Political Compass #13: Land should not be bought and sold.

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were. I will also suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation.

It would also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them.

The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.
#7: “Info-tainment” is a worrying trend.
#8: Class division vs. international division. (+ SentientMeat’s economic worldview)
#9: Inflation vs. unemployment.
#10: Corporate respect of the environment.
#11: From each according to his ability, to each according to need.
#12: Sad reflections in branded drinking water.

*Proposition #13: * Land shouldn’t be a commodity to be bought and sold.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Disagree.

This gets to the very heart of what “property” entails. Of course, only a true anarchist would hold that “property is theft”, but by specifying land as the example, I feel that the proposition at least provokes some useful introspection on the subject.

How does one come to own land? More specifically, how did the original selling entity come to acquire it without buying it? Arbitrarily, of course, and ultimately by force of arms. And on this dubious foundation is an entire edifice of our economic system built: The Property Market.

Now, fortunately, the world’s governments saw that this idea ought not spiral out of control and placed certain restrictions on what could arbitrarily be claimed as “property”: Antarctica, the National Parks, the ocean, the Moon, even. These are the “property of all” and are thus the property of none (Proudhoun would be, well, proud).

And so, a compromise has been reached which I think serves us well; that where the force of the market is irresistible, as in the case of a person wishing to sell their house or plot to someone who wishes to buy it, it ought not be resisted. Land should be a commodity to be bought and sold (although some acknowledgement of the illegitimacy of the original claim might be appropriate). But where laissez faire markets might ultimately cause damage, it should not; the free market should be interfered with for the common good.

IIRC, this is the first on which I marked, “Strongly disagree”.

Possibly I “strongly” disagreed where you disagreed, but less strongly, because of a factor which I believe establishes ownership more strongly than you mentioned.

People acquire ownership of land, both morally and, in many cases, legally, not arbitrarily. And, although it is often true that force of arms was used to establish ownership without any moral justification, ownership can also be morally justified on other grounds.

Specifically, ownership can be established (IMO) by demonstrating that the persons occupying the land are making use of the land that is more efficient than the alternative, and have done so for long enough to show that this is the case. This is why I do not support giving US land back to the Indians. It is in everyone else’s best interest that current owners of (for instance) farm land continue to enjoy the use of their land, since the derived benefits to everyone (including Indians) of the status quo outweigh the benefits of returning the land to the Indians.

In the same way, if I could show that, a hundred years ago, somebody did me out of a claim to a piece of property and built a factory on the land. (My family was using the land for a cow pasture or something.) But the factory employs a hundred people, and forms a large part of the economy of my town. Thus, the community in general is enjoying, overall, a higher rate of benefit from allowing the factory to be built and operated than by tearing it down and returning me my property in its original condition. Even if the owners came by the land unjustly.

It has to do with the problems of the commons.

Suppose there is a piece of land owned by all the members of a group, and they all use it to graze their animals. It is in the economic best interest of each individual user to load the land with as many animals as possible, since that will maximize their use of the land. But if the land is overgrazed, that drops the utility of the land. Any effort expended by any individual to improve the situation, however, is going to be mostly for the benefit of the others. It goes to what RickJay said - individual decisions are affected by the collective environment.

This is why the bison were hunted almost to extinction, whereas beef cattle are common. Some individual owned the beef cattle, and therefore had an interest in maintaining the stock. Nobody in particular owned the bison, and therefore it made sense to kill as many as possible for yourself and not bother with restocking. You mentioned the oceans as examples of “property” no one owns, and they are subject to the problems of over-fishing.

Public parks are subject to the same drawbacks. People mow their own lawns, and clean up their own houses. When was the last time you went to the park to pick up trash?

Which means that the government has to exert most of the rights of a property owner in cases where there is actually some demand for the property. I suspect Antarctica is owned by no one in particular because there is not much in Anarctica that anyone wants. Same for the moon, where opportunity costs of recovering anything likely to be valuable that exists there are too high to offer much opportunity.

I agree with this, with the caveat that the free market ought to be the default.


Jon the Geek (social -7.49, economic -2.88*) ticks disagree, I think. I’m on the border of disagree and strongly disagree here. Sure, the original establishment of ownership is contentious, but we live in the present. Now that ownership is established, I think it’s perfectly fine to buy and sell land.

