I cannot claim victory, but I achieved my primary objective. I refer to my dialogue with Walter Block regarding the intersection of homesteading and immigration. If you have not read it, begin there.
Walter has now replied by email on the specific point: the NAP does not offer an objective answer to how much labor must be mixed with the land to determine “ownership.” From these, I conclude: given that even the so-called vacant stretches of desert and the mountaintops have “some” labor mixed into them by government employees – whom I have paid for; therefore the government controlled land is owned by me – and every other individual who has been forced to pay for the associated government labor.
From Walter’s email:
This is brilliant on your part, brilliant. I never thought of that counter argument to my position, and I thank you for it. I never even realized there could be any counter argument to my position, so sure was I in its favor
Like I said, the earlier piece will give context to this one.
But, I don’t think it suffices.
But it does suffice for my purposes, certainly my primary purpose.
No, I of course cannot give you any exact criteria for successful homesteading, such as two months per acre, or anything like that. In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.
This was my primary purpose. The answer cannot be derived objectively from the NAP; therefore any answer – like the answer to every question regarding definitions of “aggression” and “property” – requires “context, history, past practices.” In other words, custom. One cannot speak of the non-aggression principle without also considering custom.
But, I think you let a good thing, for your side of this debate, get the better of you. You take a reasonable principle, and run too far with it.
So, my principle is sound….
Nice try, but I don’t think your position is correct.
…I just took it too far.
Just keep in mind: my first objective was to get Walter off of his mark. Why is this important? In the context of immigration, it is not as simple to say (as Walter has said) that immigrants are free to homestead government controlled land.
Speaking of taking something too far:
Suppose there were no Indians when Columbus came along to the New World. He then plants a Spanish flag somewhere in what is now the US. He builds a few roads nearby. Etc. According to your argument, this would be legitimate homesteading over the entire country.
The US lands an astronaut on Mars or the Moon. He plants a US flag there. He builds a few roads, etc, claims the entire heavenly body as the private property of the US govt, and stands ready to protect this claim by force. According to your argument, he’d be in the right.
But I am making neither of those arguments. I refer to Walter’s statement earlier:
In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.
I am not speaking to the context of Columbus; I am not speaking regarding the man on the moon or Mars. These can be debates for another day. I am speaking of land-ownership within the context, history and past practices of the United States specifically.
So, it is possible that I took a sound principle and went too far with it…or not. In theory, I could agree with Walter…or disagree. My point is that I do so – either way – on principles other than the non-aggression principle. And so does Walter.
Let’s Examine This Further
So what of the “context, history, past practices.” Again, from Walter’s email:
The idea that because the govt builds a few roads 1000 miles away from an uninhabited part of Alaska, claims ownership over it, it willing to fight to protect it, seems to me so far away from legitimate homesteading as to be totally unrelated to it.
Let’s not speak of a thousand miles between roads; let’s look at something bite-sized – private landholdings, in some cases larger than some states. Each of the following individuals own land larger than Rhode Island and in some cases larger than Delaware. In total, the top 25 private owners of land hold over 19.5 million acres – more land than each of eleven states of the fifty, and more than the six smallest combined.
#1 John Malone owns 2.2 million acres
Malone has served in executive positions in telecommunications firms and is currently the chairman of Liberty Media Corp.
He nabbed the top spot from his friend and business partner Ted Turner in 2011 when he purchased a million acres of woods in Maine and New Hampshire. The splurge followed his purchase of 290,000-acre Bell Ranch in New Mexico the previous year.
Much of it is ranchland, but the majority is forest.
Look at some of his ranchland; do you see roads, high-rises (other than the hilltops), dwellings, signs of civilization of any type?
#2 Ted Turner owns 2 million+ acres
Ted Turner founded the Turner Broadcasting System that launched CNN and several other cable successful programs.
He owns 2 million acres in 12 states and Argentina. The 8,800-acre Nonami Plantation known for quail hunting is his most recent and largest acquisition in his home state of Georgia.
He keeps 51,000 bison on his ranches; is it appropriate that he decides who else is allowed to set up shop?