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Today we are going to touch on a topic that is so far in the future that will look like science fiction… but it is not. We have seen in our lesson When Countries Dissolve, what the process of dissolution will look like and how will this affect people. In general terms, the government will progressively lose its power to enforce laws and consequently, laws will be ignored in a progressive manner. Two-way countries will evolve: formalities will be retained by governments while reality will be retained by people. Freedom will increase.

However, one critical question remains unresolved: as the dissolution of governments becomes progressively deeper, how will properties and property rights be returned to the people?

Some research has been done to answer the question. It approaches the issue from the theoretical Libertarian or Anarchical point of view. In general terms, they propose that some process be set up by some people that will divide and return properties to the people in a just and fair manner.

 

Justice and Fairness

In order to study the problem, we first need to answer another question: what is just and fair when it comes to returning properties?

There are many possible scenarios directly related to the historical path property rights have traveled through time.

 

Government Property Types

  • One type of property is the property that was abrogated (i.e. taken) by the government without having had a previous owner. For example, national parks.
  • Another type of property is property that it is considered “public property” but it was simply taken from previous owners, such as roads.
  • Yet another type of property is the property that was bought from previous owners and paid with taxes.
  • Another type of property is property that was forcefully taken (i.e. stolen) from people such as confiscations and “eminent domain” take overs.
  • Another type of property is property that was originally stolen by the government and then re-sold to honest people.
  • Other property type is the property that was taken by the government by “default”, as in people dying without heirs.

Many property types can be constructed using chains of events composed from the types described above. Furthermore, a property right could be quite convoluted and traced back many generations.

 

So what is just and fair?

In Libertarian principle, property rights are absolute. This is, if a person was cheated out of his/her property by any means other than a voluntary contract, this person retains all property rights.

Therefore, when countries dissolve, a just and fair solution would be to return all properties to their original owners.

However, as we have seen above, there are many types of government “properties” that would need to be returned.

How do we determine who is the rightful owner of a property if we can only trace its history back to an unrightful owner?

How many generations do we trace ownership back? 10? 100? 500? And what happens if properties were developed through those generations? What percentage of a property belongs to which owner?

What about property rights that were stolen and therefore they were not inherited and were subsequently sold, re-sold, inherited, developed, split, bankrupted, re-acquired and are now in production. Who is the rightful owner and to what percentage?

What about properties that were subsidized with tax money for the benefit of a group of people or companies. Whose properties are they?

And so on. It is clear that theory of justice and fairness in this instance does not survive reality.

The standard answer from academia it: “they will figure it out somehow, but since this is a practical problem, it does not concern us”.

Well, they may not be concerned, but we are.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to a just and fair redistribution of government properties, Libertarian or Anarchist theory does not provide any guidance.

 

The process

Theoreticians also propose to set up some sort of process that would divvy-up properties in a fair and just manner. However, as we have seen above, there is no fair and just manner. It is simply not possible. Consequently, it is not possible to set-up a process to achieve this goal.

 

The people

Theoreticians also assume that a group of people will be tasked with the elucidation of what is just and fair when it comes to property rights and the set-up of such process. But if it is impossible to define what is just and fair and therefore it is impossible to create a process, it is therefore also impossible to select a group of people to do just that.

Not to mention the fact that there would not be any inclination to create “authorities” when it has become patently clear that governments are a total and utter failure.

 

Historical breaking points and linear history

The problem with academics is that they have no contact with the real world. As we have mentioned before, history is not linear and breaking points very seldom happen.

All these theoreticians assume the path of least resistance. They assume some sort of climactic evolution or revolution that will switch governments off overnight ushering the end of the world as we know it.

Not going to happen. As we have explained in our lesson When Countries Dissolve and also in Political System Lifecycle, the dissolution of countries is a very slow and progressive process. It takes decades, if not 100+ years. It is disingenuous and a gross oversimplification in assuming instant country dissolution.

Hence, we need to look for answers in hints provided by real, current events as to how people behave as government’s grip on our rights begin to loosen.

 

First Principles

What happens in reality is that the following two principles begin to re-assert themselves:

  • What’s mine is mine.
  • What’s nobody’s is mine, if I occupy it and use it.

It is only logical and it is also Libertarian. There is also an inescapable conclusion: once countries are gone, property titles become allodial (absolute), as they should be.

Let’s face it. However the re-distribution of properties will happen when countries dissolve, this distribution will be patently unfair, albeit not unreasonable.

Those who own properties will do their utmost to keep them, and why wouldn’t they? Who is going to challenge them?

Those who do not own property will simply move into former or formally “government property” and take it over. Who is going to oppose them?

The rest will just cut their losses and realize that there is no way to recover all the previous decades of taxation and government intervention. Life is too short and people will simply move on.

There is not going to be just and fair committees deciding whose government property this is or isn’t. Best we can expect, if the last government has any sense of fairness left, is the redistribution of government properties such as highways, parks and schools or hospitals into cooperatives or shareholders.

This scenario is certainly possible but highly unlikely. Not too many politicians commit political suicide. Gorbachev was the exception that confirms the rule.

But even in those scenarios, there will be a gross re-distribution of properties among “friends” of existing governments. Those in the know would not care or would have received their share of the pie and those who would care would not know until is too late.

Therefore what we can expect is that everybody will keep their properties, most government ones will be lost to “other” people (many becoming multi-millionaires in the process) and life will go on.

Reset.

Not a pretty picture but there you have it. We are sick and tired of coming up with last minute solutions to desperate and impossible problems. Austro-Libertarianism is a way of life; it is not a multi-tool to fix hundreds of years of government screw-ups. Austro-Libertarianism is common-sense above all, not a tribunal. Austro-Libertarianism is a way forward, not a way to look backwards.

 

Conclusion

When the time comes to divvy-up government property, most likely you won’t benefit. Other, clever, faster people will, but you, the average person, won’t. That’s OK. Anything is preferable to continuing with this current state of rot. And life will go on. A better life, and this is good!

In the end, this is good news albeit not the best. Best is an enemy of possible and we are more than happy to exchange a possible future for the current debacle.

You are now in possession of information which very few people have and this is good. How do you proceed from here is your choice. As usual.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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