  • I’ve decided to go back to my original score until the end of this discussion, so I can see how much I’ve changed overall.

I’m not sure how to rate this one. On one hand, I think that pretty much everything that can should be bought and sold: including most things that other people think of as public goods like the air, the roads, radio spectrum, and so on.

However, I don’t see any valid justification of the sort Shodan makes.

If efficiency of use was truly the criteria of ownership of land, then we could massively redistribute all sorts of resources whever we wanted. There’s no legitimate reason to limit this principle to only the FIRST acquisition of property, nor any reason to think a “length of time” demonstrates or ads anything to that case.

Worse, to any one individual, any and all things in the world are in some sense “natural resources” that they could simply take and improve if they wished. That some other person had laid claim to ownership and improved that resource by the sweat of their brow has no more standing that if a God did. Society is what enforces the idea of property rights, but society has no more original claim to have or give away land than does anyone else.

The usual Lockian case for original ownership of land (or any natural resource) is the idea that you “mix your labor with it” and thus put a part of your productive self into it, irretrievably. But this idea seems utterly empty as a justification. Who said that your “mixing” was legitimate? Who agreed to let you, out of all the people living and who will live who could have otherwise done the same? And if no one asked you, why should anyone else be required to respect your lone decision? It’s a bit like someone running into a buffet and spitting on the food so that no one else can have any. And in some cases, people get value not from improving the land for this or that purpose (like farming), but by destroying it (like mining).

In other words, I don’t see any “there” there to the moral justification of the original acquisition of natural resources that Shodan outlines, whether by force or simply by grabbing it first come first serve, or even by an allocation of efficiency. Perhaps if there was some original council that was voted in and determined the most socially productive use of land: but that’s so historically laughable as to be irrelevant. For that matter, even that wouldn’t be very convincing: whence comes ANYONE’s, including a majority’s, exclusive claim to the natural resource?

So that makes the entire question very uncomfortable for me. I think the free market over a long period of time can bring us to a good OUTCOME, by essentially forcing the land to be used efficiently: but I don’t hold any illusions that this outcome is either wholly just or in any way justified by some core moral idea of any legitimate original ownership that we can trace back. For instance, white men raped and murdered their way into Indian land, and the value of the land+ their improvements to it are always built upon that original act, and remain part of the value of that land. I’m not sure it makes sense to give the land back to the descendants of the Indians, but let’s not be silly about whether a particular ownership of land in the real world is in some way “morally” justified.

Many Indian cultures at least didn’t have to worry about the problems of land ownership as much, being either nomadic or not particularly encroaching on each other’s territory or acknowledging only present occupation as the stand-in ownership. And in that sense they were a lot more honest than I think most of us are about the ownership of natural resources.

Economic Left/Right: 6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.97

Strongly disagree. This was one of the few questions I attached “strongly” to. And that was mainly because the proposition said “bought and sold”, my emphasis. This implies that even if one felt buying land was justified, one could claim that selling it wasn’t. Of course I don’t see how you can have one without the other, but the wording of the question gets to the root of property rights. Is land of some intrinsically different nature than, say, a piece of furniture? The furniture came from the land and could not be made without disposing of something on the land itself.

And I do think that disavowing land ownership leads logically to anarchy as the only political institution that can be justified. How else can one even have a country without the people in that country, either individually or collectively, owning the land inside its borders?

Economic Left/Right: 6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.03
(Strongly Disagree)

If I may suggest, Apos, your objection to the Lockian principle seems to stem from a misapplication of it. The idea is meant to give a moral justification for transforming property from unowned to owned. It is not meant to describe how property is transfered from one owner to another. Specifically, in your buffet line example, you seem to be applying the principle as a means of theft. But this is only possible since the buffet food is owned by someone in the first place.

In the standard example of a person becoming the legitiamte owner of an apple, the orchard is assumed to be wild or natually occuring.

While I certainly don’t want to speak for Shodan, I think he was merely trying to expand the idea to include one of practical time limits. So if I may alter you buffet line example a little, imagine a buffet line in which I begin to grow mold which I use for medicines. Now imagine that the owners of the buffet line do not object to my use. Further imagine that we travel forward in time several decades (say 6 or 7) Now my grand children try to assert ownership rights to the mold production factory. The grand children of the buffet line owners come forward and assert that the property should be transfered to them. Whose claim would you favor? Why?

