Mixing Labor, Taking Possession, and Libertarianism: Response to Walter Block

Abstract

In his recent rejoinder to my paper Walter Block argues that only the Lockean labor-mixing theory of first acquisition is compatible with libertarianism. Block’s claim is in turn directed against a position held by me in the said paper that it is the first possession theory of original appropriation that is a better fit for libertarianism. Upon reading Block’s rejoinder and thinking intensely about this issue, in the present paper I agree with Block and disagree with my former self, accepting the view that it is indeed the Lockean labor-mixing theory that should be embraced by libertarians. This verdict is mainly motivated by the following arguments that I develop in detail in the paper: (1) no libertarian arguments against the labor-mixing theory seem to work, (2) the first possession theory is unable (contrary to the labor-mixing theory) to accommodate the idea of original appropriation tracking objective links between actors and things; (3) the labor-mixing theory better fits our intuitions about justice in property acquisition. However, in order not to make things too easy for Block, I also argue that there are some surprising and problematic consequences of adopting the labor-mixing account. I am fully prepared to accept them. The question is whether so is Block

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