Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Are natural resources "public property"? (I don't mean geolibertarianism)

rated by 0 users
This post has 7 Replies | 4 Followers

Top 100 Contributor
Posts 850
Points 27,940
Eugene Posted: Mon, Sep 10 2012 2:51 PM

Austrian Libertarians claim, correctly in my opinion, that a value of a product or an object is subjective. Thus, if I use my super expensive highly sophisticated computer as a coffee table, then its nobody's business but mine. After all I bought it with my own money, I can use it as I wish to. Perhaps its value to me as a coffee table is very significant.

However when someone fences off 100 square kilometers piece of land in order to use it for golf games, most of us will raise an eyebrow, and will probably not see this as a legitimate homesteading act. The golfer might claim that he values very much this particular use of the land, and theoretically we wouldn't be able to object (after all value is subjective and personal), but in practice we probably will object.

Why is that? 

Because land is not a product of labor, and therefore does not belong to anyone. Yet since it is a limited resource, we cannot allow everyone to claim a huge piece of land for some trivial or badly justified use. Land, and any natural resource in general is kind of public property and you cannot claim a huge portion of public property without a good justification.

So in your opinion, how do we reconcline the subjectivity of value and the need to justify particular uses of natural resources when we decide on the validity of homesteading?

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 200 Contributor
Posts 496
Points 8,945

 

obviously you dont believe in a subjective theory of value if you are defining anything as trivial or badly used.

Everyone cant claim a huge piece of land because its a scarce resource, it will run out.

someone will buy the land if they can make greater profits off it than the previous owner.  If a golf club was only making 20k a year and google could make billions off it.  Dont you think the owner would sell by meeting somewhere in the middle.

Also putting up a couple poles and claiming land is 'homesteaded' doesnt really work.

 

Eat the apple, fuck the Corps. I don't work for you no more!
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,258
Points 34,610
Anenome replied on Mon, Sep 10 2012 3:49 PM

There is a related question I've been struggling with.

Suppose in a seasteading scenario that we setup a private organization to register claims to certain sections of land. What stops someone from claiming the entire pacific ocean? How can we setup a rational claiming system? What reasonable limits are there to a claim of a homestead?

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
  • | Post Points: 35
Top 200 Contributor
Posts 496
Points 8,945

anenome - im not an expert, only read a little bit up on it, but what need is there for limits?  Just a claim to it shouldnt be the defining characteristic.  They actually have to maintain it too.   the amount of money it would cost to homestead the whole pacific ocean would be astronomical.  there are 5 parts to homesteading water.  Surface of the water, above the water, floating under the surface of the water, the seafloor, under the seafloor.  

Eat the apple, fuck the Corps. I don't work for you no more!
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,987
Points 89,745
Wheylous replied on Mon, Sep 10 2012 4:35 PM

Stop claiming that fencing things off claims the entire inside. We've repeated this numerous times.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,258
Points 34,610
Anenome replied on Mon, Sep 10 2012 6:08 PM
 
 

Wheylous:

Stop claiming that fencing things off claims the entire inside. We've repeated this numerous times.

Well, there's two or three related problems.

1. To improve an area so as to homestead it, there will be a lapse of time between the period when you intend to improve an area and the time when you have completed improving it. This is why the concept of a claim must be injected into the homesteading concept. Because, for certain homesteads, you would not have begun to homestead a region if you couldn't have the whole region improved eventually.

The example Robert LeFevre gave was thus: say a farmer come along, claims 500 acres of land and begins ploughing. He wants to marry the girl, have children, and whatnot. So, days pass, he's got 10 acros ploughed and sowed.

Then along comes another farmer, says to him, 'wow, you've got the best plot, I wanted that plot, but tell ya what, I'll let you keep the 10 acros you've plowhed already. Because I don't know if the girl is even going to agree to marry you, much less if you'll have any sons. But me, I've got five sons, each with families, and we don't want 500 acres, we want 5,000, and we operate on the labor theory of property, so that 10 acres is yours, you've clearly plowed it, but we're got to gobble the rest of your claim that you can't plow before we get there.'

The first farmer would not have begun plowing had he known he would not be able to keep the full 500 acres originally, thus the concept of a claim. And the one who does not respect a claim is a 'claim-jumper.' But the reason claims have worked is because A will respect B's claim because what's important to him is that he wants B to respect his claim.

So, again, how can we limit a claim in a rational and objective manner?

2nd problem, fallow land. How can land (or water) be homesteaded if the intention of the homesteader is to allow the property to remain in its natural condition? In such a case, you would likely be homesteading vast regions, such as national park sized areas, in order to keep them in that condition. However, our labor theory of homesteading doesn't allow for any way to come to own a region and keep it in its natural state. Or would it be enough to simply convert a natural area into a tourist destination--you wouldn't be mixing labor with the whole region at all, but at least fencing it off, policing it, and charging entry fees and the like.

3. So if someone makes a claim and fails to follow through on converting a claim into property via mixing their labor with that property, at what point does that property rationally exist their claim and become again unowned.

In the past such things have been handled by arbitrary decisions by state actors, such as when the US gov portioned out the midwest giving set number of acres to anyone with the proviso that you build a productive farm on the land and stay there at least two years.

Now, I suppose you could simply have whatever registering private agency make similar rules, but that doesn't stop other registering agencies from having entirely different rules and eventually it will come to court and we need a theory and philosophy of how to handle expired claims.

I suppose I could write fairly arbitrary limits it into the society's legal code up-front, but we still need some reasonable limitations.

Take something like an ocean-borne fish farm, or a seaweed farm, these could eventually fill thousands of acres...

 
Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,288
Points 22,350

Well I don't think the onus is on us to judge every possible case in advance.  The whole point of desiring decentralized, depoliticized law is that conflict resolution under those conditions is more effective, efficient, and just than under centralized, politically monopolized legislation.  It is therefore counterproductive to try to centrally plan the law in advance!  In the example it might be the case that a judge considers the 500 acres to be the property of the first man despite his failure to plow every inch of it, or the two parties may agree to a settlement whereby the original claimant must be paid x amount to relinquish his claim on the land.  What the result is really depends on the institutions and principles of conflict resolution that exist in a particular circumstance.

The Voluntaryist Reader: http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com/ Libertarian forums that actually work: http://voluntaryism.freeforums.org/index.php
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Posts 781
Points 13,130

So in your opinion, how do we reconcline the subjectivity of value and the need to justify particular uses of natural resources when we decide on the validity of homesteading?

In my view, we don't, as value has nothing to do with homesteading. Who homesteads some unowned property is contingent on who uses it first, not who values it most. But if homesteading did operate on a "he who values it highest" principle, that would indeed be a problem, as there is no way to compare values except through the price mechanism, which is obviously lacking for unowned land, as it cannot be sold until it is owned.

apiarius delendus est, ursus esuriens continendus est
  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (8 items) | RSS