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When and why did we start staking out property?

When did it all start and why? Who was the first owner of land and what was the criteria for a person to do so?

  • Oct 27 2012: Greetings,

    Some would cite the origins of property in the sedentary lifestyle that accompanied of the agrarian revolution. The thinking, as I understand it, ids that settled populations would have the ability and incentive to claim and accumulate posessions. Early agrarians, archeology illuminates, actually had shorter lifespans, along with higher disease and infant mortality rates. This aside, farming was more viable than hunting and gathering as it allowed for storage of food surpluses, and also the specialization, and thus mastery, of trades.

    Of course, when you have a food surplus and a drought comes along, there may well be disputes with those surrounding transitory populations who do not have the buffer provided by storage. Thus property, and warfare, quite likely share the same root causes.

    Myself, I would be moe inclinerd to blame the bag for the creation of the property concept. Or perhaps the gourd. Prior to the development of this technology it was only possible for a gatherer to own two things at any one time, one in the right hand, and one in the left. The portable container would allow an individual to accumulate wealth and carry it for themselves. We commonly say that posession is 9/10ths of the law. I believe that it is more than that, the aclimitization of posessions quite likely invented the concept of posession itself.

    Interestingly , observation of ape populations reveals some rudimentary property behaviors, especially among juveniles. Individual apes have been witnessed as posessinfg a stick, or other object, and keeping it with them, demonstrating consternation when it is approached or used by another. Usually the property seems to be used as a toy, rather than as a tool. This points to the possibility that property, and all of it's baggage, has origins deeper in the past than any agricultural or tool based revolutions of homo sapiens. An intruiging, and disillusioning thought.

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    Oct 26 2012: From the earliest time there were empires, kingdoms, estates, ect .... Property of course was not limited to land but also to all of those who resided on their land. These were basically tribal or cultural in nature.

    In American history John Locke's decision was the major factor that enhances the standard of living that we enjoy.
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    Oct 25 2012: Private property is at the cornerstone of our standard of living.

    I'm glad Mats delusions don't have much traction in most of the world. Private property made the difference between the standard of living in South America and North America. John Locke had it right Mats is a subversive.

    At 10:33 into this video

    • Oct 25 2012: Subversion is a good thing, friend. But that's a discussion for another time and place. I just felt the need to say it.
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        Oct 26 2012: 1
        the act of subverting : the state of being subverted; especially : a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within
        obsolete : a cause of overthrow or destruction

        You are the one who said it is good. Which depends on what side of the fence you are on . The terrorists celebrated in the streets on 9/11. I look upon subversion with a jaundiced eye. Did you really mean subversion is a good thing?
        • Oct 26 2012: I did. The definition I found is actually "undermine the power and authority of", which is the Mac dashboard dictionary app's definition. All forms of violence are wrong, but you can undermine something in a pacifist manner very easily. This is evidenced by Thoreau, Ghandi, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Junior, among many others throughout history. Human beings, by our nature, are drawn by greed. There are many theories why, from Darwinism to the religious theory that we're evil because Eve ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But the fact is we are drawn by greed. Part of greed is a yearn for power. So it follows that most people in power were brought there by greed. If greed is a bad thing, which is a standpoint I can't imagine a contention for, then most people in power have their power for immoral means. Therefore, if we do not question them then there's no one to stand in the way of their greed. If we don't subvert authority then society will fall victim the greed of the few.
          As far as property goes, is the status quo not developed by the greed of man? Why else would you claim ownership then for selfish gain? Then it follows that the concept of property comes from greed. So how can the concept of private property be morally good?
          The terrorists on 9/11 celebrated an act of violence because they (being people who chose, for whatever reason, to give up individual, rational thought) believed that God hates America and the beliefs by which it is governed. They were (most likely) swayed by the arguments of a selfish madman. This type of subversion is very different from pacifist subversion. I, based on an ethical grounding, would never choose to harm a human being to further a cause, only to protect the life of another human being. But yet I choose to actively subvert the powers that be. Is that terrorism?
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        • Oct 26 2012: Where did you get the term subversive pacifist from? What I'm talking about is anarcho-pacifism. Google it! It's a beautiful thing, if a tid bit idealistic. But if we're not at least a little idealistic then how can anything get any better? I haven't watched you're video yet (I will presently) but I can tell you now it's anything but infallible and if you think my argument is "crap" then it's best to present a formal argument. Otherwise, you're expecting me to adhere to doctrine, which is what the nazi's would do. I still don't understand how you can't see that subversion doesn't require violence though. I do it daily, as did the men I listed in my last post. Also, the velvet revolution ended socialism in Czechoslovakia without violence. Were they not subversive?
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        Oct 26 2012: I was looking for a yes or no?
        • Oct 26 2012: Yes, subversion is a good thing. I stand by that. If we do not question authority then we'll ultimately be the victims of it. Though from a moral standpoint we should do so without the use of violence.
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        Oct 26 2012: Gandhi nor Martin Luther King were subversives by anyone's perspective. I goggled your term, anarcho-pacifism, it is not subversive.

