What is property? It is neither what it may first appear nor what we are first told it might be. Let me explain. What property first appears to be is a means of allocating goods and resources. Typically, philosophers and other social and legal theorists begin by saying that property is a system whereby scarce resources – usually everything that people can either see or imagine – are allocated amongst individuals (individuals can be natural – you and me; and legal – corporations).
It is often difficult to work out how a system of property achieves the initial allocation of a particular good or resource. For that reason, those who acquire a good or resource on that initial allocation are sometimes said to have won the lottery of enjoying the resource. Joseph William Singer calls this initial allocation of a resource a ‘magic moment’ (Singer 172; drawing on Nozick 151-64), aptly capturing the mystical and mystifying way in which the law allows some to end up as ‘haves’ while others, usually a large majority, end up as ‘have nots’.
Babie, Paul T, Review Essay: Property, Predation, and Protection (September 12, 2016). East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, ISSN 2292-7956 Volume III, No 2 (2016); U of Adelaide Law Research Paper No 2016-35.