Want to learn more about Property Rights in the Digital Age? Below is the intro to my brand new book. I wanted to share this with you so you could get a glimpse of what this book has to offer. Personally, I’m very proud of this and am excite to share it with you. So dive in, and if you need more info, check out this video.
Introduction to Property Rights in the Digital Age
Property Rights are essential to human behavior. It is through the attainment, usage, and ownership of property that we express who we are as an individual. Property is more than a car, phone, and clothes. It is our home, food on the table, family heirlooms, treasures to us that may look like a trinket or piece of trash if you don’t know the story behind it. Property is the means by which we come to express our individuality in a meaningful way and are able to pave our own path through life.7
With a rise in calls for Socialism in America, especially when combined with decades of infringements on the right to property, I want to show why this right is intrinsic to us as human beings. And, I want to look for a path forward that preserves, and hopefully, expands the right to own, use, and attain property as each person sees fit. My hope is that those of you reading this will come away with new ways to promote this right and possibly find clever ways to push back against infringements.
The purpose of this work, Property Rights in the Digital Age, as stated above, is to preserve the institutions of property that have been developed over millennia. Lawmakers developed the earliest of codes to organize societies in peaceful ways and reduce the instances of violence and retaliation. Governments were instituted in order to decide what that society deems is just and implement that decision through some system, whatever form it may be.
Of the first principles we must recognize as just is that each citizen has the right to act freely in his own person and enjoy the wealth he rightfully accrues in doing so. Although it took time to expand the definition of citizen to all individuals, the idea that one who takes part in a society deserves protection of life and property in return has been instilled in governments around the world.
Thus, this work will look to history, the development of thought, and institutions to show how the understanding of Property has evolved to better predict how it will adapt in the new Digital Age. After all, wasn’t property preserved throughout the periods of transition in the past? Did the shift from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural lifestyle nullify one’s right to property? Did the advent of global commerce nullify the right to property? The answer is no, and that is because these rights are inherent in each individual for simply existing, and are self-evident, and this will be demonstrated. The right to own and use Property is intrinsic, but as societies and institutions change, it may take on different forms.
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With this in mind, we can see how the understanding of the right to property has broadened as new technology and better institutions arose to protect these rights. As new types of property emerged, new institutions to protect those rights did as well. Now, the world sits on the precipice of a new age in human history: the Digital Age. Thus, it is imperative that people decide how the right to property will be preserved as new technologies and institutions arise. As property moves from physical to digital in nature, how will one protect their property? Does the fact that one stores their property on a computer, rather than in the basement, nullify the right to property? That is what I will discuss in this work, and hopefully I can help to lay the groundwork to build a new understanding of property for the Digital Age to come.
Before one can begin to understand the nature of property in the digital space, it is important to set a definition of property in general. The nature of property I will pull from will be derived from John Locke’s idea of combining one’s labor with resources referred to as the “labor theory of property.”5 By understanding Locke’s proposal for the origin of property, one can translate that logic and the underlying assumptions to any type of ownership, no matter what the nature of the property may be. For this reason, I’ll offer a brief explanation of Locke’s understanding of property, and then I will discuss how to apply it in a time when the digital world seems to be more real than the physical world.5
In addition to Locke’s theory, I will use Vin Armani’s definition of resources from Self Ownership to explain and defend my position. Self Ownership is derived from the recognition that only an individual can claim their mind and body, and that the individual is something within, but separate from, the body. The individual is that which animates the body, stimulates the mind and is aware of its own consciousness. This definition will be used because it does not rely on a divine being, but a set of first principles that are self-evident through reason and logic. I will also use and reference other works, but the cornerstone of the argument for property rights will be found in these two works.
In this work, we will explore the history of Property and the institutions and technologies that accompany it. This exploration will hopefully lead us to a greater understanding of the past: both the good and the bad. By understanding how property evolved, a logical path forward will become evident, providing insight into actions that ought to be taken to maintain and broaden the right to property. This point in history is full of tumult and revolution, but taking a step back and reflecting on the state of the world and the story that is unraveling should show a way into a new, forward that respects and preserves an individual’s right to property.