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Hoppe on the plight of newcomers in a fully owned world

Great passage that I’ve always liked from Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, p. 417-18:

In fact, what strikes Conway as a counterintuitive implication of the homesteading ethic, and then leads him to reject it, can easily be interpreted quite differently. It is true, as Conway says, that this ethic would allow for the possibility of the entire world’s being homesteaded. What about newcomers in this situation who own nothing but their physical bodies? Cannot the homesteaders restrict access to their property for these newcomers and would this not be intolerable? I fail to see why. (Empirically, of course, the problem does not exist: if it were not for governments restricting access to unowned land, there would still be plenty of empty land around!) These newcomers normally come into existence somewhere as children born to parents who are owners or renters of land (if they came from Mars, and no one wanted them here, so what?; they assumed a risk in coming, and if they now have to return, tough luck!). If the parents do not provide for the newcomers, they are free to search the world over for employers, sellers, or charitable contributors, and a society ruled by the homesteading ethic would be, as Conway admits, the most prosperous one possible! If they still could not find anyone willing to employ, support, or trade with them, why not ask what’s wrong with them, instead of Conway’s feeling sorry for them? Apparently they must be intolerably unpleasant fellows and should shape up, or they deserve no other treatment.

I seem to recall Rothbard saying something similar, something to the effect that in a free society we could of course expect the misfortunate and poor to receive charity from others, unless they were so unpleasant that they could find no one who could help them, in which case this is not the fault of the free market … anyone remember this?


{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Cam Rea November 19, 2011, 8:22 am

    Would this be it? “Corporations are not at all monopolistic privileges; they are free associations of individuals pooling their capital. On the purely free market, such men would simply announce to their creditors that their liability is limited to the capital specifically invested in the corporation ….”

    Man, Economy, and State with Power and market, page 1144.

  • Cam Rea November 19, 2011, 8:23 am

    Along those lines or continued pages.

  • Cam Rea November 19, 2011, 8:34 am

    Sorry. I bombed..lol. I swear I seen what your referring to in the book MES.

  • iawai December 2, 2011, 12:54 pm

    There’s an easier refutation to this objection.

    Ask the objector if they would sympathize with the newcomer, and would offer them some assistance in gaining a foothold in the property market. If they themselves refuse, it makes it clear to everyone that they are the heartless ideologue. If they say that they would indeed give aid, then they have satisfied their own objections to the homesteading ethic.

    I would even go as far as saying that they could agitate those with property to spare to donate it to the newcomer – but this again strengthens the homesteading ethic; it recognizes that the original property owner has a originally just claim to the land, but it is the agitator’s subjective opinion that it is an injustice for the property owner to keep it.

  • Jim January 19, 2012, 2:28 pm

    We do protect first mover capital though.

    Is that not the main effect of licensing and zoning laws? Especially in times of high unemployment, it makes little sense to me to prevent Joe Sixpack from starting a taxi service or selling meals and baked muffins out of his house.

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