Only the products of his hands are therefore the absolute property of the agriculturist: They belong to him substance and all, whereas of the lands he has only an accidence.
— FICHTE, Science of Rights, Part 11., Book 3, Sec. I (On Property in Land).
The Science of Rights (1899)
PROPERTY IN LAND.
Land is the common support of mankind in the sensuous world, the condition of man's existence in space, and hence of man's whole sensuous existence. The earth in particular, considered as a mass, is not at all a possible object of property; for it can not, as substance, be submitted to any possible exclusive end of a person; and it is not lawful for any one, according to our above results, to exclude all others from the use of a thing without assigning himself a use for it. Even if some one should say: the earth is useful to build houses upon, he already ceases to speak of it as a substance, modifies it, and uses it as an accidence. Hence, the right of the agriculturist to a fixed piece of ground is solely the right, exclusively to raise products upon it and to exclude all others from doing the same, or from using it for any purpose which would conflict with that use.
The agriculturist, therefore, has not the right to prevent another use of his property, provided it does not conflict with his own. He has not the right, for instance, to prevent others from using his lands after harvest for pasturage, unless he has obtained also the right of cattle-raising; nor to prevent the state from mining on his lands, unless, indeed, his lands should thereby receive damages, in which case the state must reimburse him.
The lands of the commonwealth are chosen by the individuals, and guaranteed by the state to each. Their limits are designated by fences or other marks, so that they may always be known. To wantonly remove such marks is a crime, because it leads to endless law disputes.
Each agriculturist, who is nothing but agriculturist, must be able to live from the cultivation of his lands. If he can not do so, an additional piece of land must be given to him, since he is only agriculturist. Whether he has worked sufficiently in the cultivation of his lands, the state decides.
As citizen of the state, the agriculturist must contribute toward the needs of the state. So far as we can see now, he will have to make these contributions from the products of his field. Until he makes this contribution, he has no property, because he has not fulfilled the agreement which makes it his property. Whatsoever remains after this contribution is his own; the state has, so far as appears now, no claim on it, and must protect him in the possession of it against all attacks. Only the products of his lands are, therefore, the absolute property of the agriculturist. They belong to him, substance and all; whereas, of the lands, he owns only an accidence.
Whatsoever grows wild on cultivated lands must be assumed to have been subjected by the proprietor to his ends; hence it rightfully belongs to him. Moreover, if a stranger should interfere with such wild products, he would interfere with the proprietor's right to dispose of his lands as may seem best to him.
Uncultivated lands are property of the whole commonwealth, for they were assigned to no one when the lands were distributed. Of course, the state distinguishes between the substance, the ground itself, and its accidences, that which grows upon it. These accidences will most properly be taken by the state for public purposes, (forests.) But if they shall be so taken by the state, then the state must expressly declare them to be state property; and what is not so declared thereby becomes the property of the first one who chooses to appropriate it, (wild fruits, berries, etc.)
Whenever a citizen wishes to cultivate any of these uncultivated lands, they must be divided. Whoever obtains such lands as his property must cultivate them. The state will thus be indemnified for the loss of the accidences on these lands by receiving contributions (taxes) from their new cultivators.
Minerals are the transition of nature from inorganic matter to organic products. The laws by which nature produces them are either not at all discoverable, or, at least, are not yet discovered. Metals can, therefore, not be arbitrarily reproduced by art and cultivation like fruits. They are found as nature made them.
It seems as if each one ought to have the right to say: I intend to hunt for minerals; just as each has the right to say: I intend to cultivate fruits; and hence as if the interior of the earth could be divided among the miners precisely as the upper crust is divided among the farmers. The metals found would thus belong to the miner, as the fruits cultivated belong to the farmer. Nevertheless, there is a difference; partly because mining is risky, and can not be surely known to support the miners, and partly because the land once investigated by the miner can not be reinvestigated. Mining must, therefore, be assigned to a permanent corporation, which can afford to wait for success; and no corporation is better adapted to do this than the state, which, moreover, has still another reason for obtaining possession of the metals, as we shall soon show. Hence, the interior of the earth remains the common property of the commonwealth, and the miners become the regularly employed laborers of the state, receiving their wages whether they find any metals or not.
The same principle applies to all similar products of nature; precious stones, quarries, sand, etc. The state has the right to make these objects its own declared property, and to prohibit all others from appropriating or using them. If it does so, it must, of course, guarantee to furnish these products in sufficient quantities to all who may desire to use them. If the state does not choose so to do, it may extend the privilege of working them for certain districts to such individuals as may apply for the privilege; or may tacitly agree to let any one take possession of them who chooses to do so. The principle which rules is always that unless the state expressly declares these objects to be its property, they may be taken possession of by the first comer.