planted squarely on the Left"
Frédéric Bastiat ... sat on the left side along with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the "mutualist" ... (Proudhon is also famous for saying, "Property is theft," but the full context of his work makes clear that he meant absentee ownership resulting from state privilege, for he also wrote, in Theory of Property, "Where shall we find a power capable of counterbalancing this formidable might of the State? There is no other except property.... The absolute right of the State is in conflict with the absolute right of the property owner. Property is the greatest revolutionary force which exists.")
The Natural Right of Property, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Aug 2007
Examines Thomas Hodgskin's philosophy, in particular his writings on property rights in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832)
[Hodgskin] embraced the "natural right of property" and opposed the "artificial right of property," which he attributed to the utilitarians' belief that legislation, not natural law, was the source of rights. In other words, land and other objects acquired through original appropriation and honest, voluntary means were legitimate property. All forced and fraudulent means of acquisition yielded illegitimate, artificial property that could only be sustained by government power. He called for the abolition of all forms of the artificial right of property and full flowering of the natural right.
Property and Force: A Reply to Matt Bruenig, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 22 Nov 2013
Responds to blogger Bruenig's criticism of the essay "One Moral Standard for All"; with quotes or examples from Roderick Long, Murray Rothbard, Gary Chartier, David Hume and Karl Hess
[H]ow do we get from the right to one's body to the right to one's (justly acquired) possessions, including land? A person's possessions are extensions of his life and labor ... Flourishing requires the use of physical objects, including shelter and other uses of land, in an environment of respect for and from others. Thus to violate a person's property is to violate that person. (Again, violations can be de minimis, and the response must be proportionate.) Nothing in libertarian theory, however, rules out nonstate public property or common-law easements.
What you should know about the Non-Aggression Principle, by Jason Kuznicki, 24 Feb 2017
Discusses the non-aggression principle, stating that it "depends on a valid theory of property ownership" and concludes that such a theory is in conflict with what most people view as the proper role of government
If property claims are an inevitable feature of human society, as seems likely, then we cannot escape the question of what status these claims will have, whether collectively or in particular. We must ask not so much whether property is justified, but rather what its extent should be, which objects should be subject to property claims, and which entities within society should be the rightful possessors of what goods, and for what reasons ... Property became private, Locke held, because property existed from the beginning to satisfy human needs, and because private property was apt to satisfy those needs more effectively.

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Property" as of 30 Sep 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.