While personal items like clothing and jewelry articles are generally universally accepted forms of possessions, the tradition of property rights in labour and distribution of wealth is not so uniform in acceptance. The tradition of property and governance in general can be traced back through the rhythm of history to the needs of two types of primitive societies. The former social organization is that of an agrarian economy with permanent settlements. The latter society is a nomadic society that sustains it by following herds of animals, both domesticated and undomesticated.
In agrarian societies, the fruits of labour comes during harvest at the end of a long growing season. For many crops, the reap of the harvest is highly correlated to the labour inputs of the growing season. Attention to detail, application of pesticides, removal of weeds, and timely watering all play a big part. Yet, the harvest represents a bulge in labour since all of the fruits must be collected from the fields before the fruits and grains fall to the ground and spoil where they stand. The high correlation between labour and output, the temporal lag between effort and reward, and the easy demarcation of land sets the stage for one set of property rights tradition. While water rights are very important, farmers mostly want to be left to their own design. The division of labour in society is simply achieved through impersonal commerce.
In nomadic societies, there is far less correlation between effort of labour and the rewards. Nomadic societies compete with foreign societies over hunting grounds when following undomesticated animal herds. They compete for watering holes and grazing lands when tending domesticated animals. It becomes a matter of diplomacy between amicable parties and war between belligerents. Nomadic societies must pool its resources together to provide united front outwards and the domination and submission themes run stronger. But when it comes to butchering animals or sharing in the hunt, the distribution of food is communal and the division of labour is achieve from social pressures.
When nomadic societies conquer agrarian societies, the two sets of ethics mixed into one. If nomadic traditions ruled over agrarian traditions over long periods of time, the rulers eventually evolve to be more similar to their subjects and adopt many agrarian values. The sole caveat is that the ruling party maintains its domination and its subjugation of the rest of society. Eventually after some generations, the new society would in turn be conquered by yet another nomadic tradition and repeat the cycle. The pattern runs its course in China with Qin, Mongol, and Qing dynasties, and in Mesopotamia with Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, and Macedonians.
The origins of government for cities is in such a mating of agrarian and nomadic traditions. At its foundation, the city is based on agrarian traditions because only impersonal commerce scales well for the division of labour necessary in a city. Agrarian societies are already permanent settlements expanded for concentration of people and commerce. The more warlike nomadic socities will in time conquer such a society and establish a domination-submission paradigm with a political elite. Thus, government tradition has always held the dual purpose of providing order and property rights for city life and maintaining control of the citizenry for rulers, the political elite.
The political elite has often provided justification for its subjugation of the rest of society. Certain oligarchies culture the idea of noble obligation and the need to rule magnanimously in exchange for the luxuries afford by taxation of the ordinary peasantry. French word, Noblesse oblige, and the teachings of Confucious are such examples of ruling traditions. Of course, there is no guarantee that the political elite will abide by those rules as the dynasties of China and French have shown.
Such is the legacy of human civilization that we must now contend with. Compared to the libertarian ideal, government in its present form is a chimera, a frankenstein, but one that has deep roots in human culture. The domination-submission themes are indellibly entwined with the law and order and the political elites are always fostering government traditions as raison d'etre.