Homesteading

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Libertarians frequently claim homesteading as a peaceful origin of property, but that is ignorant historical revisionism. There is no land in the world that can show a convincing chain of ownership through original homesteading (before other owners.) Existing claims of homesteading generally ignore pre-existing peoples who were swept aside. The US? Swept away the Native Americans, who in their turn had swept away earlier tribes back to the Clovis culture or even earlier. Europe and Asia? Don't make me laugh. Australia? Swept away the Aborigines, and who knows what their unrecorded history over the past 40,000 years was like. Africa? Numerous whole species of humans were swept away, let alone Homo sapiens tribes.

About the only claimed historical example of homesteading in the Lockean sense was Medieval Iceland: but they stole that land by expelling Irish Catholics who probably had stolen it from aboriginal inhabitants.

The brief homesteading period in the US was a government method of giving away land it owned (stolen from the Amerinds), not spontaneous removal from a commons. It resulted in government-recognized ownership, not a natural right.

Links

Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me [More...]
How the homesteading idea was an excellent excuse for the theft of lands by the 17th-century English landowning class.
Homesteading (John Quiggin) [More...]
"Nozick’s use of a term that specifically describes rights created by the US state simply emphasizes the point that property rights are always and everywhere social constructs. Your property rights are those that are accepted and enforced by the society to which you belong."
Libertarianism’s Apocryphal Past [More...]
"Protectionist, nativist paleoconservatives of the Patrick Buchanan school might have reason to idealize the United States as it existed between 1865 and 1932. But libertarians who want to prove that a country based on libertarian ideology can exist in the real world cannot point to the United States at any period in its history from the Founding to the present."
The Nozickian case for Rawls’ difference principle [More...]
"There is a very strong Nozickian case to be made for Rawls’ difference principle. Because the reality of scarcity causes the use of resources to necessarily infringe upon the liberty of others, it makes sense to say (as Nozick does) that you should only be able to undertake such use if it does not worsen the position of others."
The Turing Test: Who Can Successfully Explain Robert Nozick? [More...]
Brad DeLong provides a succinct explanation of the major reason why nobody should take Robert Nozick seriously. This is ridicule done right.
The worthless Lockean Fable of Initial Acquisition
The ahistorical labor theory of property fails in many ways. Including ignoring the evidence in front of our noses.

Quotations

But the 17th-century English landowning class had a problem. They had been busy robbing both the English peasant and the American Indian of their land. To their credit, they couldn't admit openly to themselves that they had been doing so. While the Athenians could just say to the Melians that it was natural for the powerful to dominate the weak, or the Israelites could simply claim a land as God's chosen people, these options were not open to 17th-century English Christians. They needed a good justification for their theft. And Locke's homesteading doctrine is formulated very precisely to give them one: only when a man "tills, plants, improves, cultivates" some piece of land does he actually gain ownership of it. So, there you go! Just because some English peasants had grazed a pasture for a thousand years, or some "naked savages" had hunted it for five thousand years, that land wasn't really theirs, because they hadn't done with it what a member of the landed gentry would, which was to enclose it and farm it (or at least the part not reserved for the folly and the decorative fish pond).
Gene Callahan, "Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me"
Contra Locke, property is not made by mixing labor: it is made by mixing coercion.
Mike Huben, "Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism"
The jump from the right to self-ownership to the right of property ownership always occurs hastily, as if the libertarian knows full well he’s fudging one of the most dubious steps of his proof. Boaz makes the unfortunate decision to choose John Locke’s theory of “labor mixing” as his preferred means of papering over the leap. This is the theory, dating from 1689, that when a person “mixes” her labor with a thing (say by turning a tree into a chair), she develops a property right in it. Why this should be so, nobody knows. What “mixing” even is, nobody knows either. Boaz doesn’t attempt to define it; its function is simply to jury-rig a rickety theoretical bridge that will suffice until the next deduction is made. So long as the reader blinks, she will fail to notice that the entire natural rights justification for property is built upon flashy prestidigitation.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
The problem is that this homesteading action is outrageously un-libertarian. It involves a single actor unilaterally deciding to eliminate the previously existing access every other person had to some piece of the world, doing so without the consent of those dispossessed of their access, and through the use of violence (i.e. if you try to access the object they now claim to own, they physically push you off or worse).
Matt Bruenig, "The Nozickian case for Rawls’ difference principle"