You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Freeholding

Posted in Economics, History, Politics by Stacy McMahon on November 8, 2006

This is a big topic, but I’ll keep the post short. Reading about WWI battlecruisers the other day, I got curious about the titles of nobility in the German ships’ namesakes; things like Graf (Count), Freiherr (Baron) and soforth. Looking those up, I unexpectedly came across a term I’d never heard before: allodial title, which is a kind of land ownership. I’ve seen a few different versions of the etymology, including old Latin for “all property” and “subject only to God” but the gist is that the holder of allodial land is a free “state” unto themselves, not subject to any municipal government but granted directly by the national government (state government in the US, if it were possible to have a real allodial title or land patent) This is why it’s associated with nobility–if you’re a landed aristocrat, you aren’t part of any municipality or administrative subdivision. You are your own administrative subdivision; a county of your own, with yourself as Count!

If you google the term, you will come up with all sorts of pages telling you how wonderful it is to have an allodial title, and various schemes (all BS with no legal recognition) to obtain one. It seems that such things existed in the early days of the republic. Among other things, records from that time contain many references to “freeholders” and “smallholders” (the German term above, Freiherr, literally means Freeholder or Free Lord) and at least some of these people may have owned their land in allodium, subject not to a town or county but directly to the state. As mentioned before, they are basically their own county. Which brings me to why it’s hilarious that libertines and tax-dodgers are the ones seeking allodial title to their land. It may be the ultimate form of freedom for the title holder, but it also literally means serfdom for anyone who lives on their land, since the allodial titleholder is the only political authority below the state government. The US Constitution prevents you from calling yourself a Baron, but a Baron you would be, and anyone living on your land, even owners of real estate (a legal subset of an allodium) would be subject to YOU as their local government. Cool for you, terrible for them.

Of course, you can’t truly get an allodial title as far as I know. Nevada apparantly had a program for that at one point. They did exactly what a rational actor in their position should do–they would give you an allodium in exchange for the expected future value of the property taxes on your land. So Warren Buffet can buy himself a barony. The best you and I can do is to assemble all the property rights (mineral rights, water rights etc) associated with our land until there are no deed restrictions. But we’ll still be part of the county or city, which is the true allodial titleholder. That said, it would be sweet to be my own county!

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3 Responses

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  1. ClintJCL said, on November 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    You should read up about SeaLand. You would find the story awesome.

    Also, there is a UK reality series called “How To Be Your Own Country” or something to that effect. Haven’t watched it yet, it seems more comical, but is along the same lines as this in some ways.

  2. Stacy McMahon said, on November 8, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    I remember reading about SeaLand years ago. Pretty cool, especially the part where he figured out that it was outside the internationally recognized limits by half a mile or whatever. I also remember thinking it was silly how the guy was calling himself king, and his son prince regent or something like that, but with what I know now, it makes perfect sense.

    I think if I ever somehow got myself into a situation like that, I’d probably add “Freeman” to my name. Actually that’s something else I am meaning to look up in history, because at one time in the early 19th century there were lots of people with Freeman as a middle or last name, but if you read the name it doesn’t really fit, as if it’s really more of a title.

  3. Anonymous said, on November 10, 2006 at 9:07 am

    I think having serfs would be a pain however. They’d always be complaining…


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