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What is a Land Patent?

April 17th, 2008

Someone using WOW! cable internet service was looking for information on allodial titles and land patents in Michigan.

Before I worked in market research, I worked in real estate as a title examiner. I saw one Land Patent during the three years I worked for the title insurance agency. When the city of Rochester (MI) was platted, someone left out a small parcel on the south end, near South Street and Diversion. It’s now a small office building. In any event, the Land Patent was in the chain of title and I had never seen one before. It was from 1806 or something ridiculous like that.

Presumably the problem back in the early 1980s, was that nobody would mortgage the property as long as it could not be proven to exist. And without a Land Patent, the property was kind of in Limbo. Ultimately, there was a Patent for that land somewhere in some hall of records in D.C., which put an end to the problem once it was properly recorded with the Oakland County Register of Deeds.

But what is a Land Patent, and how (if at all) is it related to Allodial title?

A Land Patent is a document that purports to establish the Government’s title to property, in order to legitimize future conveyances of same. The Government is claiming dominion over an unowned resource, and then selling that resource for a profit, without generally having done anything to the property other than survey it and draw it on a map. Once the illusion of ownership has been established, the Federal Government then deeds the property to a State or Territory, which deeds the property to an individual or a developer, and so on.

Technically, a Land Patent is part of the chain of title for all property within the United States, because of indemnification (an insured Warranty Deed or two, is generally sufficient), for underwriting purposes it is rarely necessary to look far enough back in time to find the original Land Patent.

What does this all have to do with allodial title? Unfortunately, not much, since you can’t buy allodial title to real estate (or anything else, for that matter) in the United States. The Land Patent destroys allodial title.

Some people are afraid of free markets in property because they think an evil capitalist would fence off all the land, and bleed the servile citizens—but that is precisely what Government has already done, by granting to itself the title to all unowned land.

I suppose that if you were fortunate enough to live on a parcel of land which by some error had never been patented, you might actually have allodial title to that parcel. You’d certainly have a strong case. Of course if the Government didn’t like that idea, they’d just have to drag you into one of their courts, and find one of their judges willing to rule in their favor. They would probably use some application of an argument from estoppel: The historical record of your actions is in contrast with what you now assert. You’ve been paying all of your property taxes as if the State had jurisdiction all along, therefore the State has jurisdiction.

You’d probably lose.

As far as I know, a Land Patent has no expiration and patented land cannot be abandoned in the legal sense. In theory, a Land Patent could probably be revoked by the Government, but in practice a Land Patent is only void by conquest. The Land Patent is essentially an instrument used by the government which says something to the effect of “Finders, keepers.” But since it also says that the government will kill brown-skinned aboriginal people contesting this claim (summarily contradicting the “finders, keepers” argument) it basically says that “might makes right.”

There’s government, in a nutshell for you. “If you don’t like it, we’ll fucking kill you.”

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics