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Many of our modern views about property, and indeed about political and economic matters generally, come from the works of seventeenth and eighteenth century theorists who hoped to find a firmly scientific basis for the study of "political economy." Their systematic approach suggests that these theorists' accounts of property might be purely analytic—"synchronic" as the linguists call it. An account of this sort would treat the subject as if all its parts occur at once, in an interlocking whole whose various aspects can be inferred logically and verified empirically, without reference to origins or to transformative changes over time. On such an account, one might indeed perceive that things change as time passes, but if one has a proper grip on the overall analytic framework, any changes would occur according to set patterns, so that future states are predictable from past states. This would be, more or less, a scientific approach: all changes in a given system are predictable from a proper synchronic analysis of the system itself.

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