        Have a nice day
        • Oct 26 2012: How do you figure? Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting against the standardized notion that black people are inferior to whites. When you fight against standards you are being subversive. If that isn't subversive then the standpoint being presented here certainly isn't. Also, did you watch your video? The data they presented showed that the west (who are capitalist and use private property) first came to prominence and then the east (specifically China, who are communist and do not have private property) have come to prominence since then. If Private property was the reason that the west is superior then shouldn't we still be ahead since we still have private property and they still don't? Also, I approached this from an ethical standpoint, which you have yet to contest. Further, anarcho-pacifism is quite subversive as we challenge the standard notion that a government is required for society to exceed. Even by your narrow definition, anracho-pacifism is subversive as we seek to eliminate the necessity for government. In order to do this all governments would need be overthrown.
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        Oct 26 2012: "anracho-pacifism" is that a pacifist towards spiders?
        • Oct 26 2012: That would be arachno, not anarcho. If you're going to evade my argument and resort to poking fun at some of the technical terms than at least do it intelligently. Do you truly even believe your standpoint? If so then why are you afraid to put forth any kind of real argument for it?
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          Oct 27 2012: Hey Pat, that was uncalled for. Kris, at this point, the debate has dissolved.
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    Oct 27 2012: I think natural history can be instructive here. Biological evolution begot cultural evolution and away we go.

    The North American indians coexisted with relatively stable populations for thousands of years. Part of the reason this civilization lasted so long rested on a belief. Nature was considered part of their spiritual world and was revered by the tribes. That lifestyle lends itself to a more conservative view of how man fits into the natural environment. Admittedly a simplified description, but basic to a long lasting lifestyle which imposed stewardship and sharing, despite the territorial nature of a hunter/gatherer.

    Meanwhile and subsequently around the world via humanities clever expansion of cultural evolution all kinds of products and ideas worth spreading were catching on. People began to manipulate and control the environment and produce life changing achievements. The legal concept of property rights was likely in practice and inevitably validated enabling private land ownership as a claim of parcels of land which spread and fundamentally tied to the fast developing economies.

    Cultural evolution has a life of its own and the consequential dominance of this progression is not subject to being turned around without considerable effort. The lifestyle of the North American indians did not survive the influence of the new settlers with their products, ideas and barb wire.

    It appears this question is motivated by a request for self reflection and perhaps a relatively natural question - can we survive our progress? That's a fairly good question no matter what your politics. Just look at the timelines and various TED talks.
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    Oct 27 2012: A few things to ad, although I cannot entirely answer your question. I know that algebra first entered the Middle-Eastern world as a tool to calculate land. Persian Muslim mathematician Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi is credited for the world "algorithm," taken from his name Al-Khwarizmi. In this I mean to say that tracing math can help you find your answer.

    On another note, tracing ceremonies can also help you locate your answer. I know that matrimony is theorized to having first arose in settled peoples to help land-owning men bequeath their property to their progeny. It is believed that marriage predated religion as it was simply a way for males to distinguish which child - and, thus, heir - they had fathered. On a tangential note, I believe the female-dependent society transitioned into the male-dependent society with the advent of marriage. (No feminist overtones here, just interesting theories.)
  • Oct 27 2012: Woman have never been in power although symbols of admiration based solely on physical attraction can be found throughout our history, an example, playboy magazines, there is plenty of photos of woman in power...not saying they shouldn't be!

    For the sake if simplicity the world began with a single male gang member, we then went to gangs run by the alpha male, generally the largest. Through the expansion of thought generated memories the smaller weaker learned they could take that stature away with numbers...and keep in mind at this time there were no rules or lines...the alpha male (or there of) could have anything it wanted so in essence he owed everything ( boundless), besides there would have been no understanding of territory in the beginning simply a gluttony on survival.

    Rival gangs would have some understanding of territory but it to would have been based on an unmarked precision.

    As population appeared the numbers grew which required additional concerns, housing and feeding the followers, so then farming was the next move which would have brought on the understanding of territory but not yet educated to maps. However that came in time and lines were forever drawn.

    In conclusion, if you have not already figured out, its all derives from fear which in itself a boundary, thought formats that with greed and you end up full a perfect formation measured from the point of a finger...all with a price tag.

    So its not a someone but a something that makes someone do something...and then we all point fingers at the someone and deny being effected in anyway by the something...kinda idiotic when you think about it.
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      Oct 27 2012: I have seen similar theories arise in works like Julian Jaynes' "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" and Robert R. Arthur's "You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos." I was surprised to find that female primates were originally larger creatures who had to be physically dominated by males in order to be mated with. Males often held on to the female primate or stalked her in order to scare down other males, once mated with, since she was free to mate as she wanted.

