Understanding the Concept of Property
Throughout human history, property has been understood as the right to possess, use, or dispose of something valuable. This includes both tangible and intangible things. Often, different societies will employ different theories of property. It is important to understand the rights associated with different kinds of property.
The most common types of property include real, personal, and government-owned. Each of these categories has its own rules for classification and use.
Physical property can be classified into two general categories: immovable and moveable. An immovable property is any thing permanently attached to the earth, such as a building or a piece of land. In contrast, a moveable property is anything that can be moved without damage. For example, a furnace is considered a moveable property, but the furnace itself is not.
Some philosophers argue that the concept of property is derived from morality and natural law. Others posit that property rights arise from social convention. A more conservative view is that the more private ownership of property is, the better for stability and productivity.
According to classical liberalism, individuals are the owners of their lives and their property. Moreover, products of life can be traded freely. The theory of private property has been criticized by Marx, who asserts that liberal theories of property are “idyllic fairy tales.”
In his book Capital, Karl Marx points out that the influx of commerce in early modern Europe led to a rethinking of property. He notes that under the Feudal Law, peasants were legally entitled to land. This was later modified by agrarian societies. The French Revolution of 1790 resulted in large-scale confiscation of land. This led to claims by the dispossessed.
Intellectual property is the right to use something for a specific purpose. The owner can then hire lawyers to protect him from infringing upon other people’s rights. This right is subject to expiration when the property is passed on to a new owner. Rather than being adjudicated by the government, these laws are enforced through contract.
Intangible property is also defined as the right to use something that has no physical existence. This could be patents, trademarks, or computer software. In these cases, the ownership of the property is subject to expiration when the intangible property is passed on to a new owner.
Another form of intangible property is the right to copy. This is similar to the right to publish an alternate sample. When the property is infringed, the owner can be held liable. These rights can include patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
Other forms of intangible property are franchises. The Coca-Cola chemical formula is a good example of this. A trademark is a name or word that is used to distinguish a product.
In his book Oceana, James Harrington suggested a stable republic when the commoners own most of the nation’s property. However, he pointed out that the worst possible situation would be when the commoners own half the nation’s property. This is because the state would not be able to protect them.