The point being that you can only ignore the original transfer of property from the buffet line owners to me since so much time has passed. If they had raised objections within a reasonable time frame then the answers to those questions would be entirely different.

This principle can be applied to the question of displacement of native peoples. We can certainly decry many of the actions taken by early Americans. This does not mean, however, that we need to question who really owns a particular piece of land that was once occupied by Indians. Just because there was not an effective way for Native Americans to assert their property rights does not mean that such a system has no legitimacy now.

Strongly disagree. Respect of property rights is an essential element of a civilized society. How one can have property rights without a mechanism for transfer of ownership is beyond me.

Damn you, Pervert! You just had to be .06 more “Social Libertarian” than I am, didn’t you… :slight_smile:


I live next to a vacant lot that my family used to use for parking. Then the lot fell under new ownership. The new owner apparently has no use for the lot other than to sell it for a higher price. This lot is mostly on a slope, so it’s no good for building anything on it. There’s a flat gravel space on the top of the hill which has room for parking 2 or 3 cars (next to our house).

We’re pretty much the only people who could have any use for the property. But we don’t want to pay 100k for it like the guy is asking for. We park elsewhere, not a huge deal. But it bothers me that this lot is going to zero use, that the grass is getting really tall and weeds are overrun so that a guy can punt it off to some other fool who will have just as little use for it as he does.

Maybe to “own” property, you should demonstrate that you actually have a use for it other than making a ridiculous profit off of somebody who will have a use for it.

This is a close question, but this one instance in my life has led me to question the value of land being bought and sold commercially. I can understand the value of “private property” when you’re talking about your house, where you keep your belongings. But how can a vacant lot that’s totally visible to the public be “private”? Why should society allow a person or a corporation to have a monopoly on land they have no use for? I say no.

How is that different from the racquetball racquet I “own” and that has been sitting in my closet for 20 years? Besides, why is an investment not a use? I don’t “do anything” with a lot of stock I own. So what?

This thread is devoted to the topic of land. I think land is materially distinguishable from your home or a backyard or personal possesions that could keep in a house like a racquetball racquet.

But certainly it makes senes to compare land ownership to the ownership of other material objects. One needn’t restrict the discussion to land just because that’s the topic of the OP.

I dunno. Certainly land has a few unique characteristics: It (generally) can’t be created, destroyed, or moved. But the only argument you introduced in your original post was that the non-use of the land in question bothered you. That seems much too subjective a reason. Suppose it doesn’t bother me?

Do the unique characteristics of land mean that ownership should be in question? Perhaps, but I’d like to see that arguement made more clearly, and in reference to what a mentioned earlier: Drawing the bounderies of a country.

You are entirely wrong, and are letting irrelevant elements of an (always imperfect) illustrative analougy divert your critique. It doesn’t make any difference whether the buffet is the “property” of someone or a buffet laid out by nature. Because, remember, we’re talking PRE the establishment of the legitimacy of property rights.

So why should any random person be able to get there first, molest the tree, and claim it as his own? What is legitimate about that? Who says they could do that? And at the same time: who says they can’t. If their grab and claim of the tree is legitimate, what makes it legitimate other than the arbitrary decision of other people who might have the power to take it away to respect and not contest that grab?

If I own something, why do you have the right to decide what is a “reasonable” amount of time for me to object? It’s my property: I set the terms. If I want to allow you to have a bit of buffet now and then, but still want the buffet to remain in my control without having to waste my time constantly objecting to you stealing it, who are you to object?

I don’t think anyone is going to hand the land back to the Indians. But I don’t have any illusions that the reason is simply because the transfer of the land from the original pillagers to their grandchildren somehow magically makes it legitimate for them to even have the right to transfer it in the first place.

No, I’m right, :wink: let me illustrate.

Because it is in the common state of nature. That is, it is there for all of us to enjoy. If I pick an apple and eat it, then the nourishment surely belongs to me.

