The action axiom easily establishes property as a fact: One who acts necessarily uses himself, his property, to act. This cannot be refuted since refutation requires action.
The problem with debates about property is the unnecessary use of the term “rights”.
Property is a fact, not a “right”. “Private property” is a moral theory, not a “right”. “Property right” is a claim of contractual “right” that requires very particular evidence.
What about “intellectual property rights”? Intellectual property is a fact just as physical property is a fact. Your thoughts are properties of your physical body, your property. “Intellectual property rights” is a claim of contractual “right” that requires very particular evidence.
There are no “rights” except those mutual obligations defined as “rights” within voluntary, explicit contracts made between living, breathing, consenting and understanding men/women. If you can’t provide evidence of an executed agreement/contract, then you have no “rights” (and you are likely glad to be free from unchosen positive obligations).
Unlike men and women, a “government”, “society”, “community”, “humanity”, “we” or any other concept cannot make an agreement because concepts cannot act. Any explicit, written “constitution” or “law” cannot grant you “rights” as obligations without your explicit, written, signed consent. The contract makes the law, and there is no contract where consent is wanting. Any implied, invisible contract such as a “social contract” or “law” cannot oblige you if the “rights” and benefits it promises are in contradiction to a universal ethical theory already implied and applied in practice. The contract makes the law, and one may renounce a law introduced for his own benefit.
If you want to make an explicit agreement that says you have mutual obligations defined as “rights”, then do so, but don’t expect anyone other than the counterparties to this agreement to recognise these “rights”. That others might aggress against your property is a violation of universal ethical principles applicable before and beyond mere explicit contracts. You may claim you have the “right” to life and to not be murdered, whilst a murderer may claim he also has the “right” to life and the “right” to take your life on his whim. What performance can a claim of “right” possibly seek to guarantee without an executed agreement/contract? None.
If by “rights” you mean to refer to universal ethics, then use the term universal ethics or morality. If by “rights” you mean to refer to unwritten, invisible, implied-in-fact contracts, then use the term universal ethics or morality. If by “rights” you mean to refer to consistently observed phenomena in “nature” and physical reality, then use the term facts. If by “right” you to refer to that which is correct, valid and true, then use those terms.
If by “property rights” you mean to announce your continued use of your property – established as your property by the fact of your hitherto uncontested use of it – then just use it and protect your continued use by appeal to universal ethical principles. Facts and actions – not “rights”.
There is no need to debate “property rights” in the abstract. You do not have a “right” to life, you are alive. You do not have a “right” to property – you have property and you are property with properties that allow the creation of yet more property, intellectual and physical – these assertions being proven facts by your action in reality. To deny is to affirm.
Of course, if you are debating in doctrinaire circles, for the sake of easy communication you may want to refer to “rights”. But without an executed agreement that defines mutual obligations, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re talking about anything binding upon anybody in the real world.
Stefan Molyneux on “rights”:
Rights should conceptually and linguistically be thought of as properties and not rights. Rights are redundant. They are either a description of what is in the real world, in which case they are just properties or characteristics. Or they are prescriptions in terms of negative obligations to others. And if rights are prescriptions for how humans should act then they are morality.
I consider rights to be libertarian form of religion. Rights is a very primitive way of trying to establish UPB [Universally Preferable Behaviour]. People will say: I have property rights. Well, you really don’t. I would say that it’s all nonsense and the reason people say that is, when you are a child, you do have just claim to protection and food and love from your parents. And I think that people take that expectation into the adult world.