Property rights start with an individual having secure title to his own labor

Merchant and scribe in painting show property rights developing first for elites.
[1, Cover]

Property rights were secured by elites, then by individuals

All of human history has had but three social orders.

The first was the foraging order: small social groups characteristic of hunter–gatherer societies.

The limited access order or natural state emerged in the first social revolution. Personal relationships, who one is and who one knows, form the basis for social organization…, particularly personal relationships among powerful individuals.[2, p. 2] The natural state reduces the problem of endemic violence through the formation of a dominant coalition whose members possess special privileges. Elites – members of the dominant coalition – agree to respect each other’s privileges, including property rights…[2, p. 18]

In the open access orders that emerged in the second social revolution, …impersonal categories of individuals, often called citizens, interact over wide areas…[2, p. 2] Open access orders control violence through a different logic than the natural state. These societies create powerful, consolidated military and police organizations subservient to the political system.[2, p. 21] …these countries developed new economic and political institutions that… secured open access to legal enforcement of rights…[2, p. 27]

Property rights are ownership of yourself and your labor

…every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.[3]

…each individual, as a natural fact, is the owner of himself, the ruler of his own person. The “human” rights of the person that are defended in the purely free-market society are, in effect, each man’s property right in his own being, and from this property right stems his right to the material goods that he has produced.[1, p. 291]

…not only are property rights also human rights, but in the most profound sense there are no rights but property rights… Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities. If people force you to do certain work, or unrewarded work, for a certain period of time, they decide what you are to do and what purposes your work is to serve apart from your decisions. This process whereby they take this decision from you makes them a part-owner of you; it gives them a property right in you. Just as having such partial control and power of decision, by right, over an animal or inanimate object would be to have a property right in it.[4]

  1. Rothbard, Murray Newton. Power and market: government and the economy. 4th ed., Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006, Cover and p. 291.
  2. North, Douglass C., John Joseph Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast. Violence and social orders: a conceptual framework for interpreting recorded human history. Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 2, 18, 21, 27.
  3. Locke, John. The Second Treatise of Civil Government. 3rd ed. with corrections and improvements, 1764. Chapter 5, Section 27.
  4. Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, state, and utopia. Basic books, 1974. p. 172.

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