Mr Locke put it this way:27. He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself. Nobody can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask, then, when did they begin to be his? when he digested? or when he ate? or when he boiled? or when he brought them home? or when he picked them up? And it is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labour put a distinction between them and common. That added something to them more than Nature, the common mother of all, had done, and so they became his private right. And will any one say he had no right to those acorns or apples he thus appropriated because he had not the consent of all mankind to make them his? Was it a robbery thus to assume to himself what belonged to all in common? If such a consent as that was necessary, man had starved, notwithstanding the plenty God had given him. We see in commons, which remain so by compact, that it is the taking any part of what is common, and removing it out of the state Nature leaves it in, which begins the property, without which the common is of no use. And the taking of this or that part does not depend on the express consent of all the commoners. Thus, the grass my horse has bit, the turfs my servant has cut, and the ore I have digged in any place, where I have a right to them in common with others, become my property without the assignation or consent of anybody. The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them.

In the context of this discussion it is what is meant by state of nature or the commons.

Well, to be fair, Mr Locke put a lot of faith that God had told Adam that he could do that and so could all of his children. I don’t expect this part of his argument to be persuasive here though. However, there is a better argument to be made IMHO elsewhere in Locke’s treatise. Specifically “26. Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a “property” in his own “person.” This nobody has any right to but himself. The “labour” of his body and the “work” of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other men. For this “labour” being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.

Specifically this means that property rights extend from the idea that individuals are ends in themselves. That they are free. And that they have rights to the fruits of thier labors.

Because for those other people to take the property away they would have to violate, in some way, the soverignty of those individuals. Consider, for example, if some well meaning environmentalists decided that one cannot own apples from the common trees and decided to take them from me after I had eaten them. In this case the violation of my right to live would be obvious. If they take them from me a few moments before I eat them the violation is less obvious but not less real.

Also notice that this argument by you rests on the notion of some people taking property away from others. As I said before, this is a misapplication of the Lockian argument.

Specifically, I don’t. This is more of a legal procedural matter. Should it be 1 year? 100 years? 1000 years? Surely if you do not object for 1000 years even you can see that such an objections should carry less weight than one raised immediately. Also, note that this is another misapplication of Lockes ideas.

Quite so. This is exactly what I was talking about. If you own the buffet, it is perfectly within your rights to object to anyone using it in any way which does not meet your approval. If you choose not to exercise those rights at all, however, do you think I am obligated to respect them? Even if you choose not to? That is, what if we change the question a little. If you want to allow me to have a buffet now and then, but no longer want to maintain control over it, who are you to object if I start using it to cure cancer?

I’m not sure I am following you in this. Are you saying that it was illegitimate for the colonists to take the land from Native Americans? Or are you saying that I should not be allowed to sell my house?

What does any of this have to do with anything? Yes, it is there for anyone to grab. So what? Why is one grab more legitimate than any other? The only reason I can’t get the nourishment from the apple you ate is pragmatic: because you’ve effectively destroyed it, removed it from the world. Of course, I could cut you open and take it back, but what right do I have to it either?

Locke jumps right over the whole point of the justification: explaining why the appropriation was justified in the first place, as opposed to merely being someone’s arbitrary grab. Worse, he uses equivocation on the concept of “his” to conflate a plain fact (the sense in which “Nobody can deny” that the nourishment “is his”) with the idea of moral justification (“when did they begin to be his?”) The whole core of the problem is simply dealt with by subterfuge rather than any sort of principle or core justification.

Unfortunately, this is no help, first of all because who the heck is God to say (no, I’m serious, and its an issue deserving of serious thought), and second of all, no one has any direct access or agreement to God’s specific will regarding this or that pinecone, or anything other than the entire Earth, or possibly things like Israel.

I’m not going into Locke’s concept of selfhood or liberty here, and we don’t need to. The problem is that, even granting all of that, you can claim a right to what portion of value is actually yours without having any claim to the portion that came from natural resources to which you had no more legitimate claim than anyone else. Simply because you grabbed some plot of land to strip mine it (in which case you destroyed the value of the land and enriched yourself, taking natural resources by your own valueable efforts), why should you then own the rest of the torn apart land, to which you have contributed nothing and even ruined by your profit? Why do you legitimately OWN the land at this point to seel to some other person?

Now, your intermixing may or may not have made your labor and the value inseperable (though, with exchange, nothing is truly inseperable), but that’s YOUR problem, not someone else’s: you are the one who made them inseperable, and if that makes justice harder, that’s your fault, a deed that harms others and, again, was done without justification or consent or whatever.

