Thursday, July 19, 2018

Encircled, enclosed, and trapped

Someone recently brought up the scenario of being encircled and trapped by other property owners so that you can either not access your surrounded property or you can't escape from it. At least, not without giving in to the other property owner's demands, whatever they may be.

Specifically, his comment was:

...Curious what your current thinking is about the problem of locking people out of their property, or the property to which they are invited, when one or more people acquire all the surrounding property and then deny you ingress or egress. Example: someone acquires the property rights to all the roads surrounding a subdivision of houses or businesses, and then either flatly refuses to allow anyone to cross their property, or charges extortion tolls (say, $100,00 to cross the road -- or demands that you hand over the property you own for $1 in order to leave the trap they've created).
Clearly you have to right to stay alive. Is that aggression if someone locks you into your own property by buying the surrounding property, and thus you have the right to self-defense to use whatever force is necessary to leave it?

Somewhere I have written about this before, but I can't find it now, and my opinions may have changed since the last time I discussed it, anyway. So... time to delve into this again.

As I have come to see, "aggression" isn't the whole picture, which is why I now prefer the concept of archation. Imprisoning someone on their own property is archation. Keeping someone from accessing their own property is archation. Even if they would have to cross your property to use theirs.

If someone bought property with the intention of blocking someone's access to their own property, I definitely see this as blatant premeditated archation.

I firmly believe property rights are essential (but not sufficient). But that doesn't mean you have the right to use your property to injure others who are neither initiating force, nor violating property. Equal and identical rights for all. And simply crossing your property may or may not count as "violating" it, under the circumstances.

As I have opined several times over the years, you don't have the right to enslave someone as a condition of them being on your property, and you don't have the right to use your property as a prison. You have no right to say "Well, you're in my house, so I am within my rights to force you to have sex with me".

Even in cases where you are within your rights, sometimes it's not the right thing to do to exercise your rights in certain ways at particular moments. This would be one example if you were within your rights to imprison them on their property, or keep them off their property.

If I were to arbitrate such a case, both sides being non-archators otherwise, I would decide in favor of the trapped property owner, even if I felt he owed a reasonable* access fee. Any such fee would depend on the impact of his passage and probably on his ability to pay.

If someone is crossing your property to use theirs, they have no right to damage your property as they pass through, be it by taking things, leaving trash, destroying things, or whatever. They have no right to make a nuisance* of themselves, by screaming or otherwise impacting the property they are crossing. Their passage should be as light-footed as possible, and any damage or nuisance would create a debt subject to restitution.

I would expect the encircling property owner to designate the path of least impact, and not make it unreasonably* difficult. If more than one property owner were part of the encirclement, I would probably suggest a path along their property lines so neither would bear the full burden, unless one volunteered a path.

I would probably encourage a permanent easement agreement, maybe through the purchase of a small strip, or just the right of passage along a certain path which is non-revokable.

Of course, there is air travel, tunneling, and Star Trek transporter technology (just kidding) which can be used to reach an agreement for access to encircled property. And possibly things no one has thought of yet.

Sometimes, too, there's just not a good solution that works in the real world to everyone's 100% satisfaction, but I really think this is a solvable problem. Do you have any better ideas?

*Subject to arbitration, if need be.

Here is someone else's take on it.


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  1. Another perspective on this is offered in my "Recovery of Stolen Roads" at

    It suggests that all real estate has access to a road, all of which are currently controlled by a thief. When government evaporates, ownership of those roads will change. To whom? - initially, to the owners of abutting property. All of them will be eager to prevent exactly the problem you name.

    They may form a company to own it, or a neighborhood association, but they will make sure to place in its constitution a clause to guarantee permanent access by owners of all adjoining property; and if the road is subsequently sold to some other owner, that binding clause will remain.

    How, therefore, could the encirclement problem arise?

    1. The problem is that people don't always act with the best of intentions, so "eager to prevent exactly the problem you name" isn't a given (as is the "government evaporating" thing, but one variable at a time). That lack of good intentions why we have archation in the first place.

      A thought example: imagine a fully free society where some curmudgeonly person in a rural area has p**sed off all their neighbors without archating against them -- they person has used their freedom of speech rudely, been unkind, been unhelpful when asked to do the sort of small favors that good neighbors happily do in the expectation that they might need reciprocation someday. Imagine the rude person has twenty, or forty, or eighty neighbors owning the roads around their large farm. One by one the neighbors withdraw consent for the asocial person to cross their section of the road. Finally the last person who tolerated the asocial behavior withdraws consent, too.

      Who is going to be required to offer access, since the ownership of the surrounding roads is diffused? Who would do the requiring, since pretty much everyone is united against this person and nobody wants to be the one person who has to grant this seemingly small favor with no expectation of gratitude or reciprocation?

  2. This is well covered in Real Estate law. Look up "easments".

    1. Yes, well, I'm not talking about "law". I'm talking about how these things would work in a free society, not in our current police state.

    2. If the free society you envision would wipe out all property law, including those of easements, it wouldn't qualify as a free society by any stretch of imagination.

      This whole line of thought is in error, just like the ridiculous "evictionism" line of thought promulgated by the idiot egghead Walter Block. It is based on some idea of what might be, ignoring the reality of what obviously exists.

      Nobody in his right mind would buy property without any right of access, which is what an easement is. Property that is isolated is worthless, and would probably never be sold in the first place, because it couldn't be accessed for a showing.

    3. I have no problem with voluntarily entered contracts and agreements which follow the form of current easement laws, but "laws" are imposed and enforced by the State, and as such are never legitimate.

      And, I agree there would be no sense in buying property which had no easement agreement-- this is just a mental exercise of "what if", not a reflection of reality. It's like the "trolley problem" that people like to think about.