Originally published here.
by Robbie Revenant
I was reading Robert Murphy’s book, Chaos Theory, the other day and recognised an opportunity for enterprising agorists. Yes, we can replace the statist court system, police system and legal system with private alternatives in numerous ways. But to prevent or resolve disputes over property and contracts we must first have clear and trustworthy records of these—records not derived from state sources.
“Whatever (if any) the abstract or metaphysical nature of property law, the purpose of public titles is quite utilitarian; they are necessary to allow individuals to effectively plan and coordinate their interactions with each other. Specialized firms (perhaps distinct from arbitration agencies) would keep records on the property titles, either for a specific area or group of individuals. Title registry would probably be accomplished through a complex, hierarchical web of such firms.
The fear of rogue angencies, unilaterally declaring themselves “owner” of everything, is completely unfounded. In market anarchy, the companies publicizing property rights would not be the same as the companies enforcing those rights. More important, competition between firms would provide true “checks and balances.” If one firm began flouting the community norms established and codified on the market, it would go out of business, just as surely as a manufacturer of dictionaries would go broke if its books contained improper definitions.”
Murphy, Chaos Theory, pp. 26-27
The problem with property records today is that they are mostly in the hands of the government. Some exist as contracts (mortgages, and the like) filed with banking institutions, and many unofficial copies of these documents are in the hands of individual “owners”. (I used quotes because in the present statist system, none of us actually “own” anything. The government sees us as serfs working leased-land—thus, property tax, building codes, eminent domain, etc. The same goes for anything else which we ostensibly own but must aquire a license, pay a tax, or abide some state-mandated regulation in order to be granted the conditional privilege of owning and using.)
What the agora needs are agencies that “keep records on property titles”, as Mr. Murphy suggests. It could initially consolidate records from government, banking and other commercial sources. Agorists who use these agencies could then sell, trade, or give property, and such transactions could be recorded by the agency with no governmental (or other) oversight or interference. These records could then be considered proof of ownership in the event of a dispute and subsequent arbitration.
This property records business need not be an agorist one. It could operate in the open—following governmental regulations and attracting business from white marketeers concerned about their claims to land, vehicles, homes, businesses, etc. The records could be used to settle disputes in the public (state) court system just as readily as in private arbitration. Either way, white market or black, such businesses would be invaluable. Eventually the state will disappear—and with it most of the records it holds of private ownership. It is essential that such records be entrusted to market-accountable firms rather than the state—not only for the agorists of today and the anarcho-capitalist society of tomorrow, but also for that tumultuous transition period when the state dies and takes its records of who owns what to the grave.
A similar opportunity exists for maintaining contract records—or even of combining the two services. I strongly encourage any agorists out there with the requisite knowledge to consider founding such a firm.