Libertarians, socialists, capitalists, and other wildlife thinkers, always navigate around the concept and implications of private property, its legitimacy, its natural values and other complex theories, its abolition or its need, or the semantic differences with terms like possession or enjoyment.
I would like to put my two cents, if I may do so, from a practical and understandable perspective, away from the [undoubtedly inherent] ethical and philosophical aspects of the concept.
Once upon a time, a millennium or so, farmer Uwe had a beautiful meadow, which was so splendid that farmers everywhere admired it. Each spring his cherry trees were the first to burst into bloom and by mid-summer, the branches were heavily bent with their ripe crimson fruits. The most beautiful part of the field wrapped his dwelling, a small wooden house decorated with lots of flowers, which his wife Wulfila lovingly cultivated.
From his prairie you could have taken the path around the town of Bajchisarai and continue to Vysokohirne, and, after three hours, descry, on a bluff of the Ai-Petri mountais, over the river Uchan-su, the castle of Sublime Function, in which dwelled a dissipated king, landed from foreign lands.
It had been a few years back this stranger was one day standing by the campfire and told the other men:
— Know what? from now on I’m the king. The sun is my father, the moon is my mother and they are who manifest to me when we should throw the virgins to the volcano. It’s also expected that all bowed yourselves to my step, and so that you must provide me with half of your crops. I’ve also been invested with the divine right to fornicate with your daughters. And do not forget that, if I wish, I can concentrate with great intensity and make your heads explode.
Meanwhile the other poor devils around the campfire nodded and said to each other:
— What this guy is saying makes a lot of sense.
And so they built him a magnificent castle.
The same journey, but in the opposite direction, was the route the king’s collector used to take that part of the year.
Uwe didn’t want his head to burst, but still less to give away half of the six baskets of juicy cherries he had gathered, so he dug a deep hole in the ground behind the house and hid in it his treasure. Then he covered it with fresh grass and straws, so nobody could find it.
Arrived the collector, a pretty wild man named Violentus, and an arid argument ensued among them as soon the latter began to understand his journey would be in vain. The soldiers who accompanied him put upside down Uwe’s house, but weren’t able to find the cache, and among threats and insults they finally made their way back to the castle.
The king, albeit glutton, fervent worshiper of Bacchus, and harp enthusiast, when he wasn’t drunk nor was stupid —perhaps for that reason he had become the king of that incipient state—, so after pondering a while he instructed the collector to produce a document in which Uwe was legally recognized as the owner of all the baskets of cherries he could reap, and warning anyone thinking of stealing or claiming on his property with severe punishment in the dungeons of the castle. Some blanks were left in the document to specify the number of baskets reaped that year and for Uwe’s signature. Finally the king stamped his gold ring over the melted wax, closing the document, giving it a quasi-divine solemnity.
Uwe became fascinated with the flowered writing and the red state seal. He could not read, but after a brief explanation by the collector he realized that previously he only had his cherries. Now, however, it was more: those were his private property, duly sanctioned by the authority. No one could steal them unpunished… and his head risked exploding no more.
After filling in the gaps of the document, and affixing his blackened thumb in it, he felt really relieved and grateful for the great protection of that newly created state. He dreamily thought: “How civilization advances…”.
The collector then noted that now he had become a citizen whose private property was protected by law, he should pay the due taxes without further delay. This part didn’t improve Uwe’s in itself good mood, but considering himself a citizen whose property was protected by the selfsame king, he weighed it right to correspond that magnanimous attitude of the ruler and pay the three demanded baskets. And so he did.
When the cherries, the collector and his armed entourage had moved away, Uwe ran with the paper to tell his wife and explain what had happened. The jubilant response of Wulfila —she was a pragmatic woman, like most women at that time— was reduced to one word:
Corollary: Private property —common or individual—, since the emergence of the concept, has been an invention of the states to ensure that economic activity of the subjects is legible, taxable, assessable and confiscatable. And is the fundamental basis for the survival of these illegitimate institutions, which at this time seem omnipresent and inescapable. In other words, private property could be defined as the gradual shrinking (sometimes sudden evaporation) of the earthly possessions of an individual or group, plus a piece of paper with elaborated seals and pompous jargon.
Private Property (for dummies) – Dugutigui
In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).