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Propertarianism is an ethical discipline within libertarian philosophy that advocates contractual relationships as replacements for monopolistic bureaucracies organized as states.


It appears that the term was coined (in its most recent sense, at least) by Edward Cain, in 1963:

... Since [Libertarians'] use of the word "liberty" refers almost exclusively to property, it would be helpful if we had some other word, such as "propertarian," to describe them. [....] Ayn Rand .... is the closest to what I mean by a propertarian.[1]

Hans Morgenthau used propertarianism to characterize the connection between property and suffrage.[2]

Historian Marcus Cunliffe defined propertarianism in his 1973 lectures as "characteristic values of American history" in regard to property.[3][4][5][6]

Markus Verhaegh states Rothbardian libertarian anarchism or anarcho-capitalism advocate that property only may originate by being the product of labor, and may then only legitimately change hands by trade or gift. They term this as "neo-Lockean".(2006)[7]

David Boaz writes that the "propertarian approach to privacy," both morally and legally, has ensured Americans' privacy rights. (2002)[8]

L. Neil Smith describes propertarianism as a positive libertarian philosophy in his novels The Probability Broach (1980) and The American Zone (2002).[9][10]

Brian Doherty describes Murray Rothbard's form of libertarianism as "propertarian" because he "reduced all human rights to rights of property, beginning with the natural right of self-ownership."[11]


"Propertarianism is the belief that all potential human conflict is resolved by the proper application of private property rights, also called the law of non-aggression [LONA]. All propertarians are thus anarchists but not all anarchists are propertarians. Propertarianism is the highest form of anarchist society, a society where no private property violations, like taxation, are legal.

Propertarians reject any effort by anyone to pre-determine what can be property. Anything peacefully homesteaded, produced or acquired via voluntary contract is justly acquired property, whether land, water, air, writings, musical performances, software, digital tokens-currencies, odors, recipes, etc. Once justly acquired, the owner has exclusive control over use and disposal. Any interference with this control is criminal. The owner can give their property away, they can destroy it, they can contract for a restricted exchange with terms of use or they can sell it outright.

Propertarians reject any alleged substitute for freedom, like digital or paper unbacked fiduciary media, since they cannot survive in a free market but are distortions caused by government. Propertarians instead demand an end to all legal tender and controls on currency-money. Indeed the same is true of eliminating the state in totality. Propertarians do not believe in working within the system, meaning propertarians do not believe in voting or working for the state as a state-licensed attorney, as police, as a politician, etc. Propertarians wash their hands of legalized crime entirely.

Propertarians recognize the self-ownership of all sentient beings of any age and believe parents create a pure private trust with a voluntary sexual exchange-contract. They are trustees, not owners. The baby is a self-owner in the process of homesteading. Violence against their homesteading is a violation of the LONA. In cases of rape, the baby's inadvertent trespass cannot warrant a death penalty. Defensive coercion must be proportional, per the LONA. The baby can be removed only when safe for the baby. All costs and damages are the fault of the rapist and restitution must be sought there and-or through private aggression-coercion-fraud insurance. If the mother's health or life is at risk and safe removal impossible, it is legitimate self-defense to terminate the baby but obviously technology will develop to make safe removal achievable ever earlier.

Finally, propertarians recognize the absolute right of individual self-defense, against any criminal, and therefore recognize any violence against the criminals who call themselves the state as being defensive and thus justified, since those criminals are in unceasing violation of the LONA. Of course, the right to use defensive violence in no way implies a duty to resort to it nor implies it is wise." ~Chris LeRoux

Non or anti-propertarianism[edit]

Ursula K. Le Guin, in the science fiction novel The Dispossessed (1974), contrasted a propertarian society with one that does not recognize property rights.[12][13] She used the term in a negative sense because she believed property objectified human beings. She has been described as an anarcho-communist.[14][15]

Non-propertarians like Murray Bookchin also have been called anti-propertarians. Bookchin described three concepts of possession: property itself, possession, and usufruct, appropriation of resources by virtue of use.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edward Cain (1963). They'd Rather Be Right: youth and the conservative movement. Macmillan. pp. 32–36. ASIN B0000CLYF9. 
  2. ^ Hans Morgenthua, p. 174.
  3. ^ Hans Joachim Morgenthau, (Kenneth W. Thompson, Robert John Myers, Editors), Truth and tragedy: a tribute to Hans J. Morgenthau, Transaction Publishers, p. 165, 1984 ISBN 0-87855-866-7.
  4. ^ Marcus Cunliffe, The right to property: a theme in American history, Sir George Watson lecture delivered in the University of Leicester, 4 May 1973 Leicester University Press, 1974 ISBN 0-7185-1129-8, ISBN 978-0-7185-1129-6
  5. ^ Rob Kroes, Them and us: questions of citizenship in a globalizing world, University of Illinois Press, p. 208, 2000 ISBN 0-252-06909-9
  6. ^ Marcus Cunliffe, In search of America: transatlantic essays, 1951-1990, p. 307, 1991.
  7. ^ Verhaegh, Marcus (2006). "Rothbard as a Political Philosopher". Journal of Libertarian Studies 20 (4): 3. 
  8. ^ David Boaz, Cato Institute, Toward liberty: the idea that is changing the world : 25 years of public policy from the Cato Institute, Cato Institute, p. 386, 2002 ISBN 1-930865-27-9
  9. ^ L. Neil Smith, The American Zone, p. 167, 2002.
  10. ^ John J. Pierce, When world views collide: a study in imagination and evolution, p. 163, 1989.
  11. ^ Doherty, Brian (2008). "Rothbard, Murray (1926–1995)". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. p. 442. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. 
  12. ^ Ursela K. Le Guin, The dispossessed: a novel, HarperCollins, various pages, 2003 ISBN 0-06-051275-X
  13. ^ John P. Reeder, Source, sanction, and salvation: religion and morality in Judaic and Christian traditions, p. 113, 1988. Reeder uses phrase "nonpropertarian" to describe Le Guin's views.
  14. ^ Laurence Davis, Peter G. Stillman, The new utopian politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's The dispossessed, Lexington Books, p. xvii, 2005.
  15. ^ On Triton and Other Matters: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany, Science Fiction Studies, November 1990.
  16. ^ Ellie Clement and Charles Oppenheim, Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leics Great Britain, Anarchism, Alternative Publishers and Copyright, Journal of Anarchist Studies, undated.