Kansas Progress Institute

Ad Astra Per Aspera ~ To the Stars Through Difficulties

Libertarian Fairy Tale View (One of Many Examples)

Posted on May 5, 2016

By David Burress

Most libertarians believe in property rights that are defined by natural law rather than government. An important case would consist in fungible land rights, i.e. the ability to buy and sell and subdivide and mortgage small plots. In some small primitive villages without much outside interference land tenure might be based on consensual memory, though you won’t see much mortgaging or selling going on. However no such rights can ever exist in complex societies without a widely accepted central registry or cadastre.

 

Thus where the feudal lord owns a great expense of land, there is no convenient and reliable way for him to sell off small plots, for if he does sell the new owner will always live in fear of infringement or confiscation. Also in some Latin American cities it is next to impossible to take out a mortgage because they are no reliable or accepted cadastres. So we find that the alleged natural right actually depends on a rather sophisticated system of records and surveying that won’t work unless it is overseen by a government widely accepted as legitimate. In practice, this only ever gets set up when a government need to specify land ownership for purposes of taxation.

 

It does not happen where much of the land is held in common, as it was in much of the Mongolian Empire or in a majority of primitive communities or in areas served by nomad husbandry or wherever de facto land tenure rights are created by squatting. So in this as in all cases, libertarian theories are based on “the easy magic of dreams” rather than hard empirical reality.

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