Originally published at: On Preextant Properties | The Associated Worlds
Little more need be said on the matter of thoughts and chattelry; in truth, the Word is the thing and the whole of the thing:
All the works of your hands:
Stone and metal, wood and water, fire and wind.
All that your will creates.
These things are forged in your Flame;
That which you create is yours.
The Word of the Flame, Truths : 9
This is sufficient for ideas alone, or for the works of the artisan, the crops of the farmer, and the wares of the merchant.
But what of properties which had already existed in their components, such as volumes of land, including within them the passing airs and the still waters? Or what of the initial claim upon the fruits of stone, the development of which inevitably removes them from their source?
Before we consider Arlannath’s answer to this, the postulate of indisseverability, we will first describe these properties in a state of nature. That is, we shall discuss the ore lying hidden within the earth, the path unwalked, the land unimproved, and so forth.
The consensus of our philosophers is that such things are simply unowned, and belong to none. Challenges were raised to this position in the past, by such philosophers as Milentios of Inisvaen, Lanqin of Sar Andael, or Moréteyr of Ildathach, asserting rather that such things are jointly owned by all. This view has largely been repudiated as korásan arrogance, for who can rightly claim even partial title to an infinity of whose nature – indeed, of whose existence – he is largely unaware, over which he can assert no dominion, and to which he has committed no binding act? Moreover, such theories cavil at the conclusion that if all such things are jointly owned, they are jointly owned by all thinking beings, those dwelling around the farthest star as much as by those nearby who might have an interest, leading inevitably to the inability for anyone to set their hand to the smallest pebble without the consent of all unbounded creation.
Thus to Arlannath and indisseverability. This postulate arises from the simple observation that a creation cannot be separated from its prerequisites. That which exists must necessarily exist in a place; that which is made must be made of something. One cannot build a house without building its foundation upon land; nor can one mine and bring to market copper without removing copper ore from beneath the earth. The one is indisseverable from the other. In the absence of any barrier to the use or acquisition of the unowned – for the benefit of any individual or group which seeks to use it in an act of creation – resting upon prior title, this indisseverability necessarily implies that an act of creation from the unowned, a binding act, confers proper title to that which is created and that which exists to support it. Such binding acts are the basis for all homesteading, roadsteading, minesteading, commonsteading, and other mechanisms by which the wild unowned is brought within the aegis of civilization.
Arlannath did observe, nonetheless, that such acts of creation incurred a hypothetical opportunity cost, insofar as such a binding act necessarily diminishes the unowned. This matter, in his day and for generations thereafter, was considered a self-resolving trifle, since the lands of Eliéra were wide and little-peopled, and under such circumstances the advantage to the community near, far, and yonder of the improvement of land and availability of resources presented an opportunity profit to all believed to far outweigh that opportunity cost.
(The larger opportunity profit redounding to the appropriator is merely the proper reward for foresight and entrepreneurship. Anyone can seize an opportunity, but the rewards rightfully go to those who do.)
Philosophers and economists of later millennia have had occasion to consider this matter in more detail as time has passed, reaching its culmination in Períne Cyprium-ith-Elethandrion’s seminal publication On Externality and Incorporation. The original-appropriation and resource-extraction surcharges applied by the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons, discussed in the next chapter, are the legacy of his work.
– from an introductory Imperial economics textbook, circa 3000