Politics/Economics

A Libertarian Appraisal of Propertarianism

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Introduction

This will serve as a brief and informal assessment of Curt Dollittle’s “propertarianism” from a (Hoppean style) libertarian perspective. A more in depth analysis may be performed in the future, but for now this should satisfy most proponents of each school of thought. The main objective will be to demonstrate that propertarianism and libertarianism are not as mutually exclusive as many believe. In fact, they are functionally compatible (even if they happen to fall short of perfect philosophical congruence.) The comparative analysis will be based on an overview of propertarianism produced by John Mark (I highly recommend you subscribe to his channel and check out his videos.):

Appraisal

First, there are philosophical divergences, but Curt Doolittle’s propertarian government could be functionally replicated in a libertarian society via contractual covenant. The following is a brief excerpt on covenant communities:

The question now becomes how to form and sustain a stateless nation? One solution is to form contractual covenant communities. When one purchases property in such a community, he does not acquire full ownership. His ownership, instead, is limited to the extent of the community’s covenant conditions. Such conditions may include prohibitions on certain types of public behavior such as lewdness, drug use, drinking, the promotion of aberrant sexual behavior…etc. They may also entail certain requirements relating to the upkeep of one’s lawn etc. Thus, if one violates these conditions, then legal action may be taken against him without violating his private property rights, or the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP). Many of you may have heard of Hoppe’s infamous remarks regarding the “physical removal” of communists, Democrats, and those who publicly promote homosexuality. However, these remarks were made in the context of a covenant community which prohibited the conduct of such behavior and the entry of such people. (Source: “For a ‘Libertarian Alt-Right’“)

For more on Hoppean covenants see “Covenant Communities Explained.”

Essentially, libertarians view private property owners as the sovereign rulers over their property. Thus, if Doolittle were the property owner and developer of a vast swath of land (acquired via homesteading or voluntary/contractual transfer) then he could implement whatever form of government he desired over it. When he was ready to sell sub plots, he would not be obliged to transfer full title. The title transfer contract could include stipulations that read to the effect of “you are free to do what you will with your property within the bounds of the community’s propertarian rules (whatever those may be).” Basically, Doolittle would retain the partial ownership of the entire development necessary to enforce rules, establish legal procedures, and adjudicate disputes in a propertarian manner. What Doolittle proposes, from a libertarian perspective, is simply his particular technical solution for which rules are best to govern a covenant community beyond the universal private property rights established by libertarianism. Keep in mind also, there is no necessary limitation on the size of a covenant. A covenant community could be as small as a neighborhood or as vast as a nation.

Second. There are differences in what Curt asserts to be “property” and what genuine libertarians conceive “property” to be (for more on this see “A Foundational Critique of Propertarianism“). The nature and scope of property with respect to libertarian legal theory is outlined in the chapter on “Property” from my book A Spontaneous Order: The Capitalist Case For A Stateless Society. From my current understanding, Doolittle’s conception of property can not be held as universally valid nor can it be philosophically justified a priori. In contrast, libertarianism can be justified in such a manner via Hoppe’s argumentation ethics.

It must be reiterated, however, that Doolittle can functionally replicate precisely the governance he wishes via covenant means, even if all which he regards as “property,” is not, per se, regarded as such by libertarians. Doolittle could circumvent this issue by tying his rules back to what libertarians do consider property by including in the covenant contract something to the effect of “members of this community may be punished or evicted if they are found to violate the covenant’s rules…etc.” Again, those rules can be whatever he sees fit, and members would be legitimately bound to them because they would have been agreed to in advance.

Third. I appreciate that Doolittle is, like me, fond of decentralization in that he is open to the possibility of there existing many different self governing nations. If you are interested in the private and decentralized legal systems that (Hoppean) libertarians favor, see my chapter on “Private Law Society.” Once more, such a private law system would in no way preclude Doolittle from establishing a propertarian covenant.

Fourth. I likewise appreciate that Doolittle correctly recognizes that all legitimate rights are ultimately derived from private property rights. Though our view of what constitutes property differs a bit, like him, I also recognize that “Free Speech” is not a right that exists independently from private property. If one desires to set entry conditions to his property (be it personal or covenant) that prohibit visitors/members from speaking of certain things, speaking in a certain way, or expressing falsehoods when doing so in a public capacity (as Doolittle wishes) then such would be his right. That said, according to libertarians, the State has no legitimate jurisdiction over public property, thus it also has no legitimate right to restrict the speech of its citizens on it. However, I would agree that if speech restrictions in the current statist environment are a given, then applying such restrictions to false public speech would be preferable to applying them to speech which is merely politically incorrect or considered “hate” speech.

