“Ownership” is supposed to mean a person have exclusive rights over something. If you own it, you can do whatever you want with that property, business, or product.

If this is the standard definition, you don’t actually own anything.

Ownership exists within scope

Let’s say you own a house. You can knock down a wall if you’d like and redesign it. Or paint your house a different color. You can do this to your own house, but your neighbor cannot do it to your house. That’s because you own it, not them.

But wait, the HOA just said you can’t paint your house that color. And you when you moved into the neighborhood, you signed a covenant that says they can veto decisions on your major house renovations. Do you still own your house? Or do you pay a fee (even a small one) for the privilege of living in your “own” house?

If you don’t have an HOA, count yourself lucky. That is, until it’s time to file your annual property taxes. Yes, it’s usually cheaper than rent, but not always. At the end of the day, you still don’t own that house.

  • You may own the building, but not the property it sits on or the dirt beneath it.
  • If you don’t pay your annual rent to the government, you can be evicted (in the form of more fines and eventual prison with continual refusal).
  • Eminent domain still exists and entire neighborhoods are taken off the map with this power.

Ownership exists but it’s not that simple. It exists within the scope of the system you’re in. The simpler the system, the closer you get towards true ownership. The more rules, the less control you ultimately have.

The only things you may truly “own” are that which have little to no resale value—e.g., a university degree. No matter how much you paid for it, you cannot resell your degree to the next highest bidder. It is created like a commodity, but received bespoke.

Ironically, despite the little resale value, it is still possible for the issuing university to revoke your degree. While rare, this is still possible, and should underline how most high-value items we own (house, car, education) are given to us only with strict enough regulation to prevent true ownership from taking place.

Without attacking the morality behind the law, your rights to your own body are limited. You are free to give a kidney away, but not free to sell it. I am in no way advocating for this law to change, but again underlining the fact that you do not have full ownership of your own body.

  • You have a natural copyright on anything you create—unless your employer feels like you were creating something that would compete with their own product
  • New employees are forced to join the workers union—not at the behest of the company, but the other employees
  • In a divorce, at some governments can still mandate splitting of assets acquired in marriage regardless of a prenup
  • Your car requires registration and annual environmental checks to legally be driven
  • A 1% shareholder can move a stock’s price 5% by simply sharing an open letter

I’m not arguing these rules are even unjust—just pointing out their existence.

So what’s the point?

Simply this: if you don’t own all of it, keep in mind who does. They are your partner so you have to work with them, whether you like it or not.

developer, writer, marketer, optimist

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