      In a bizarre switch, males, when in a settled people, institutionalized methods of keeping a woman unable to bear others' children: genital mutilation and marriage. And what had originally favored women swung dramatically to favor men, later: great male leaders accumulated concubines and harems to ensure massive progeny.
    • Oct 27 2012: Greetings

      As much as I must agree that the version of history we are fed today is mysoginistic, I cannot wholehertedly agree with your statement. While it is true that most ritual items we find from pre-civilization seem to venerate a female diety, we cannot know what status she held or domains she governed. The "woman of willendorf" a faceless pregnant icon than is common in european, middle eastern, and north african digs certainly seems to demonstrate a religious regard for women, specifically pregnant women, but as there are no written records or direct experience we are left with theories and supposition. We know absolutely nothing about the property values of these early peoples.

      The closest we could come would be the descriptions of the Scythians provided in Herodotus, some of whos outlandish claims have recently been archeologically validated. Ruled by a queen, at least in H.'s time, and with a femanine snake goddess these may be taken as prototypical matriarchal barbarians. And still, we dont know if women could inherit, or own property.

      Some have connected the rise of masculine "religious" iconography, ( how do you know something is holy, and not just art, or perhaps a toy, when you have no communication or context to understand the nature of the object?), which occured between 15 and 10 thousand years ago with the rise sedentary agrarian populations and organized conflict. 'Tis true that these early male votive statues and icons are almost universally depicted as fierce and beweaponed. Another explanation may lie in the growing understanding that men did contribute to conception, rather than it being a province of women alone.

      Likely, if there were strictly matriarchal populations in pre-history, they pre-dated the widespread development of property, as the iconography alters before the agrarian revolution, rather than after, There was no ownership of land, thus no matriarchal land ownership.

    • Oct 27 2012: A further thought....

      As an aside, women are dependent on others during the latter stages of pregnancy, and also during early child rearing. ( somehow I believe, without any historical or archeological evidence at all that men avoded parenting responsibilities as much then as they do now, call it my own bias.) Just as men were dependent on women for gathering and the propogation of the species.

      The only division of labor in modern hunter gatherer groups is by gender and age, not by social status.

      Thus I would argue that the idea of a female being dependent on males is not entirely manufactured, but rather blown out of proportion to the corallational dependence of males on females. Ideally this is a symbiotic relationship, with both parties contributing, and benifiting from the efforts of the other. Portraying it as parasitic or dominant, I think, reveals our modern bias about gender issues, not the actual past.

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    Oct 26 2012: It's interesting to see how this question manages to polarize political leanings. Thanks Mats for asking it.

    It's also interesting that one 'leaning' resorts to personal affrontery to get views on ownership across, whilst others are prepared to think more widely and to welcome freedom of thought.

    Territorialsm is an ancient remnant of our psyche and if it is to persist in modern times, it has to be tempered by civilized behaviour. It is questionable that grabbing all we can at the expense of others is actually civilized behaviour. It lacks essential empathy and positive regard for others.

    Can the law of the jungle justifiably persist if we are to also call ourselves civilized?
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      Oct 26 2012: I find it interesting that those who claim to be open minded say that to cover their agenda and in reality are anything but open minded. E.G. Would those who claim to be open minded give up there property for the greater good? Not somebody else's but there own?
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        Oct 26 2012: Thanks Pat. Right on cue.

        Would you like to tell me what my agenda is? I'd love to know...
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          Oct 26 2012: Back at ya.

          The agendas is Equality. This is Mats song on a loop. The Equality trope is a built in handicap to explain no effort or production.
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        Oct 26 2012: Would you say that Equality is always a handicap? Why?

        Effort or production of what?

        Do you also have a song on a loop? (I think most people do, by the way. It's a good way of consolidating ideas - but can also lead to entrenched beliefs).
        • Oct 26 2012: "Would you say that Equality is always a handicap?"
          There is a story about that. Ironically, it was written by Kurt Vonnegut, a socialist, himself: http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html
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          Oct 26 2012: Yes because it place blame. The trouble with blame is you cannot control the target of the blame.

          E.G. The Big Evil Banks are to blame for our current mess. Consequently the best you can do is protest with the 99%'s, What change does that create?

          Now your answer is that I blame Big Evil Government, which is not entirely true, I blame us. For being ignorant. Which is only slightly better in that I can educate myself and attempt to educate. But this is a very long slow process with the sucess being few and far between more on me than others. I have educated myself through TED and the talks by Niall Ferguson, Matt Ridley, Yasheng Huang, Krisztian Pentar, and books and other sources. But getting other people to wake up is difficult. But it is better that just saying its their fault, and being handicapped.

