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Written by: Kuwanger

One of the core principles of libertarianism is ownership. Ironically enough, few libertarians actually consider the real implications of ownership. In this, I mean that a lot of the current ownership of developed countries is vested into companies, not people. This is a result of the acceptance of contract law to allow for a much more dynamic sort of law, civil law, to allow for a more dynamic economy. But what would happen if contract law were to be removed almost entirely and ownership could only occur at the individual level in an attempt to minimalize law?

One of the first places to look for how this would affect people is jobs. The first aspect to consider would be how employer and employee relationships would work with the handling of goods, the primary business of all companies. Because ownership is a combination of either a claim to an unowned/abandoned thing or a verbal/written contract to reassign ownership of an existingly owned thing and government backing of such claim/contracts, it is necessary at minimal for verbal and written contracts to still exist. Things like renting/borrowing could not exist, since such are not examples of ownership. As such, simply handling a good for an employee to handle would be viewable as either "giving away" the good or an attempt to initiate a lawful transaction to exchange ownership (ie, a sale). As such, it would be very likely necessary for employers to sell all goods to employees to works on. However, in jobs with relatively low-value goods, the goods would likely end up being "given away" to the employee and resold back. Losing one's access to said free goods would be the threat to prevent employees from simply taking one's free goods and trying to sell them unaltered to someone else.

In fact, this model of ownership ends up behaving very much like a huge array of middlemen. This is so much so that it would be very hard for a single person to have a corner market on the production of any good, as almost all products are the conglomeration of several steps from the raw good to the finished product. Without companies to house all these steps together, not only would there be much more fierce competition, as each person would be able to choose which steps to complete and when and whom to sell to, but there would also be a variety of downsides as well.

With such a competitive marketplace and the constant need to monitor the going commodity price of any good, assembly-like production as occurred in the industrial revolution, would very likely no longer be possible. Also, the inclusion of a profit margin in every middleman step would possibly result in the cost of goods being higher even if the community of sellers was somehow able to network sufficiently to have near-assembly production potential. This is primarily because at assembly-level production levels the profit margin on any single step in the production of a good ends up being below the lowest monetary unit available. As a result, supply and demand will force several steps to be done by one person to minimize the discrepancy from value added and monetary unit paid.

So, it seems clear that in a capitalistic market such a system of ownership would be detrimental by causing increased costs and lowering production levels. In fact, this is quite clear in deeper reflection as one considers that vertical monopolies are the exact opposite of this idea. But vertical monopolies tend to also become horizontal monopolies on most levels as the result of their efficiency fairly crushing competitors in each horizontal market; at some point such monopolies end up charging monopolistic prices which are conceivably as bad as the suggested individual-only ownership. The moderate view of the current, then, seems an appropriate balance act to maximize the free market's effects in our world.

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