And I said before (and you seemed to have missed this in the first part of your response as well), no it’s not, because you can’t use a concept of legitimate property to distinguish between one grab of property and another in the course of justifying a concept of legitimate acquisition in the first place! Prior to the idea that there is some legitimate way to acquire property, there is no reason to distinguish me taking an apple from a tree or from the hands of someone who runs around saying they “own” it. In both cases, it’s just something I run across and decide to take, because we have not yet established that there is any legitimacy to claims of property ownership yet.

I’m the property owner. Either I am, or I am not. Either I let you do something with it or I don’t. Anyway, this is irrelevant to the basic question of why you can acquire the buffet and not someone else regardless of whether I own it or I don’t, and it’s several worlds removed from the original point of the analogy, which was that pissing on something doesn’t magically make it yours.

Why? Why should I have to constantly waste my time reasserting my ownership of something over pesky wefare-queens-of-the-buffet like you? When I want to give it to someone else, I will, explicitly.

You seem to be trying to approximate a situation in which someone has explicitly given something up without actually saying that is what has happened. This is pointless. Either the property owner legitimately gave it up or they didn’t. If they didn’t, then you have no special right to it in the first place.

While it is in the commons, no grab is more legitimate than another.

While it is in the commons you have every right to it. After I eat it, you have only those rights I choose to grant you.

I really would advise you to read it more carefully. He does not ignore what you claim he ignores. There is no subderfuge at all. Perhaps his antiquated speaking style is confusing you?

Well, if he is the creator, then he certainly has some sort of ownership rights. But as I said, this is not a persuasive part of his argument.

This is correct. But if you had a very legitimate claim along with everyone else, and you used the apple in a way which removes it from use by others, have you not simply exercised your legitimate claim and asserted a sort of property right at the same time? If so, you have legitimately asserted a property right.

Well, this certainly changes the hypothetical. If you look at the second quote of Locke’s that I posted, he includes the phrase “at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others”. This means basically that if you take an apple but do not take all apples, then you have not reduced the commons enough to require the consent of all mankind. As such, the apple you picked can be considered your property. If, however, you cut down all the trees in the common orchard, the case is not so clear.

But if you don’t apply the principle to property which is owned by others, then you cannot say that anything was done without justification. That’s the whole point.

Yes you can. Using a resource which is not owned by anyone is different than taking property which is already owned by someone else. They are different activities. They are subject to different sets of moral restrictions.

Now you are conflating the legal methods used to protect property rights and the moral justifications for property rights in the first place. Locke’s whole point is that the apple in the guy’s hand can in no way be considered “in the commons”. It is not subject to the principle that the first person to use it gets ownership of it. The reason for this is that he has already expended labor to use it. That is, it no longer exists in the commons, it is his property. The taking of it now is an act of theft as opposed to the act of picking the commonly held apple which was a legitmate use of his access rights.

For the record, I agree with this.

Right, but this point was never made by anyone but you. Locke never suggested that pissing on something, even something in the commons, made it belong to that person. If that was your point in this analogy, then perhaps it was a strawman.

I’m not at all sure how you can say that asserting your rights is a waste of time. Remember, we can have very trivial standards as to what consists of asserting your rights. I remember hearing of ranchers who had roads running accros their land. Every once in a while, they had to close the roads. If they did not the roads would revert to “right of ways” or some such legal concept and they would lose the right to close them at all. As I recall, they had to errect roadblocks once every 10 years or so.

But to answer your question more directly, how do the rest of us know it is your property if you do nothing at all to assert that right? Remember, a simple sign saying No trespassing or something could suffice. If you choose not to do anything at all, how many centuries are we all supposed to assume that someone else is the owner of some property?

Well, to be fair, I was only interpreting Shodan’s post. But no, I’m not trying to approximate voluntary surrender of a resource. I’m simply saying that practically, we cannot assume ownership is held by someone else if no one is willing to assert such a right for a very long time.


Not agreed. They may have lost their property rights for some reason. They may have died without an heir, for instance. The property may have been confiscated by some legal process as another example. Just because an original owner did not give voluntary permission to transfer property does not in and of itself mean that a legitimate transfer did not occur. The farther back in tim you go, the more uncertain any ancient property rights become. If you go back far enough, they simply have to be ignored in favor of the current property owner as a matter of practicallity.
Let me summarize.

