Land rights

From: I William Wiser (
Date: Fri Jul 27 2001 - 15:56:51 MDT

Here is a question that has bugged me off and on for years.

What ways of handling property rights and especially land rights
seem most reasonable for people who value individual liberty
and the well being of people in general?

I like the idea that something becomes yours when it is laying
around and you mix your labor with it or otherwise consistently
make it a part of your possessions. Once something becomes
yours it stays yours until you abandon it or transfer it in some
way. Contracts can modify this as in work for hire, etc.

This works fairly well for small items and stuff that involves
a lot of labor. But what about large tracts of land, mineral
rights, etc. If a small bit of land lays unclaimed and you claim
it, work it, build a home on it etc. it makes sense to me that
it becomes yours and stays yours as long as you do not forfeit
it by abusing your neighbors in some way.

I don't see why people get to claim large amounts of land unless
they do something with it which gets most people in the area to
decide not to contest their claim. Obviously this can be done
with military force but that only last as long as the force lasts.
Contracts and agreements can last longer because most everyone
needs a good reputation to thrive in this world.

I don't want to speculate on this to much because it may have
been worked out well by others but I would like to have some
clear conception in my mind. I think this makes for an important
political issue. Whose land rights do I see as valid and what sort
of land rights ideas do I want to propagate.

If governments can legitimately claim land rights they have a right
to do a lot of other things too. If the U.S.A. corporation or the
California corporation owns the lands they claim, they may be
entitled to charge fees, percentages, etc. for passing through their
land. I doubt they do because something does not seem right
but I want to have a better understanding of these issues.

Certainly, fees for passing through, living on land when you have
no other reasonable options, etc., work better if they are reasonable,
otherwise the people being billed have no reason to buy into
the system. People must have an opportunity, a pathway to
leading a good life or they will reasonably rebel. But if one has
the means and other people have legitimate property rights it
makes sense to pay the fees or move on.

There may be no general solutions but only rules of thumb and
traditions people buy into. It may be more a matter of working
out something everyone with power can live with.

I can't expect that anything which violates and individual's survival
or well being, will be accepted by that individual. Neither can I expect
everyone or anyone to structure things for the benefit of particular
individuals or groups. The ideal system gets everyone who is in
a position to contest it meaningfully to buy in. Some people may
not buy it at first but a good system will be one that sane people
buy into given time.

I suppose land rights can also be conceived as space rights or
more accurately spatial relationships rights. Some segment of
space is yours. The space moves or rather you are always moving
but you move in relationship to everything (or almost everything
else) which is also moving. So how does one reasonably structure
rights to a particular volume of matter moving through space. Land
on Earth moves through space in relationship to other land on earth
most of the time.

So, there are rights to matter/energy, and rights to move things on
vectors. Another way to think of it is, rights to occupy a volume
moving through space. The matter may be expanding along with
most other matter associated with it.

I'm not sure the science of it is relevant but it may help to think
of things more physically. What I am after is political understanding
to guide ethics and persuade people.

I suspect groups of people have seldom work these things out
formally. Perhaps rules have evolved as part of common law.
More likely people just go and do what they think will work
for them or what they think they can get away with.

Anyway, I'm open to discussion or suggestions for good reading


I. William Wiser []
Life Extension and Quality of Life Consultant

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