          Effort and production of anything, at a high level as this is where the game is played best.

          No I don't have a song on a loop, I am aware of what I'm saying and I know what I know and I know what I don't know. What I say is said from a cause point it is not a meme.
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          Oct 26 2012: Why are all of those equality stories always dystopian?
        • Oct 27 2012: Greetings...

          It would appear that equality is a modern concept, and one might say myth. Find refrences to the equality of individuals that predates the enlightenment. I would be interested in such refrences.

      • Oct 26 2012: @Pat: If you want another story, that is strangely similar but very different, try http://alexpeak.com/twr/anthem/ As this new linked page indicates, I'm not the only one to have noticed a similarity between Harrison Bergernon and Anthem.

        I must caution you that this one is not as quick to read. But I do encourage you to skip the forewords and introductions -- they only spoil things, rather than add to it.
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          Oct 28 2012: Good story, same theme as Fountainhead. "the council of eugenics" quite amusing
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        Oct 26 2012: Should I automatically assume that by disfavouring equality, you favour inequality - and that inequality somehow removes blame? Surely inequality is the seed of blame in the first place?

        I need to ask all these questions in order to try and understand your viewpoint - and how inequality could possibly be advantageous.

        Maybe my misunderstanding is down to semantics. Instead of equality/inequality, should I instead be thinking in terms of sameness/difference? If so, then I agree entirely with you - sameness is something to deplore, while difference is often very healthy.
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          Oct 27 2012: No, I only object to equality. Inequality is not the point. The seed of blame comes from the blamer and from the Ellsworth Tooheys of the world.

          2 examples:

          I once knew a dory fisherman who out produced all the other fisherman. The other fisher man blamed him because he started earlier worked the nets harder. The blame was an excuse not to work harder and longer.

          Al Sharpton is always complaining about the repressed black man who has been taken advantage of. No doubt the blacks have been exploited. But to blame makes the black man the victim, it is a double edge sword. The truth is that black teenagers had about the same unemployment rate as whites until they instituted minimum wage which drove jobs away from the less skilled. This information along with a bunch more comes from a black economist.


          Inequality is not advantageous it is irrelevant. It is only made relevant by those who profit by creating a straw-man like Sharpton or Al Gore or George Soros or Hitler.

          What is valuable is that the individual lives on his own terms following his own purpose. Which means he must be free to succeed or free to fail. In this way the standard of living of the entire wold has been raised from the hunter gatherer level to what it is today.

          Analytical thought is thinking in terms of differences, similarities and identities. Associative thinking is in terms of association and is a lower level of thinking as it is not analytical. The lowest level of thinking is not thinking at all and is purely reactionary, which is the level of thought of animals.
        • Oct 27 2012: "Equality" in the brutal sense that communists and socialists are suggesting -- taking from the rich and giving to the poor -- is quite like chopping off Michael Phelps' fingers and toes, so that everyone has a "fair chance" of finishing first at the Olympics.

          The world can be unfair sometimes. But things are only going to get worse if the government steps in with their legislation to "fix" things. Equality makes sense only as far as the courts go -- i.e. a court should not have different rules for "nobility" or "CEO" or "union leader". When the government forces "equality" on to people, in their private affairs... we'll some countries have tried it... and those are the countries I will never ever live in. It is just a 2-3 decades from there to "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
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        Oct 27 2012: Hard work should indeed be rewarded.

        But looking at this on a commercial scale, out-fishing other fishermen eventually becomes the unsustainable practice of over-fishing - leading to species extinction at worst.

        Continuing with your fishing example, who then draws the line (and takes remedial action) at the point when it is known by marine scientists that over-fishing becomes globally unsustainable?

        Would the political/economic system you advocate, sit up and listen to those experts without accusations of conspiracy? I don't think so.

        Has that same political and economic system listened to climate science? No it hasn't - and furthermore it never will as long as that system claims exclusive ownership of all natural resources on economic grounds.

        Going back to Mats' ownership question then:

        I can (and do) legitimately claim ownership of something I have manufactured myself and expect payment for it when it is sold.

        Claiming ownership of something that occurs naturally and which has no connection to me or anyone else for its own existence, is neither my birthright or mine just because I have driven a stake into a plot of land before anyone else has.

        'Ownership' of anything naturally occurring - land, sea, air and even natural resources - come under the category of stewardship. This is because altering any of those with the freedoms that ownership confers, affects everything and everybody else.

        We are simply the custodians of everything that does not originally owe its existence to human ingenuity - no matter how much money has exchanged hands.
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          Oct 27 2012: Of course there has to be some regulation as is the case with fishing. But I will also say that the U.S. is hugely over regulated. This causes business to start elsewhere. On a planetary scale regulation has zero effect. They claim that 25% or more of the pollution that is over Los Angeles, which is more regulated than anywhere else in the world, is from China.

