The Origins of Property: A Parable with Morals

Terrence Tomkow in his blog:

6a00d8342025e153ef0163004c1b8e970d-320wiOnce upon a time there was a primitive tribe that hunted and gathered in a verdant forest in a temperate clime.

I call them a “tribe” but that name may mislead if it suggests some rigorous form of social organization. In fact, the group was about as un-organized as it is possible for people to be. There were among them no elders, chiefs, shamans or any other kind of leader with authority over his fellows. With one exception– which we will soon discuss — there were no laws, rules or taboos that were obeyed or enforced among them and no judges or police to enforce them.

This lack of norms was reflected in their language which (luckily for our narrative purposes) was much like modern English but which lacked any moral or legal vocabulary. The natives never spoke of 'right' or 'wrong', 'legal' or 'law'. They had no words for 'promise', or 'contract' and none for 'property' or 'ownership'.

Even so, as I just averred, there was one rule that the natives generally acknowledged and mostly conformed to. They called it “The Rule”.

The Rule: No Bullying!

By 'bullying' the natives seem to have meant, roughly, hurting other people or using force or the threat of force to compel others to do what they would otherwise not do. But not every use of force or infliction of harm was regarded as bullying.

It was, for example, not considered bullying to use force or its threat to defend oneself or someone else against a bully. The Rule permitted self-defense and “other defense” and this had important consequences for all of tribal life.

To understand these upshots it is necessary to understand that the tribe's aversion to bullying did not mean that they were averse to violence or the use of force. 

More here.