By Allen Freeman
From the first time, hundreds of thousands of years ago, that a man picked up a shiny rock and decided it was his, the earth has had individual property.
From the first time, tens of thousands of years ago, that a group of men claimed a cave as their own, and agreed to use violence to defend it from outsiders, we have had group property.
These two concepts, individual and group property, when taken together, add up to the historical understanding of what is private property. When we look at them, we can see a common thread which links different kinds of private property together. That common thread is the willingness to use violence to defend them.
In the case of the Shiny rock, it became individual property when a man decided that it was his, and he would not allow another to take it from him. In the case of the cave, it became group property when the men decided it was theirs and they would defend it from others. All future cases of private property stem from these first discoveries of property, in that property becomes private when a man, or a group of men, decide they are willing to use force to defend it.
Property, as such, can be clearly defined, it is “That which a man or a group of men will use violence to defend.”
For thousands of years of human history, private property, whether private goods, resources, or land, were the primary cause for most all wars and violent interactions between men. Throughout these wars and interactions, men discovered that there were many different classes and forms of property which they were willing to defend.
Property-in-Toto is a catchall term which comprises all of the many forms of property which were and are of concern to men. Everything which falls under the umbrella of Property-in-Toto shares one trait: Men are willing to use violence to keep others from stealing, destroying, or causing harm to it.
There are many forms of simple property, from the rock a man picks up, to the spear he made with his own two hands. These were, in most cultures, nearly beyond dispute.
There was land, which was easy to claim, but was harder to defend or show claim to if it was vast acreage.
There was communal property, which might come in the form of a well, a shrine or religious building or location, or communal village land.
There were also more complicated cases of property like parents and children, and husbands and wives, and a man owning himself, where one would definitely use violence to defend what he felt was his, but those defended also had their own free will.
Another class of property all its own is that of Intangible property. Intangible property exists inside the realms of both personal and group property. Intangible property exists in ideas or information which men are willing to defend, such as a man’s reputation, or the reputation of a man’s family or ancestors. These things may not be tangible in such that you can point at or identify them, but they exist as property because men are willing to defend them with violence, often times even more so than the more tangible types of property.
A myriad of methods were developed to help deal with these types of property and the situations that developed around them.
It became a standard of most societies that a private item held by a man in his hand or his home, such as a spear or a shirt, were his, and it was considered a violation of him to take them from him.
When it came to land, it was generally considered to belong to a man if he could show investment into it. If you farmed it, cleared it, or otherwise used it, it was yours, and most would consider it theft if another took it or the fruits of your labor upon it from you.
Communal property was easier to define and protect, as it carried with it the threat of force from a group instead of an individual. There were often squabbles amongst the group as to the rights to and responsibility to community property within the group, but outsiders knew that they should not interfere unless they were willing to be met by force.
With parents and children, it was generally considered that children were the property of the parents until they were old enough to care for themselves. This belief was tempered by what the people in the local culture felt was appropriate treatment of children, as the welfare of future generations affected all in a survival culture.
The property relationship between husband and wife was tempered by each sides ability to leave and divorce, something most parties have had access to throughout history. So while a wife may have been property in the realm of defense and rights, it also carried a responsibility to provide for her and her children and treat them well, or she might decide that leaving was a better option for them.
The property relationship of a man to himself became one of utmost importance, a man owned himself, and was both free to make his own choices on what to do with himself, and free to reap the consequences of those choices, good or bad, a man was his own sovereign, he owned himself, and was free.
Understanding of the more intangible forms of property varied wildly from culture to culture, but in general physical violence was not frowned upon in a legal sense for violations of such.
What we consider to be “morality” is nothing more than a reciprocal agreement between members of a culture for dealing with various forms of property. These became codified as a type of unwritten law that all men must either respect, or risk having violence used against them.
These combined forms of property, from tangible physical, to intangible, to land, to relationships, to a man owning himself, have, as Property in Total (Property-in-Toto), formed the basis for all human rights, government relationships, and normative morality throughout all of human history. Private property is the true historical basis for all of what we consider to be modern morality, for all of what we call human rights, and for all of the interactions we as men share with other men and with government. Property-in-Toto is the basis for our entire culture as we know it.