Locke’s treatise attempted to create a justification for property rights based on the right of an individual to own his own labor. Specifically that ownership of a commonly help resource passed individually to him that exerted some labor in the use of said resource. This principle, however, only applied to resources held in common. It is a principle of defining the difference between common property and private property.

Additionally, he suggested that the user could not effectivly remove all such resources from the commons. That is if he picks an apple, he cannot claim to own all apples. And that he should not try to pick all apples. In other words, property is not theft.

Time only enters into the situation as a practical legal matter. No legal system can be expected to honor all property claims from any source at any time (note the excessive use of expansive adjectives). Statutes of limitations exist for this reason. If I assert some right to part of California because I find a charter granted to my great great great great great great […] grandfather by the king of Portugal, it can safely and legitimately be ignored. Especially if none of my ancestors ever took possesion of the land and none of them every asserted the claim until now. Its simply a matter of not being able to trust this sort of evidence enough to overturn the property rights currently exercised by California residents. Many of the Native American claims to land are similar (Although as I understand it, the Souix claim may be different in that they have never stoped asserting their claim). It is simply not possible to come up with the evidence necessary to prove that some person is the last Mohawk and should therefore be granted ownership of New York. At least it is impossible to come up with enough reliable evidence to overturn those property rights currently being exercised. This fact does nothing to reduce the legitimacy of those current property rights.

My grandfather owns a couple of hundred acres of land. Some of it he farms, the rest is woods and pastures, or whatever Mother Nature decides to make it.

He has no “use” for that unfarmed land. The area in which it is loacted is growing rapidly. Certainly, developers could use that land to build new homes. In fact, he’s had quite a few offers for it.

Is my grandfather wrong for keeping his property? He probably will sell it someday for a “ridiculous profit” since the area is growing so quickly. Is he somehow selfish for keeping that land all to himself?

And so far: no good argument as to why any grab confers legitimacy of ownership on the first-come grabber.

This is known as argument by bold and empty claims.

Perhaps you could explain what you are claiming I’ve misinterpreted?

There is a sense in which no one could deny that an apple eaten is “his.” That sense is the FACTUAL sense of POSSESSION. But Locke uses that very strong “no one could deny” clause to slide effortlessly into the sense of “his” that implies some justification: i.e., legitimately his. His “antiquated speaking style” doesn’t magically make that less of a slippery equivocation.

Why? Although this isn’t an important point, it, like many of your arguments seem to rely on a whole horde of unquestioned assumptions.

Bold statements do not grant legitimacy. You can claim legitimacy. You can assert property. But so what? I can claim you’re a bedbug. You can’t jump from everyone having a claim to you just happening to get to something first, mixing your labor with it to you having legitimate ownership. The acorn or apple has been destroyed by you, consumed by you, for your own use. And the land you till likewise is now unavailable to anyone else who might have wanted to till it for their own use.

Begging the question a hobby of yours? You want to try again to justify ownership/property rights by use of ownership/property rights and drag this out further? You go on to expand upon this idea of supporting the foundation of the house with the roof of the house, but I think the basic objection has been well outlined.

This is exactly what Locke asserts. Someone rushing over to something, fuddling with it, and it’s magically his. Why? Because Locke says so. But what is so special about expending labor? How is it any different than marking territory?

Hint: please don’t try to answer by assuming your own conclusion, thanks!

You’re missing the point. The point was that you have no SPECIAL claim to the property: you, yourself.

Exactly. But if that criterion is groundless, as I think it is, then so what? Labor requries material, capital. Whether that material is held in common or is private property, it isn’t legitimated to be specifically yours to fool around with in the first place. Locke’s only real response to this is merely a pragmatic one, not a moral one: basically that, look, we have to acquire natural resources to survive, we can’t wait around for unanimous support for our usagfe, so we have to just take them. This is a good pragmatic principle for dealing with non scarce resources that exist in the commons. But it isn’t any sort of moral or principal of justification.

Are we talking past each other? Are you really asserting that you do not think an individual’s labor belongs to that individual?

Apos If you answer my last post in the affermative please ignore this post we have nothing in common and no way to communicate.

