Private property may be the most difficult subject concerning anarchy. I would like to propose what I believe to be a new idea about how an anarchic society might function.
It’s true that without the threat of force, land and natural resources cannot possibly become private property. Neither anarcho-communist nor anarcho-capitalist deny this. So it is also true that the moment government is abolished, it is up to every person to decide what is rightfully theirs, as there will be no system to govern property lines.
According to anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard:
“The basic axiom of libertarian political theory holds that every man is a self owner, having absolute jurisdiction over his own body. In effect, this means that no one else may justly invade, or aggress against, another's person. It follows then that each person justly owns whatever previously unowned resources he appropriates or "mixes his labor with". From these twin axioms – self-ownership and "homesteading" – stem the justification for the entire system of property rights titles in a free-market society. This system establishes the right of every man to his own person, the right of donation, of bequest (and, concomitantly, the right to receive the bequest or inheritance), and the right of contractual exchange of property titles”
In this proposed system, every man owns whatever he takes into his possession, and it’s expected that the rest of society will respect whatever a man claims. This may be possible to achieve in a small community, but when violent gangs band together to claim large parcels of land as their private property- that satisfies the very definition of government.
I believe Rothbard is correct about mixing our labor with land and natural resources, but I propose to take this a bit farther. First, I will explain how this might work for securing our own homes, and then I will provide a few examples of how society might handle this idea.
HOW TO OBTAIN PRIVATE PROPERTY
If a man owns whatever he labors for, then it would be his own responsibility to mix his labor with as much of the earth as possible before his death. If he cuts a tree, he is now the rightful owner of that tree. He may use the tree to:
provide a home or other goods for himself
trade for another commodity
build valuable goods to sell or deny to others
If he builds a house with that tree, he is the rightful owner of that house and the land which lays the foundation of his home. He may build a shack or occupy his time building a 10 acre mansion, but only his labor is his rightful possession. If he digs into the ground to make a garden, the ground which his labor has touched (so long as his labor remains) is his property. If this man desires privacy, he is free to install a fence around the parameter of land he deems appropriate for his comfort (I believe most people will respect reasonable boundaries). Regardless, the apple tree that sits 10 feet in front of his house belongs to everyone, including him.
HOW TO SETTLE DISPUTES
In a true anarchy, quarrels would be resolved by whoever is involved in the quarrel. The apple tree that sits in front of your home is not your private property, so if I come along to pick an apple from the same tree, you cannot rightfully say “He stole an apple from my tree”. However, your mouth has the capability of saying such things, and if you selfishly wish to keep the entire tree for yourself, your body is certainly capable of trying- so you are free to do so.
Therefore, you can kill me for touching the tree and hope nobody retaliates on my behalf. You can also fight me and hope that strikes enough fear that I don’t return. You can keep watch over the tree, and the moment you see anyone coming, quickly pick all the apples before anyone else has a chance. Or, you could ask me to find another tree, and to respectfully allow you to enjoy the fruits of this tree. I’m sure there are other ways, but the point is, violence is not necessary, nor is it likely to happen among a majority of reasonable people.
On a much larger scale, suppose I find a forest and would like to cut trees for my log company. This will create a system where I must cut as many trees as possible before another log company mixes their labor with the forest and cuts the trees. So two trees next to each other would be fair game to anyone. Of course, hemp would also be unrestricted and freely available for anyone to grow, so there’s really no need to cut down vast amounts of forestland- like what we currently have. Also, since all of nature belongs to everyone and nobody may claim an entire coal mine, we should expect the market for natural commodities to be too cheap for thousands of corporations to bother extracting mass quantities from the earth.
In an anarchic society, every person would own whatever natural resources they can physically mix their labor with, and private property will only be within the bounds that their labor extends. As long as nobody else desires to occupy a certain spot, a person can enjoy any part of earth available.