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Commentaryism - Violence, Property, Theft & Entitlement

Matt Bruenig wrote an article to wit somebody calling themselves L_B_B responded in agreement; both seem to think that who did what where when doesn't matter. This just won't do, so I posted a comment a couple of months ago. I know, I'm a kid.

I am not addressing the article itself, so I am not copying the text of it here.



I think it is interesting that libertarians bang on the issue of contracts as being the definition of voluntary but are then suddenly unilateral when it comes to their entitlement theory. Mortgage contracts, lease contracts, employment contracts, sales contracts, etc. are all voluntary, they say, because all the signatories consented to the terms detailed in these contracts. Not so that dreaded social contract, the terms of which they cannot be held to because "they never signed it." Fine as it goes.

But then we get to their entitlement theory, which forms the basis of all the other contracts listed above. Suddenly, the obsession with unanimous consent goes out the window. They will say to you, "People are entitled to a piece of land based on the original homesteader theory. Those who mix their labor with the land gets complete ownership of that piece of land in perpetuity until they sell it. Therefore, this is my land because the original homesteader owned it with his labor and after selling it, the line of sales contracts leads down to me. Now get off my land."

But what if you disagree with his entitlement theory for land ownership, you may ask? You may have a Marxist, Proudhonian, or Georgist theory of land ownership (or the lack thereof). Does the libertarian acknowledge that the lack of unanimous consent between you and him about who is entitled to the land means that entitlement has not yet been established? Because if a sales contract was written up and both parties did not agree to it, there would be no entitlement on either party's part to the property of the other party.

Let me answer it for you: no they wouldn't. The libertarian would throw unanimous consent out the window, declare his entitlement theory to be the correct one and yours wrong, and threaten you with violence to get off the property to which he is entitled (according to him only). This means that they throw away both their commitment to non-coercion and unanimous consent the second they declare that their entitlement theory is binding on everyone, even (especially?) if others don't agree with it. Sounds a lot like a "social contract," doesn't it? Ironic :-).



It's not an argument over whose entitlement theory is correct. It's over who has the better claim to the piece of land in dispute. You can't say that you reject that people can claim land, because if you're in a dispute over who owns the land than you're attempting to claim that land yourself.

So who has the better claim to the land? The individual that was the first to use that land, or traded for it voluntarily from someone else, or just some random guy that walks up wanting that land and has no claim at all other than a complaint about the other guys claim.



Wow... did you read what you wrote before you posted it? I ask because you are trying to not equate "better claim to a piece of land" and "entitlement theory." The person who has the better claim IS the person with the better theory of entitlement, i.e. whomever is entitled to the land gets the claim. So you're contradicting yourself over what the argument is by stating that it is and is not an argument over entitlement.

And I never said that I rejected that people can claim land, so that's a strawman argument right there. Please show me where I said that please. I just said that if voluntarism is the altar at which you sacrifice, then you need to also show that your theory of entitlement to land, aka your theory about how to claim land, is also a voluntary agreement between you and all others who would have to recognize your claim, i.e. every other individual on the planet. Without that unanimous consent, then it's just the land claimant unilaterally declaring his claim/entitlement to be correct and declaring that he is rejecting voluntarism and replacing it with assertion backed by violence (his, the state's, or some private army).

As for your second paragraph, you have made no argument AFAICT. You're just throwing up your hands, asking a rhetorical question about entitlement, and scoffing at what you think is the wrong answer. And by trying to position the person who got land "voluntarily" as the person who should be entitled to the land, you're conceding that you find voluntarism to be your foundational principle, yet you don't apply that principle to the original appropriation of the land. That's called a contradiction in my book, and that was the point I made in my OP. So really, nothing you said even begins to resemble an argument: just assertion and a strawman.


Matthew John Hayden

Is your point that putting agency into acquisition versus not doing so makes no difference to one's entitlement claim over a parcel of land?

I assume the word "entitlements" is being used as a synonym for "rights" as rights are simply granted to humans by each other, and your contention is that subsequent arrivals to a patch of land can justly claim to share with the initial claimant the control of the land - this is the basis of what follows. If I am wrong, and this turns out to be a straw man, I apologise.

If Person A arrives at and claims a previously uninhabited patch of earth by working to mark it out, say, with a ditch or a fence, then Persons-Not-A (every other human on Earth at the time) did not do it. This is an intrinsic characteristic of reality.

Why should Persons-Not-A enjoy so much as a toehold on so much as an inch of the land surrounded by Person A's ditch? Did they somehow share in the process of acquisition through their common humanity, or some psychic link?

Naturally no dice. So the burden is on the subsequent arrivals to persuade Person A to either give up his/her claim or share it equally with them.

In practice Person A will almost certainly feel sufficiently intimidated by Persons-Not-A's numbers that (s)he will cave and share, but let's initially assume we're dealing with a bunch of very peaceful people

Persons-Not-A, being subsequent arrivals, collectively claim land adjacent to Person A's patch and ask A to join. Let's assume now that A says no.

Not-A are displeased, and tread on the land ringed by A's ditch. Now that a dispute is in full force it must end ultimately in either A or Not-A backing down.

At this point, one of these disputants is entitled, surely, to defend themselves violently so as to resume the use of the stuff they claim to own. Who do you choose at this point?

The voluntaryist position would be that the person who was already there would enjoy such an entitlement. An up-is-down absurdist might plump for the invaders, preferring attack to defence.

I prefer violence in defence of one's self and what one has peacefully claimed over violence in the name of taking over possession from a prior possesser.

Maybe that's too arcane for some people, but I can live like that.

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