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Justification of the Homesteading principle

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Tim_Spinelli Posted: Sat, Jul 23 2011 5:28 PM

This is my first post so I figured I'd try a justification of one of the trademark aspects of libertarian theory, the homesteading principle. I try to justify homesteading through analyzing the presuppositions and inconsistencies of other theories of property.

When dealing with property rights and whether they can exist and who has the rightsto them if they exist one necessarily runs into four primary options of who can retain ownership. These four primary options are A) that no one can retain private property rights under any circumstances, B) that the second, third, fourth, exc. user of a resource retains ownership, that C) one may come to own something via claiming it(verbally, with some sort of mark, exc.) or D) that the original homesteader of a resource comes to retain exclusive ownership.

 

 
Firstly, option A can be thrown out as being philosophically inconsistent. In order for a world
to work in which no one retains any property rights, one must be willing or able to stop others
from claiming any pieces of property. This act runs into a few problems.
 
1- In order to physically stop someone from acquiring a piece of property, one must use their
own body which presupposes that they own themselves, thus rejecting option A and 2- to stop one
from using a resource, one is acting as the holder of said resource. For only the owner of a 
resource has the right to stop another from using it. 
 
Option B, that a user of a piece of property apart from the original user may retain property 
rights over it, also runs into philosophical inconsistency. For there is no justification for why
the second or third person to use a resource has done anything different from the first user to
deserve control over said resource. 
 
Let's take for example a man walking through a forest who finds a banana on a tree. No one 
previous to his finding it owns the tree on which the banana resides or the banana itself. So 
the man, hungry from walking, takes down the banana and begins to eat it. Now let's say another
man also comes down the way to find man A eating the banana. And let's say he is also hungry
and so takes the banana from the man to eat. What has man B done differently from man A to 
deserve the property rights of the banana besides taking it from a person instead of a tree?
 
Man A took an originally unowned banana from a tree(mixed his labor) and began to eat it. Man B
took a banana from another person(let's say for argument's sake the banana was at this time still
unowned) and began to eat it. If man B's actions can make him the owner of the banana, then by
the same logic, man A should be the owner for doing the same thing only before man B could, thus
making man B's actions theft and aggression.
 
The next option is that of claiming. One can come to own a previously unowned resource or piece 
of property by claiming it to be yours. This option, like options A and B, are also inconsistent.
For to claim something, like to enforce propertyless-ness, takes the presupposition of ownership
over one's own body. What does it take to claim something? If one claims a piece of property
verbally, simplistically, it would take a mouth, lungs, a throat, and other parts of the body.
 
How did one come to own these things though if property comes to be owned through claiming? Did 
one stick a flag in their diaper as a baby and proclaim themselves owners of themselves? This 
of course would take the presupposition of ownership over one's hands, arms, shoulders, muscles,
and an array of other body parts.
 
Since options A, B, and C have been shown to be philosophically orlogically inconsistent, one 
must by default accept the last remaining option, the option of homesteading. The homesteading 
principle runs into no such claims of inconsistency like the other options. To homestead something, 
one need not presuppose ownership of one's body for one specifically comes to own one's body 
through homesteading it(being the first to use it). From this comes self ownership and the ability 
to homestead other previously unowned resources.
 
Thought, objections, comments?
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Firstly, option A can be thrown out as being philosophically inconsistent. In order for a world
to work in which no one retains any property rights, one must be willing or able to stop others
from claiming any pieces of property. This act runs into a few problems.
 
1- In order to physically stop someone from acquiring a piece of property, one must use their
own body which presupposes that they own themselves, thus rejecting option A and 2- to stop one
from using a resource, one is acting as the holder of said resource. For only the owner of a 
resource has the right to stop another from using it.
Why does that presuppose they own themselves? If it's because they control themselves, then there is your answer. One owns what one controls. If person B takes the banana from person A, person B now controls the banana and thus ownership passed from A to B (if we're using that definition). And you're only saying that this person is stopping someone from claiming property. It seems to me the other person should only have to claim that the person doesn't own it and not actually stop them from using it.
Since options A, B, and C have been shown to be philosophically orlogically inconsistent, one 
must by default accept the last remaining option, the option of homesteading. The homesteading
principle runs into no such claims of inconsistency like the other options. To homestead something, 
one need not presuppose ownership of one's body for one specifically comes to own one's body 
through homesteading it(being the first to use it). From this comes self ownership and the ability 
to homestead other previously unowned resources.
How is one the first to use one's body? Your parents used their sperm and egg to create your body. Surely the one who creates something is the first to use it, no?
 
Welcome to the forum, BTW. Sorry I had to be the first to reply. I'm sure you'll find others here that are more supportive of your position.

 

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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""Why does that presuppose they own themselves? If it's because they control themselves, then there is your answer. One owns what one controls. If person B takes the banana from person A, person B now controls the banana and thus ownership passed from A to B (if we're using that definition). And you're only saying that this person is stopping someone from claiming property. It seems to me the other person should only have to claim that the person doesn't own it and not actually stop them from using it.""

 

It is because ownership means the exclusive ownership over the use of a resource. If you own a resource, you have the right to use it in anyway you wish that does not interfere with other property rights. If you do not own it, you do not have the right to use it in any way. Therefore, the very act of using one's body implies that they own it. Also ownership is not passed by theft. It can only be passed voluntarily(by trade or gift).

""How is one the first to use one's body? Your parents used their sperm and egg to create your body. Surely the one who creates something is the first to use it, no?""

 

How are the parents actually using the child's body? They're not, they merely produced it. That does not mean they have used it. The first person to use it is the baby, by 'being', by using the functions of the various organs, joints, limbs, brain functions, exc. of their body. How exactly do the parents use these?

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It is because ownership means the exclusive ownership over the use of a resource. If you own a resource, you have the right to use it in anyway you wish that does not interfere with other property rights. If you do not own it, you do not have the right to use it in any way. Therefore, the very act of using one's body implies that they own it. Also ownership is not passed by theft. It can only be passed voluntarily(by trade or gift).

This seems to be begging the question. You are adressing the issue of what gives someone justification for controlling something. And your answer seems to be: they control it. Or they controlled it initially so they are justified in controlling it eternally. I don't see how one leads to the other.

How are the parents actually using the child's body? They're not, they merely produced it. That does not mean they have used it. The first person to use it is the baby, by 'being', by using the functions of the various organs, joints, limbs, brain functions, exc. of their body. How exactly do the parents use these?

Suppose I build an apartment builing and then start to rent it out. Do I not own the building because I never actually used it but "merely produced it"?

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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James replied on Mon, Jul 25 2011 1:28 PM

Suppose I build an apartment builing and then start to rent it out. Do I not own the building because I never actually used it but "merely produced it"?

What if you are the construction company with the contract to build from the site owner?

What if you steal an easel and paint.  Do they become yours if you paint a picture?  Does it depend on how good the painting is? :p 

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
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Do your parents contract with you before they "build" you? Can there be a site owner if the site hasn't been homseteaded yet? :P

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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