          As indicated in the video I attached earlier what you advocate would lower the standard of living drastically. At the beginning of the last century over 80% of North Americans owned land while in South America it was a small minority who had Spanish land grants. This is a large part of the reason for the disparity between the 2 continents.

          If the land is as you say owned by everyone there would be no motivation for oil companies to figure out how to drill in 5000 ft of water and spend billions in the process. Consequently we will run of energy or pay a bigger price for it.

          The main point is that the only disposition on this that works is paying attention to what works. What you advocate DOES NOT WORK. As Nail indicates in the video civilizations operate on the edge of chaos, in history more often than not they collapse [usually from debt]. Debt is more consumption than production.

          Advocating less production for whatever reason (which includes more over regulation) results in more debt because the agencies that "regulate" do not have to answer to the market. This becomes laughable here in the U.S. and in the U.K.

          Anyway if the civilization collapses you will have your wish as it will be a resurgence of the dark ages but with more gadgets.
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    Oct 26 2012: My guess is that property is a modern manifestation of an animalistic territorial instinct. Sometimes people will say that the concept of property is not universal among cultures, but show me a culture that does not seek to defend its territory.

    Thus, I would argue that it began before we were even homosapiens.
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      Oct 27 2012: I would definitely agree with you and supplement that our plotting, selling, or acquiring land is simply a safer way of doing so in our "civilized" societies. Technology results in less blood shed! ... wait...
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    p s

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    Oct 25 2012: What's mine is mine. What's yours is mine also. Stop me if you can! And so it goes, on and on forever, which is a long way in deed.
  • Oct 25 2012: What comes to my mind is that it could come from competing over food sources. Animals stake out territory and defend it so that they have a monopoly on the food of that region. I imagine we've had the compulsion since before we became sentient.
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    Oct 25 2012: Stone age? And it probably became good to know that your cave was not occupied, again, by all those bears or sabre-toothed tigers... :o)

    Only those who guided and followed their herds through less fertile landscapes, nomads, did not need to stake anything, as there was no point in doing so.

    As we are physical entities, and most of us settled, property does make sense to support our lives. In terms of fairness and best possible equality for the newborn, we may reconsider the meaning of heritage in this context.
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    Oct 25 2012: Allthough most is speculation it is well thinkable that the first settlers had to defend their land because the crops they grew on it. After this went on a while trades were devided among people and city states emerged that had to be defended. Every citizen had to participate in defense or could pay for it to have it done for him.

    This is were we are today.

    You pay for the defense of any state you inhabit. No money no property or you have to fight for it on your own account which no one can.

    If we had world peace no defense was needed and no property could exist. Mayby then we give consent to those that make best use of the land and without ownership.
    • Oct 27 2012: Greetings...

      While I find myself in agreement with your origional statement, I am curious as to why you believe that world peace would end property concepts.

      I think the closest we have come to world peace is under the five good emporers of rome. (96-180 a.d., or C.e. if you are a politically correct historian)They ruled the known world and that a, " naked virgin could walk from Hispania to Italia with a bag full of gold and remain unmolested." is a quote from the time. The romans still had property.

      As I wrack my brain, I cannot think of a time or place where internal or regional peace led too the abolition of property... can you provide examples?

    • Oct 27 2012: A further thought...

      In fact, with some consideration, it appears that all of the so-called "propertyless" states and societies in the modern world came about as a product of conflict, ratrher than peace. It was so on the russian revolution, Mao's china, Cuba, North vietnam, etc... How does this corellate with your concepts of peace and property?

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        Oct 28 2012: Hi Ian,

        My remark was only a hypothetical one.

        There never was world peace among men not with the Romans not anywhere else. BTW Roman peace was an order of control like Yugoslavia under Tito. Maybe some people prospered for a while under local peace but it never took long before some barbarians would take that wealth with force.

        It was my take that if everybody respected everyone else no defense was needed and no one would need private property. Anyone could use land or whatever. As long it was done with responsibility it would have the consent of the community.

        This was the rule with the Germanic peoples before Rome had any influence on them. Of course there were conflicts between neighbors but if this occurred it was settled by the judgment of the community.
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    R H

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    Oct 25 2012: In my opinion, we first 'staked' out a piece of ground because we needed a base, a 'nest', to survive from. Then we created war to keep it. The rest is history.
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    Gail .

