On Preextant Properties

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

Notable Replies

  1. So… what about undeveloped natural formations that have value that requires remaining undeveloped? Yosemite and Yellowstone are worth more for their (to use the Commonwealth term) outstanding natural beauty than for any other 'steading. And the Crown can’t be everywhere to designate such places in advance (nor would it likely try to be).

    One can imagine a runer-backed set of ICCs or PWGs or such making it happen, but in terms of Arlannath’s philosophy, how does that work? The indisseverability and renewability of value is tied to not developing. Intellectual property doesn’t seem to apply, because that implies appropriation of inspiration (as opposed to exact representation and data acquisition, which would count and fall under more regular property laws).

    So what stops things like filling the entire Grand Canyon for its hydroelectric potential and wiping out a potential tourism industry in the process? How do you capture the opportunity cost of wilderness as a resource in and of itself?

  2. Develop it in a photograph?

    Less snarkily, I suppose capturing its beauty and advertising it and/or setting up the infrastructure to accomodate tourism and/or appreciation of the location would be sufficient?

  3. We have the example in canon of a consortium buying up the ownership of a planet’s Saturnesque rings to prevent them being mined for volatiles, but that mechanism depends on the aesthetics being widely known and appreciated. Hidden gems are left vulnerable by aesthetic information asymmetry, which is an intrinsic and chronic problem for discoveries on the frontier. This suggests a need for a active effort to seek out such information, lest externalities sneak by from a market failure.

  4. Avatar for avatar avatar says:

    So… what about undeveloped natural formations that have value that requires remaining undeveloped?

    Pretty sure that’s a null set, for the same reason as in grammatical Eldraeic you can’t say that something is valuable without specifying to whom it is valuable. Without someone to appreciate it [see its potential], the Grand Canyon is just a big hole in the ground.

    So you do develop it.

    You develop it as a garden .

    (This is a very distinct concept, legally and grammatically, from unimproved wilderness, because the defining feature of undeveloped wilderness is that it isn’t of any value. If it were, someone would have 'steaded it already.)

    Addendum: Since we are working here with linguistic best-fits, and my lovely editor has pointed out to me that in this place and this time “garden” comes with some bloody stupid connotations that imply starting out by bulldozing everything and planting a nice rectangular lawn, I should clarify that this is not the case.

    The distinction they are making between garden and wilderness is that a garden is something that is cared about, because it is valued. And that definitely does not imply remaining undeveloped: that would strike them as the sort of appalling negligence that leads to the Old Man of the Mountain falling right off the damn mountain. The chaos of nature may be able to create some beauty, but it’s the responsibility of those who value said beauty to preserve, enhance, and generally look after it, because nature does not care.

    Hence, gardens.

  5. Curatory? Conservatory? Ark? Preserve? Groomage? Aesthents’ Mememine?

    Depending on exactly what is being cared for, any of these could apply. I do see the concept of treating this as another type of ‘steading; my concern is that it’s value for this use irreversibly declines if anyone beats you to it. How are the externality assessors able to charge appropriately without always being behind the curve?

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