Are We All Mutualists

  • Play:
  • Song Name: Are We All Mutualists
  • Artist: Kevin Carson
  • Year: 2015

Intro/Outro by Jeff Riggenbach
Written by Kevin Carson
Read by Tony Dreher
Edited by Tony Dreher

Online article:


At the most general and theoretical level, Lockeanism and occupancy-and-use would seem at first glance to be poles apart in their requirements for maintaining ownership of a piece of land. Mutualists require ongoing occupancy and use as a criterion for ownership, whereas Lockeans consider a piece of land permanently appropriated by initial admixture of labor — regardless of whether occupancy is maintained — until the owner quits claim to it through death, gift or sale.

But in practice, any practical Lockean system in the real world will have to include standards for constructive abandonment, lest a major part of the world’s land wind up in a status analogous to “orphan works” under copyright law (that is, presumed to still be somebody’s private property, despite being vacant and unused for decades, because it was once somebody’s property and ownership was never formally transferred to someone else). Even if the owner explicitly declared their intent to return and resume possession at some indefinite future time, it would eventually be necessary after some duration for the community to assume that the owner had changed their mind, or perhaps died, without notifying anyone; otherwise appropriation would be irreversible and a growing share of vacant land whose owners had left it would fall under the dead hand of presumed ownership for all future time.

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