Well, no argument that you have understood. They are in fact good ones. :wink:

No, it is argument by assumption that my counterpart is not ignorant. :wink:

I made assumptions surely. But none of these statements is empty. What does it mean for a resource to be common except that we all have access to it. Remember we are not talking about city parks or other things normally considered common. We are talking about common as in no one individual or group owns them. Think of the moon for this sort of thing.
As for the second claim, look at it this way. Imagine we together jointly with joint rights share a small bowl of apples. If I eat an apple, the nutrients become part of me. What I choose to use them for is no longer subject to the fact that perhaps they came from some sort of shared resource. You have no right to claim that I now work for you for some period to work off my debt. I’m not at all sure how you can object to such a claim. If I am missing something, can you explain it to me?


While Lock said "24. Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink and such other things as Nature affords for their subsistence, or “revelation,” which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah and his sons, it is very clear that God, as King David says (Psalm 115. 16), “has given the earth to the children of men,” given it to mankind in common. That is either by “natural reason” or by “revelation” the resource of the earth are given to man in common. That is, we all own them together equally. They are not property in the sense that your possesions are property. But they exist and are available for use by men. Again, I’m not at all sure what about this you don’t understand or object to. It seems pretty clear cut. Whether you believe that men are created and granted dominion over the earth, or that men exist and have a right to live, this either way, you must see nature as that set of resources over which man has dominion or that is available for use to survive. Perhaps you could explain further your objection to this point instead of simply suggesting that it was not addressed.

What you call equivocation is in fact his justification. If one’s nutrients belong to onself, then surely one’s labor does as well. The “equivocation” as you call it is simply an equating. Namely, that the fruits of one’s labor belong to oneself as surely as the nutrients of one’s body.

No, but it may be confusing you. He is not transforming the labor into anything. It is a product of the individual and therefore belongs to that individual.

Just as I begin to think that we have some common ground for communication you say things like this. If God created the earth and the universe out of nothing are you seriously suggesting that he does not have any ownership rights? Can it really be true that you do not think that an individuals labor belongs to that individual? I may be the one confused. I cannot imagine any set of circumstance in which an individuals labor does not belong to him.

<Note> I am not suggesting that God created the universe or that he owns it. I am merely expounding on a minor point within Locke’s argument. I would not have done so at all except that Apos seems to think that even if God created the universe from nothing wholly by his own effort, that he does not have any right to transfer ownership of part of that universe to anyone. This seems to be a central theme in our discussion.

Can you give me an understanding of what you mean by legitimacy? I’m not sure I understand how you are using it.

Why not? Surely once you mix your labor with something it belongs to you. Just as one’s nutrients do. If I use those nutrients to create a liver or if I use them to create a chair the fruits of such nutrients belong to me.

I’m sorry, I am not trying to beg the question. The quote you used from my post answered your question directly. I am not asserting ownership/property rights by the use of ownership/property rights. If anything, you are conflating the two states we are talking about. In the first state the apple is not property in the sense that it is owned. In the second state is is property. The legitimizing actions was the individual who took the apple from the wild or common state and changed it into something useful to men. More specifically, he changed it into something useful to himself. This new thing (morally anyway) was created by his labor (which I assert he owns) and therefore, this new thing belongs to himself.

You seem to continually think that we are talking abour owned property in the first state which is transfered to another owner in the second state. This is not the case.

No, quite the contrary. I have not understood a single one of your objections. Perhaps you could summarize them for me.

No, it is not. Perhaps you can indicate (via the link I provided earlier) where he said anything like that.

Well, I don’t think I have done this either.

No, you are missing this exact point. Neither you nor I have a special claim to the apple. We have (in a world with just you and I for simplicities sake) equal claim to it. You see the difference? Nobody owns the apple. You claim that this means nobody has a claim to it. I claim that everybody has a claim to it. If you are honest and apply your beliefs to yourself, I assume that you sill stop breathing since nobody owns the air. :wink:

Quite right. And if that material is wholly owned by an individual, then how do you claim that that individual has no right to the fruits of that labor?

Of course not. This is what we mean by the commons. I think I hit the nail on the head a few paragraphs ago. You really do believe that you have no right to things which are in these commons. Can you expand on this idea? I can’t seem to get my mind around it.

I’m just curious, what exactly do you mean by a moral principal? I can understand disagreeing with his assumptions. I could understand misinterpreting or finding flaws with his reasoning. But to suggest that his argument is not a moral argument when it plainly is seems to be claiming that the sky is red. Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean when you say “moral principal”.