What is Property?

Is it a physical entity or a political/economic concept? Is it possible to have possessions but no property?

possibly an economic concept with political backing?

I am typing on my keyboard. It’s mine, because Sam’s had it on sale and I bought it from them. You have no rights to it. The government recognizes the fact that you have no rights to what I have legally bought/found/claimed/whatever.
If you try to take it, claiming you have rights to it via the idea that there are no property rights, the police will arrest you for Theft.

Originally, property almost always meant what’s called real property, as in real estate: land that is. Then there was “chattel” which meant not just livestock but almost anything that dwelt on, but was not a fixture of, the land. Someone who’s an expert on law will have to check on this, but basicly Old English law has zillions of precise definitions on just about anything anyone could claim, use, or sell to someone else. Hell, the laws on salvage rights to wrecked ships alone could fill a book…

Property can be a physical or non-physical thing.
eg land or music

Property is heavily influenced by the political/economic concept of the nation in which you live. All property can belong to the people or all property can be owned by individual people. Most nations are somewhere between these two. eg I own my house an land, but I can’t start a pig farm on it because the neighbors say I can’t do so.

If you have possesions then they are your property. Unless ALL possessions belong to the people as a whole. Then you are just borrowing them.

Well, you can have possesions in Communism, but they are not your property, Communism dictates that no one can own privat propert (not just real estate, ANYTHING)

Property is:

The land the King owns in a Kingdom;
You work on it as a serf until he takes it away from you.

The land the State owns in a communist country;
You work for the State or they take it away from you.

The land you own, free and clear in the United States.
You work for the IRS or they take it away from you.

“Property is theft.”

From Who?

Should that be From Whom? Unless you mean From the Who, as in theft of their songs – their intellectual property.

I believe RTA’s quote is from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Property is what is owned. Ownership of something means control of it, or the right to control it.

At its crudest (with a minimum of reference to other folks’ agreement, social institutions, norms, and whatnot), I’m holding a pencil which makes it my pencil. (and never mind how the heck I’m typing with a pencil in my hand). I control it and you don’t.

Now let’s say you tackle me and plant yourself upon me and pry my fingers off the pencil and take it away from me. Depending on the presence or absence of some social institutions and shared understandings, either the pencil is still my property and you are a thief, or the pencil is yor property.

The distinction becomes a lot more meaningful if we fill the room with the SDMB regulars, each of whom has to varying degrees the ability to intervene physically, not to mention the capacity for motivating others in the room with well-stated opinions on the matter. If there is a general consensus that you ought not to take away other folks’ pencils, “property” becomes expanded via their participation to go beyond what I physically control and becomes more of an abstraction. No doubt you can imagine situations where we all agree that pencils belong to Ted the Pencil Guy, to whom we must do favors or provide desirable objects of trade in order to acquire the temporary use of them.

The flip side of this is that, to the extent that property is a social construct (and mainly it is), it only exists in our shared belief systems, and if someone can convince enough other people that SaintZero doesn’t have any inherent right to that keyboard he bought at Sam’s, it will cease to be regarded as his property; it may be forcibly taken away from him; or he may be regarded as a thief, a selfish monopolizer of keyboards, or a crazy man for persisting in his claims to it; and if he puts it down someone else may well pick it up and attach it to their computer and consider it theirs. Your claims to ownership of your car, your house, etc., are similarly dependent on a general shared consensus regarding the rules, and are equally vulnerable to being overturned if the social winds shift on you. It’s just an abstraction and can’t be discussed except with reference to power and communication processes.

Neither libertarians nor Marxists seem to get this for some reason.

“Property” is a bundle of rights, granted by the state. Imagine each right as a twig, bound together in a bundle.

One twig could be “the right to sell the item you own.” Another could be “the right to determine who recieves the item when you die.” Another could be “the right to use the item”. Still another “the right alter or change the item.”

When you buy something, you buy some or all of these rights as regards the item in question. Thus, “property” is a bundle of rights.

“Property is theft” is a common communist/socialist argument against capitolism. This is drawn from the fact that your ownership of property denys the people the use of that propery. eg If I own all the fertile land in country X and I won’t let the other people have access to it then they all starve. I have in effect stolen from them their right to live. Also, the land where I now live was stolen from some indians about 200 years ago. If you look back in history almost all property has been stolen by force at one time or another. In fact most of it has been stolen in recent history.