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    Oct 25 2012: In his book, "Sacred Economics", Charles Einstein says:

    "A distinguished line of economic thought has arisen from this realization, whose most notable exponents were P. J. Proudhon, Karl Marx, Henry George, and Silvio Gesell. “Property is robbery,” proclaimed Proudhon: tracing back the origin of any piece of property through a succession of “legitimate” transfers, we eventually get to the first owner--the one who simply took it, the one who separated it off from the realm of “ours” or “God’s” into the realm of “mine.” Usually this happened by force, as in the seizure of the vast lands of all North America in the last three centuries. This story has played itself out in various forms for millennia all over the world. After all, before Roman times there was no such thing as a deed. Land was like the air and water; it could not be owned. The first owners therefore could not have acquired it legitimately. They must have taken it."

    Of course, there is the idea that God gave Abraham and his heirs the land to share, and this is a form of private land ownership. But I think it was understood differently back then. I think that it had more to do with the resources available to the group at hand. If the group (tribe) outgrew the land's ability to sustain them, a new community had to be set up somewhere else.

    ( http://sacred-economics.com/sacred-economics-chapter-4-the-trouble-with-property/ )
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      Oct 25 2012: you people should understand why this is nonsense. i can't wrap my head around that, it is so simple. look at that sneaky step when he goes from "Property is robbery" through "transfers" to "from the realm of ours or God’s into the realm of mine”. how fast the concept of taking from someone dissolves into taking from nobody or god. who cares that the very definition of robbery assumes not only to take, but to take from someone, the previous owner. unowned things can not be stolen.

      but no matter how ludicrous this argument is, 100+ years of refutation could not scratch its surface. you can utter the same words unaltered, and people still fall for it. not because they don't know better. but because they want to believe it.
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        Gail .

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        Oct 25 2012: Krisztian, May I ask you to please be less rude in your responses. If you do not agree with the article, then make a better argument, but there is no need to be rude at me for offering things to consider. That's what TED is about. It is sad to see so many beginning to be disrespectful to others here, and it seems like every response of yours to my posts are met with hostility.

        Let's play nice, please?
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    Oct 25 2012: Hi Mats,

    No one can say exactly when the notion of property got started.
    in all likelyhood it probably evolved over some period.
    I don't think it is useful to tell stories or create strawmen or propose fictitious histories about it.
    i do think it is more fuitful to analyse the root dynamic of it.
    Clearly, no one actually owns anything except their potential agency.
    I say potential agency, because actual agency can be constrained.
    look at the word "property".
    We have allowed this word to drift in a vague continuum from "an attribute or potential of an object or entity" to "something that has been captured by an entity".
    The latter definition is what most people hear these days when the sylables "property" are uttered. And I think that's a mistake - the dynamic of "capture" includes the assumption of violation. The violation dynamic of the common word sets a behavioural norm that few take the time to scrutinize.
    Let us look at the application of the violation sense of property as applied to territory(land).
    A section of land is defined for the exclusive use of resources within it by a community or by an individual (the "owner").
    That exclusion will include all who are not the owner on threat of violence. Those excluded include all other humans and all other plants or creatures that may partake of the resources therein.
    This is analagous to the notion of "territory" that is observed to be practiced by solitary, kin-affiliated or tribal animals.
    Such dynamics exist acording to the default carrying capacity of the land. Carrying capacity dictates a limit, beyond which constitutes a scarcity.
    Populations will expand to the carrying capacity of the land. After which point, the surplus population will compete until the population level matches the ambient carrying capacity.
    In such a dynamic, violation is ensured - and can be precipitated by Earth dynamics such as drought.
    Given the basic dynamic - have we evolved enough to escape violation?
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      Oct 27 2012: Oooh wow! You really hit on something key there. I've always understood that time labored was represented in material, but you opened my perspective much deeper on this.

      I don't believe we have evolved enough to escape violation but it is important to remember that we haven't been given much room to experiment. I don't know what would happen if global powers surrendered a government-less land to groups committed to trying different ways of living/harvesting it. Such a medium invites disaster, I suppose, but still.. food for thought.
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        Oct 27 2012: Thanks Bristol!

        I am in a discussion elsewhere in which we are exploring the dynamics of the social network. I'm not talking about facebook or the internet - but the network that is established by humans: the thing we call "society" or "community".
        Humans are generally regarded as "social animals". And I have been exploring what that actually means.
        In a nutshell, it means that we have a communication ability that greatly multiplies our chances of survival - through cooperation.
        Territory/property assumes a scarcity exists. That is - there is not enough to support everyone and we must compete for some to survive.
        But what it does not see is that cooperation actually creates abundance - it actually increases the carrying capacity of the environment.
        I suppose there may be limits to that creation of abundance .. but I'm not sure if it has ever been tesed.
        By the same dynamic - competition will create scarcity. And this is exactly what we see in economics - a commodity is made scarce artificially to drive up the demand, and the price. In other words, the abundance is created, and access to it constrained through the imposition of property - for the sake of supremacy in competition.
        It might be argued that such control of abundance prevents us from hitting the limits of abundance that cooperation creates.
        My observation is that the action of communication is the default activity of humans - it is our evolutionary advantage.
  • Oct 25 2012: humans seem to be driven by overdeveloped, sometimes deadly, and almost surely viscous survivalist impulses. Peter Kropotkin wrote a book in the early 1900's calling into question Darwin's stance against mutual aid as an adaptive and necessary trait. Personally i think Kropotkin was correct and capitalism seeks to destroy this aspect of human nature so as to reap profits through an endless play to selfish desires.

