There is something to be said for having something that is yours, a piece of the universe you possess with an undeniable connection between you and it. Our thirst for things is a primal one, a holdover from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution within the time experience of scarcity. When our semi-permanent dwellings became permanent in parallel with our agricultural progress, it stabilized our existence slightly, but we still lacked much.
Throughout history and until now, we have waged wars over resources, killing hundreds of millions. Today, we inherit a moment where the crisis of doubt, desire, death, and dogma permeates our consciousness, a consequence of growing up in a world of persistent programming favoring hierarchical visions of humanity and being. The result is an illusionary naturalness surrounding the idea of attaching our identity to our creations. We do so knowing that consumption consumes us but that we lack the alternative frameworks of meaning, value, and system necessary to redirect ourselves. The desire to possess things is not something we are likely to eliminate from the human time experience. We acknowledge from the onset that our reimagining of property rights is not an attempt to abolish all forms of private property. Instead, we direct our focus and energy toward breaking property out of the singular form it inhabits today and exploring alternatives to facilitate systemic actualization.
The laws of property and contract dictate the majority of systemic frameworks in the United States and around the world. The US Constitution is rooted in the belief that private property is the cornerstone of a free society.14 It does not explicitly define what property is, and legal history demonstrates that courts will often default to state laws and courts to settle disputes.15 The intentional ambiguity surrounding what does and does not constitute property is not an invitation for enshrining unlimited private possession as widespread propaganda might encourage you to believe. Consider also the context surrounding the development of property holdings as a vital component of being a free individual. A group of wealthy, White, male elites developed the rules to exclude groups such as women, people of color, and non-property owners. The concept of property as a device for freedom has more to do with power maintenance and dominion than it does the actual freeing of the individual. The dogma of private property as the ultimate ideal of human freedom prioritizes birth lottery above all else as the determiner of access and agency within the world. Today, our legal and economic systems serve to reinforce this inherited ethos.
Property as the center of human freedom is a dehumanizing and diminishing worldview that denies our individual divinity. It is an economic and political philosophy that favors human subservience to our creations. Our notions of property, like all things, are constructs we can reshape at any time. Our embrace of minimalism as a core value maintains our needs for material security and the ability to possess things that none can rightfully take from us. At the same time, it rejects the idea that our notions about the private ownership of property are free from alteration or limitation. The use of property as an exclusionary tool of the few against the many must end in order for humanity to systemically actualize.
Private property plays a vital role in society. It allows individuals and groups to experiment in their own direction, especially when that conflicts with the popular beliefs of the moment. This is why abolishing it is both unfeasible and undesirable in the immediate present. Groups collaborating all have some form of consensus mechanism to direct collective focus and energy toward a specific vision. However the agreement is reached, it is often at the cost of alienating some who prefer alternative trajectories. Resource availability will always be a limiting factor in the number of directions individuals and groups can focus on within a single moment. We can imagine instances where the individual or groups within the larger organization desiring an alternative direction are denied the possibility due to a lack of shared resources. In these circumstances, personal resources empower them to redirect their focus and energy toward alternative visions of the good.
The ability to create in our own direction is vital within a free labor society. This does not curb our ability to collectively limit the quantities or character of property that an individual may possess. In a universe of unlimited wants and limited resources, there is nothing justifiable or natural about hoarding assets beyond one’s personal needs and security, especially when those resources lay dormant and inaccessible to those ready and willing to create in new directions. We acknowledge that private ownership has psychological and productive benefits while being an inadequate framework for systemic actualization. Similar to our economic technologies, the problem with the legal frameworks surrounding property is that they only support a particular vision of what property can be. Systemic actualization is the process of decoupling property from past narratives to leverage it for collective transcendence.
The most direct alternative to our single form of property rights is separate classes of temporary property and resource rights. They differ from our present resource rights in that they are very specific, time-limited, and typically contain conditions that must be met in order to claim access. This can and should be applied to property verticals such as natural resources, housing, buildings, land, technology, and intellectual property. Blockchains are the ideal property rights systems because they are transparent and public ledgers. All temporary property rights can be accounted for through smart contracts on the blockchain that define access privileges and time frames. Consider how the present organization of property rights facilitates the ever-increasing monopolization of the most advanced forms of production, which in turn stifles imagination and innovation due to lack of access and agency. A systemically actualized society provides any individual or group seeking to solve problems with the most advanced knowledge, practice, and resources available. By radically expanding access, we raise the collective floor from which progress blooms. We empower every individual with an idea and the will to exercise it from the starting point of the pinnacle of human knowledge and process. A supernova of imagination and creation is unleashed unto the universe with the strokes of a few pens.
By creating legal devices such as corporate modules, we can retroactively classify existing objects and spinoff specific assets into new classes or access rights. This also allows for the creation of suborganizations within the larger organization that operate under entirely different legal classifications while still contributing to the larger shared vision of the good. This restructuring of specific property types into classifications of temporary access rights applies within organizations and from outside as well. Under the larger theme of individual security independent of occupation, we seek to encourage competitive ideas and visions. No individual or group holds a right to deny others information; it is antithetical to self-actualization in the age of crisis and only serves to further entrench existing hierarchies. When groups want to innovate in alternative directions, we empower them to do so.
The choice to decentralize property rights provides immense net benefits to individuals and groups alike, giving each a claim and right to our collective resources so we might actively create in our own image. The critic might contest with a slippery slope argument that if we’re willing to classify some things as public, when will it end? What will stop us from cascading into a tidal wave of decentralization of assets and ownership? It never ends because in the future new conflicts will be discovered. When those moments arrive, individuals will come together to discuss, debate, and decide on how to best innovate in relation to their vision and values. Change is the single truth. Until then, our struggle against crisis is a game of moments. Decentralizing property rights is a straightforward path toward a more equitable society. It expresses our understanding of relation to the other and our awareness that the present arrangements only serve to reinforce the crisis, encouraging flexibility, enthusiasm, and courage in the individual not possible within the current restrictive arrangements.