Property Rights Norms Under Voluntaryism


The purpose of this article is to give the reader an understanding of the core property rights norms that ought to be held in human psychology to reduce conflict over scarce resources within the Voluntaryist framework of maximizing consent and minimizing the initiation of violence. To that end, any gray areas should be resolved with the notion of respecting the bodies and properties of others without escalating to physical violence in market resolution norms. Any confusion about treatment can also be analyzed under the performative contradiction test, a test which checks whether a person proposing some course of action would be against the same being done to them. These concepts will be further expounded upon below in context of each realm of property rights.

ocean view property rights voluntaryist


Scarcity is the precursor to thinking about property rights because it is the point of conflict most present when people consider how their body and physical possessions are treated. For example, one can imagine a 1,000-foot by 1,000-foot piece of land with a beautiful beachfront view. There are not two pieces of land like it because, from where it sits, there cannot be a replication of that specific area – it is unique in space. Due to this limitation, people cannot all share that same spot at the same time without conflict over the space as it is too small to hold all people. In turn, there must be a shared psychology and management system to avoid physical conflict over this scarce resource.

Things that are not scarce cannot be considered property in the same manner. For example, if someone could replicate an apple you had without depriving you of your original apple, there would not be a concern because the apple possessed by you would be unchanged and you would still have your apple to use as you please. The duplication of this apple does not deprive the original ownership of the original material. While apple duplication may sound more like science fiction at the moment, a more clear example is the example of intellectual property by the state, that is, the notion that someone can own an idea to the exclusion of others.

As an idea can be replicated without depriving the inventor of their physical design, ideas and designs methods from ideas are not in-and-of-themselves candidates for property rights. A person could manufacture their own microwave with their own property by copying another’s design without depriving the inventor of their physical microwave invention. A person could copy an artist’s drawing without depriving the artist of the original physical drawing. A person could copy a digital file without removing the digital content from the digital creator’s storage device.

Any desire to be rewarded for innovation must not come from owning ideas and threatening others with violence but, rather, though coming up with market innovations for consensual market transaction.


Property is a bundle of concepts held in human psychology, including the concepts of:

Possession: Physical ownership status.
Control: Use of the property to implement a function or not implement a function.
Destruction: Make unusable.
Exclusion: Keep others from.
Disposition: Sell, trade, gift, or abandon.

Property applies to physical things (matter) as follows below:


Self-ownership is the concept that each human being owns their body and has the highest claim to it. This ownership stems from brain impulses being placed on the body which act as a controlling agent. While some may try to claim that the concept of “self” is outside the body or that the brain and the impulses are a part of “self,” making self-ownership a kind of tautology, these notions can be disabused if one looks at the nature of alienation as to body parts.

If one accepts self-ownership stemming from brain activity, then it can be understood by observation that people tend to both involuntarily and voluntarily act in defense of themselves. Their white blood cells fight off infecting bodies and people use their hands, arms, legs, and feet to repel objects, creatures, or persons they do not wish to touch their body.

This observation of the natural, consistent application of self-ownership continues with accuracy to alienation of parts, whereby people can give up control of body parts by cutting off brain impulse activity. This takes place frequently with donation of blood and organs whereby people extract the tissue away from brain impulse and give it to another. Under this reasoning, the body cannot be given in whole until death, making the concept of slavery (total living human ownership) a logical impossibility. As long as the brain is exerting impulses, a claim of ownership is being made on the body.

Trying to alienate the body in whole while living would be as much of a farce as trying to sell a car but refusing to get out of the driver’s seat. By not getting out, one is not truly giving up property rights and, thus, the alienation has not taken place.

With these principles in mind, it becomes easy to delineate self-ownership for most all people save rare medical anomalies.

blood voluntaryist property rights article

homestead voluntaryist property rights


Property norms for land are necessary as life itself demands it. Human beings take up space in time and require the conversion of natural resources for the body to survive. Thus, every human being must, at a bare minimum, both occupy some spot of land to the exclusion of others, and capture and convert physical resources to continue the process of replenishing cells.

With this in mind, the key to consistent property ownership is making claims specific and clear to the notice of others. Traditionally, this kind of property development came in the form of homesteading: clearing land from the state of nature and developing structures on top of it to exclude other humans and put them on notice as to the land’s use. To avoid generalized claims like the state makes, claims to land should be specific and well-defined with some sort of visible fencing, and cleared for building structures. Leaving land in the state of nature is antithetical to strong property norms as it makes it so that people could claim wide areas of land without ever having to perform any labor to capture and control it. By strictly adhering to a homesteading norm based on setting off land with physical markers and clearing it for construction, concerns about centralization of control and ambiguity of ownership can be largely avoided due to the construction required.

Ownership of spaces should not be extended above or below land without physical construction to avoid generalized claims and to help make clear who owns what area by notice of development.

Abandonment of land-based property should be made clear by removing barriers and posting notice of intent to abandon to avoid confusion.


Capture takes place when something from the state of nature is physically taken out of it by a human. This could be taking an apple from an unowned tree or excavating minerals. When someone captures something from the state of nature (unowned) through physical means, they become the owner of the material/resource/creature.


As animals fall outside of the N.A.P.’s general application, animals may be captured out of the state of nature or consensually traded for in the same manner as one would take any other resource out of the state of nature and privatize it.


A person who captures or homesteads property can voluntarily trade with others for other rightfully owned property. This can come in the form of selling/trading land or selling/trading unfinished and finished goods. So long as the transaction is based on consent and is not fraudulent (i.e. made by lying about an aspect of the deal to trick the other person into trading) then the property ownership changes status to the respective new owners.


In the event someone wishes to critique any of these foundations, the performative contradiction test can be used to demonstrate that a person is being disingenuous about their claims. For example, if someone says there is no such thing as “self-ownership,” you can tell them that you will stab their body wantonly. Most reasonable people will refuse and try to stop you, exercising one of the property rights of “control.” The very nature of this resistance is a performative contradiction because their actions demonstrate that they do exert the psychology of property rights over their body to stop an assailant. They are acting as “self-owners” by resisting the attack. This same process can be applied to any tenet of Voluntaryist property rights foundations to demonstrate inconsistency from critics.


While this article isn’t exhaustive to all possible situations, it provides the barebones framework to think how property rights can be reasonably metered to avoid conflicts as among humans. Any market-based agency that handles disputes would be wise to manage those disputes under this framework to avoid escalation of violence as among people.

If you’d like to learn more about Voluntaryist philosophy, pick up the book:



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