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.
- 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."
- 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."
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 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"