C4SS Symposium: Land Tenure and Anarchic Common Law

The Center for a Stateless Society is hosting a virtual symposium concerning issues of land ownership.

I thought I would offer responses to questions posed in Gary Chartier’s opening remarks.

  • After how much time does land become ripe for homesteading?

I take this question to be asking by what principle can a property become abandoned. I think this to a large extend is dependent upon how property becomes owned, which is where I differ somewhat with the labor theories of ownership (not to be confused for the labor theory of value).

It is not so much a physical object that is owned as it is the use of that object. A right to use a property is conferred by the production of some value (that which one aims to gain or keep), provided that another’s existing use of that physical object to produce his or her value is not infringed upon.

When an owner can no longer achieve his or her value with the use of that property and has made no apparent effort to regain that ability, it should be inferred that the right is abandoned.

  • Does abandonment require the absence of not only the owner but also her agents from the property for a reasonable period?

My understanding of abandonment has to do with abandoning the claim to a property, not temporarily moving from it.

Take for instance a deceased person or someone in a coma. Both can leave instructions for their agents to care for their estate for as long as the means exist to do so. Once the estate’s resources are depleted, the claim is abandoned.

  • Should property be treated as abandoned if the putative owner herself is absent for a reasonable period, even if her agents have been present during the same period?

I do not accept that abandonment consists of absenteeism.

  • Just how present does the owner need to be to establish continued possession: is a visit acceptable, or must she treat the land as her residence or place of business?

I do not accept that the owner’s presence is a condition of ownership.

  • Is an absent owner’s intent relevant? If so, must it be communicated, and, if so, to whom and in what way?

I would say that intent is relevent in so far as the right is contingent on what use the owner has for the property.

To identify existing ownership claims, it is necessary to establish who is making the claim, the bounds of the claim and the value being sought. People who want to ensure that their property right is respected will adopt the most widely accepted means of publicizing their differentiation with possible conflicting claims.

Someone who makes no effort to publicize a claim, capture it once it was lost or distinguish it from others must not have had much stock in it.