Fifth. As to externalities, libertarian legal theory does offer solutions. The following is a relevant excerpt from my “Free Market Environmentalism” chapter regarding easements:

When one homesteads unowned land, he is not merely conferring to himself exclusive right to occupy a certain space, but also, in his use of said good, he is acquiring rights to do with it as he wishes given that the activities performed do not involve uninvited physical interference with the property of others. To illustrate this, suppose John homesteads or purchases a plot of land and decides to start a rock band which, at the time, does not cause uninvited physical interference with the property of others. He is, say, too remote to have any effect on his neighbors. By doing so, he earns the right to produce the level of noise associated with his band on his property, despite the fact that the noise may traverse beyond the physical boundaries of the property itself. Such a right is commonly referred to as an “easement.” Now, suppose Sue purchases property adjacent to John’s and complains about the excessive noise. Of course, Sue is free to request that John keep the noise down or that he only perform at certain times, but from a libertarian standpoint, she would have no legal grounds to forcibly stop John from producing the noise his band generates. As John was within his rights to play music when he had no neighbors, he developed an easement where he previously acquired the right to produce such noise by operating his rock band prior to Sue’s moving next door. The same methodology may be applied with air, water, or any other form of pollution. If a factory was polluting the air of a surrounding area prior to a residential community being established in its vicinity, then the residents of said community would have no just legal grounds to force the factory owner to halt the practices of his factory.

However, in the case of John and Sue or of the factory owner and the residential community, if John begins to produce more noise than he was prior to Sue moving in next door or if the factory produces more pollution after the residential community was established, then both Sue and the residential community would have solid legal grounds to acquire an injunction against John and the factory respectively for the amount of noise and air pollution that is being generated in excess of their easements.

The chapter also elaborates on issues of “Nuisance” and “Trespass” which many incorrectly assume libertarian legal theory permits, when, in fact, it provides grounds with which to enjoin activities which produce such negative externalities. In short, libertarians claim that negative externalities can be largely mitigated via privatization. However, to reiterate, through covenant means, Doolittle would be free to impose whatever additional rules he saw fit to further mitigate negative externalities.

Sixth. Propertarianism and libertarianism offer different perspectives as to what qualifies as “common property.” However, each philosophy recognizes the legitimacy of the underlying concept. What Doolittle refers to as “common property” would, in most cases, be regarded as “joint private property” by Hoppeans. Moreover, the claimants of this joint private property needn’t each have equal levels of claim. They may own varying amounts of shares…etc. Hoppe elaborates on the nature of and distinction between public, common, and private (be it joint or otherwise) property in his essay “Privatizing Everything: Defining Private, Common, and Public Property.” To be clear, Hoppe, like myself, recognizes the legitimacy of both common and private property and these institutions in no way conflict with genuine libertarian conceptions of property.

Seventh. I agree with Doolittle that the practical conditions for a functioning civilization include such factors as racial and ethnic homogeneity, relatively high average IQ, relatively low average time preference, and relatively high social trust. This is why I find Doolittle’s model compelling. I elaborate further on the significance of these practical factors in “For A Libertarian Alt-Right” and “White Nationalism is the Surest Path to a Libertarian Social Order.”

Conclusion

Propertarianism and libertarianism are, at the very least, functionally compatible. From a libertarian perspective, Doolittle’s propertarian model represents a technical solution for governance which could be implemented via covenant without violating libertarian principles. If his model proves to be successful then it will attract many members, be adopted by many communities, and generate plenty of wealth that could be applied towards peaceful territorial expansion.

For more information on propertarianism, be sure to visit The Propertarian Insititute‘s website.

5 thoughts on “A Libertarian Appraisal of Propertarianism”

  1. 1-Well Done. 2-Yes.You can build any government you want with propertarianism. You just have to be truthful about it and account for transfers. 3-Rothbard=pilpul, Hoppe=rationalism, Doolittle=science. We solved social science in three generations. -cheers

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    1. With propertarianism, if I decide to buy up an uninhabited island and start building roads, infrastructure, all of that – if I decide to fill this island with palm trees, classic cars and every other piece of old-school retro technology possible does that island then become mine if I financed everything I was gonna put on it? Just a few questions I have. Great article, this too.

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      1. The Island is yours because you purchased presumably from its previous owner(s).

        If, otoh, the Island was “virgin land”, then you building infrastructure would be a form of homesteading, thus it would likewise constitute a legitimate means of establishing ownership. This is according to libertarian legal theory at least…..however I doubt a propertarian would disagree.

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  2. Nice brief analysis. I hope we will have a more elaborate conversation and collaboration between these two camps in the near future. There needs to be some workable solutions quickly and it would only make sense for Hoppeans and Propertarians to work together.

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