    Tribes claimed land so as to ensure there survival this blew so insanely out of proportion as population grew that we now stand here today, guided and coerced by those in power with a primitive pack leader mentality funneled through a modern evolved cortex.
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      Oct 27 2012: I haven't read much of Darwin so I'm hoping you can elucidate this "stance against mutual aid as an adaptive and necessary trait." I'm a little confused. If Darwin was against mutual aid as a necessary adaptation, and capitalism is also against mutual aid, what is there to say about Kropotkin's address? I must have misunderstood the dynamic here.
      • Nov 2 2012: Darwin believed as do modern Darwinists that human beings are by nature selfish(this may or may not be true). Adam smiths invisible hand is meant to mean that after he studied nature he saw that through competition and the forming of natural social classes capitalism was the system that should be implemented and through some force(the invisible hand) a homeostatic functioning system would emerge(it is not what the invisible hand actually means but somehow it has turned into that today). Marx also thought this was bogus and that humans by nature are cooperative and needed to be so in order to pass on genes and survive(of course he also though that the system of capitalism was a perversion of our nature meant to exploit certain classes). Marx claimed that because Darwin conceived of his theories in a capitalist society they were invariably tainted when he looked at the functioning of species. In a word, Capitalism and Darwinism both deny humans cooperative nature.

        this article suggests that this idea that "only the strong survive and pass on their genes" is an illusion but then contradicts itself to say that we now know through modern science that this isn't the case. I say maybe its time to update our economic system....

        " The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay."-Peter Kropotkin
  • Oct 25 2012: It is safe to say that private property existed in Egypt before Narmer. Later we are told about the virtues of private property by Judism. Jacob obtained his own cemetary plot. But older than that are neolithic practices - While we may be limited in times we can study Among the Plains Indians - the ladies owned the Teepees. Heck, maybe it's soomewhat like that today.
  • Oct 25 2012: IMO, we will never know. It was not recorded.

    But we can speculate.

    It might have been a bad crop year and a person of exceptional foresight realized that staking off a piece of property was the only way to ensure the family's survival.

    Someone was ostracized, found a good plot of fertile land in the next valley and refused to share it with anyone else.

    Two brothers were naturally competitive. They each claimed to be the better farmer. To settle the dispute, they staked off individual plots. They were very intent on winning and carefully picked out the best land. As a result, both of them had much better yields than the other members of the tribe, and the brothers ate well all winter. Next year, the tribe followed their example.

    An exceptional person was born into the tribe. This person had many good qualities such as strength, endurance, intelligence and good judgment, exceptional self discipline. This person was an amazing farmer and contributed much more to the tribe than any other member, but was receiving only an equal share. He perceived this as an injustice. Some members of the tribe resented this exceptional fellow. Some members realized that the tribe was producing a surplus and became lazy. The result was much resentment and strife. So this exceptional farmer staked out a huge plot that only he would farm. He was successful and attracted many pretty wives. The next best farmer followed his example.
    • Oct 25 2012: I don't know if it was possible to just claim land for yourself and refuse to share, after all, the rest of the tribe could just take the land from you, or force you to share. There were no property rights, something changed that and it only happened because many people agreed with it for some reason. My guess is some powerful group within a village (maybe the 10 strongest men) decided to stage a coup and communally own the land, then the 5 strongest among them staged a coup against the other 5 and so on, until there were only two left, who in the meantime had gathered armies of villagers to fight for them (they would fight because they did not own land and thus depended on the two men at the top), one of these men won and now controlled a lot of land all by himself and named himself king and decreed that private ownership should be protected by law (to protect both his own assets and to allow him to gift land to his best soldiers/servants as rewards).
      • Oct 27 2012: Greetings...

        Early property rights were quite likely communal, as in , "this land belongs to the tribe". it's products were stillowned, as it was forbidden to other tribes or interlopers.

        it is quite possible that the development of trade specialization, ( which occurs in tandem with the sedentary agricultural revolution), led to the development of persoanl property in the form of trade specific tools or locations, and then to the social stratification allowing property to extend to land ownership. We would not have to define who has what share of the tribes property if there was no disparity in status. rather every idividual would have an equal share.

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    Oct 25 2012: Why do many animals stake out and defend a territory or if they are nomadic a harem? The more stuff you control, the more likely it is that you will pass your genes on. Now that for us, staking out a territory is not really a matter of life and death, we transfer the urge to acquire territory into the urge to acquire stuff.
    • Mats K

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      Oct 25 2012: "Why do many animals stake out and defend a territory or if they are nomadic a harem? The more stuff you control, the more likely it is that you will pass your genes on."

      Is this proven though? That all animals has a desire to pass on their genes? What is their incentive to do so in the first place? Pride? I would argue that only humans have the ability to romanticize such ideas. In other words, sensations or feelings that doesn't have anything to do with the survival of the species in the physical world can't exist without the ability to think beyond the present or the future. And as far as I know, animals live in the very moment, the present and doesn't think about the future or the past. I would encourage you to provide some scientific studies that support your claims though.
      • Oct 25 2012: An animal doesn't have to know why it's doing something, all the animals that did something that wasn't optimal for survival died out because of natural selection.

        That said, having territory is the precursor to ownership, not actual ownership, it's temporary and is akin to having mining rights or a hunting permit.
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        Oct 25 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Origin_of_Species
        As John says above it's not a conscious desire to own, just that those who accumulate reproduce more efficiently or they wouldn't be here. Although I disagree that territory is a precursor of ownership. Many animals will defend their terrirory to the death. Chimpanzees have wars with neighboring troops and male lions reign until usurped by a challenger from within, or without. Sound familiar?
  • Oct 25 2012: This article explains it best: http://vision-nary.com/content/tragedy.html
    • Mats K

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      Oct 25 2012: Fun little read, but it doesn't explain how some people came to think like that in the first place. Why would anybody one day put up a fence or write some rules and say that it was transcribed through them but that they came from God? Unless they woke up with a severe headache hallucinating as a result or was brain damaged over night, it doesn't make any sense to do anything like that.
      • Oct 25 2012: I rather think the article a bit exaggerated regarding timeline as to how it came about. But the basic idea is this, someone saw sooner the opportunity than another, to start hoarding resources and gaining power by different means. It is like a mountain of power - some climb faster then others, if so, then it is naturally that they would prevent others from climbing to the same position. It is mainly due to scarce resources though, but today we have a variety of technologies that could enable us to produce abundance: permaculture, aquaponics, geo-thermal energy, vertical farming, 3-d printing, and so on... I see you are interested in the Resource-Based Economy Jacque proposes. Very sensible ideas they have, regarding social design, and material distribution. The one thing that is getting in the way is our values. Technology is a double-edged sword; it can either be used for construction or destruction - depending on our values.
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    Oct 24 2012: I dunno but this property paranoia must have started long time ago and ever since then no one has been able to abolish it!
    • Mats K

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      Oct 25 2012: Not even question it. At least in a large scale. The power of suggestion seems to be our ultimate weakness as humans.
      • Oct 25 2012: Marx questioned it on a very large scale.
        • Mats K

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          Oct 26 2012: Oh sure. I meant in terms of quantity.
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    Oct 24 2012: rinse and repeat
  • Oct 24 2012: "When and why did we start staking out property?"

    Probably around the time tribes start taking up a sedentary, agrarian lifestyle. At first villages owned land communally (but that's ownership nonetheless because it permanently prevented someone from another village to use that land) but eventually land, cattle and women became private property. Permanent ownership of stuff was a natural way for the elites to secure their power, this is still evident today: owning land or durable equipment is much more profitable than leasing/renting it, especially when your ancestors did all the work required to obtain that ownership.
    • Mats K

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      Oct 24 2012: "but eventually land, cattle and women became private property. Permanent ownership of stuff was a natural way for the elites to secure their power"

      But why is that? Why was this move a natural way? What was the pivotal cause that made some people want to have more than others, when it seemingly worked fine sharing land in tribes or communities?
      • Oct 24 2012: Religion, winning the affection of a high maintenance woman or just plain old greed. I'm sure every chief and priest had their own motive but we do know that it happened in both the old and the new world before these two came in contact.


        Religion can drive people to not want to share things with "unbelievers". It also drives the transition from a tribe having territory to hunt on to a village owning land communally.
        • Mats K

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          Oct 25 2012: In which religion is there written about staking out your own property? And to what purpose was this action?
      • Oct 25 2012: I think some of it may be due to human nature, among populations there are hard working, and lazy people. I think one day that the hard working where tired of doing all the work and having to share with those that did not do as much, so they decided to partision the land and allow the lazy to suffer from their ways, while they did well with their hardwork.
        • Oct 25 2012: No, before land was owned by individuals it was communally managed: you had to defend your right to a piece of land by making use of it, like a permit, if you were lazy the community either passed that right to someone else or wouldn't let you share in the harvest.