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The labor theory of property (also called the labor theory of appropriation, labor theory of ownership, labor theory of entitlement, or principle of first appropriation) is a theory of natural law that holds that property originally comes about by the exertion of labor upon natural resources. The theory has been used to justify the homestead principle, which holds that one may gain whole permanent ownership of an unowned natural resource by performing an act of original appropriation.
In his Second Treatise on Government , the philosopher John Locke asked by what right an individual can claim to own one part of the world, when, according to the Bible, God gave the world to all humanity in common. He answered that although persons belong to God they own the fruits of their labor.When a person works, that labor enters into the object. Thus, the object becomes the property of that person.
However, Locke held that one may only appropriate property in this fashion if the Lockean proviso held true, that is, "... there is enough, and as good, left in common for others".
Locke argued in support of individual property rights as natural rights. Following the argument the fruits of one's labor are one's own because one worked for it. Furthermore, the laborer must also hold a natural property right in the resource itself because exclusive ownership was immediately necessary for production.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau later criticized this second step in Discourse on Inequality, where he argues that the natural right argument does not extend to resources that one did not create. Both philosophers hold that the relation between labor and ownership pertains only to property that was significantly unused before such labor took place.
Land in its original state would be considered unowned by anyone, but if an individual applied his labor to the land by farming it, for example, it becomes his property. Merely placing a fence around land rather than using the land enclosed would not bring property into being according to most natural law theorists.
For example, economist Murray Rothbard stated (in Man, Economy, and State ):
If Columbus lands on a new continent, is it legitimate for him to proclaim all the new continent his own, or even that sector 'as far as his eye can see'? Clearly, this would not be the case in the free society that we are postulating. Columbus or Crusoe would have to use the land, to 'cultivate' it in some way, before he could be asserted to own it.... If there is more land than can be used by a limited labor supply, then the unused land must simply remain unowned until a first user arrives on the scene. Any attempt to claim a new resource that someone does not use would have to be considered invasive of the property right of whoever the first user will turn out to be.
The labor theory of property does not only apply to land itself, but to any application of labor to nature. For example, natural-rightist Lysander Spooner,says that an apple taken from an unowned tree would become the property of the person who plucked it, as he has labored to acquire it. He says the "only way, in which ["the wealth of nature"] can be made useful to mankind, is by their taking possession of it individually, and thus making it private property."
However, some, such as Benjamin Tucker have not seen this as creating property in all things. Tucker argued that "in the case of land, or of any other material the supply of which is so limited that all cannot hold it in unlimited quantities," these should only be considered owned while the individual is in the act of using or occupying these things.This is a rejection of Absentee ownership for land.
Locke held that individuals have a right to homestead private property from nature by working on it, but that they can do so only "...at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others".The proviso maintains that appropriation of unowned resources is a diminution of the rights of others to it, and would be acceptable only so long as it does not make anyone worse off than they would have been before. The phrase "Lockean Proviso" was coined by political philosopher Robert Nozick, and is based on the ideas elaborated by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government.
Aside from critiques of natural rights as a whole, Locke's labor theory of property has been singled out for critique by modern academics who doubt the idea that mixing something owned with something unowned could imbue the object with ownership:
[W]hy isn't mixing what I own with what I don't own a way of losing what I own rather than a way of gaining what I don't? If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules (made radioactive, so I can check this) mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea, or have I foolishly dissipated my tomato juice?
Jeremy Waldron believes that Locke has made a category mistake, as only objects can be mixed with other objects and laboring is not an object, but an activity.
Judith Jarvis Thomson points out that the act of laboring makes Locke's argument either an appeal to desert, in which case the reward is arbitrary-"Why not instead a medal and a handshake from the president?"-or little different than first possession theories that existed before Locke.
Ellen Meiksins Wood provides a number of critiques of Locke's labor theory of property from a Marxist perspective. Wood notes that Locke is not actually concerned with the act of labor or improving the use value of property, but rather is focused on the creation of exchange value as the basis of property.
For one thing, it turns out that there is no direct correspondence between labour and property, because one man can appropriate the labour of another. He can acquire a right of property in something by 'mixing' with it not his own labour but the labour of someone else whom he employs. It appears that the issue for Locke has less to do with the activity of labour as such than with its profitable use. In calculating the value of the acre in America, for instance, he talks not about the Indian's expenditure of effort, labour, but about the Indian's failure to realize a profit. The issue, in other words, is not the labour of a human being but the productivity of property, its exchange value and its application to commercial profit.
In addition to the theoretical deficiencies of Locke's theory of property, Wood also argues that Locke also provides a justification for the dispossession of indigenous land. The idea that making land productive serves as the basis of property rights establishes the corollary that the failure to improve land could mean forfeiting property rights. Under Locke's theory, "[e]ven if land is occupied by indigenous peoples, and even if they make use of the land themselves, their land is still open to legitimate colonial expropriation."Locke's notion that property "derives from the creation of value, from 'improvement' that enhances exchange value, implies not only that mere occupancy is not enough to establish property rights, or even that hunting-gathering cannot establish the right of property while agriculture can, but also that insufficiently productive and profitable agriculture, by the standards of English agrarian capitalism, effectively constitutes waste."
This fits into a larger fundamental criticism of Locke's labor theory of property which values a particular type of labor and land use (i.e. agriculture) over all others. It thus does not recognize usage of land, for example, by hunter-gatherer societies as granting rights to ownership. In essence, the Lockean proviso depends on "the existence of a frontier, beyond which lies boundless usable land. This in turn requires the erasure (mentally and usually in brutal reality) of the people already living beyond the frontier and drawing their sustenance from the land in question." Locke's theories of property rights are often interpreted in the context of his support for chattel slavery of "prisoners captured in war" as a philosophical justification for the enslavement and genocides committed by early American colonists.
Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy and economic theory that advocates the elimination of centralized states in favor of self-ownership, private property and free markets. Anarcho-capitalists hold that in the absence of statute, society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through the spontaneous and organic discipline of the free market which they describe as a voluntary society. Anarcho-capitalists support wage labour as a "voluntary trade" and believe that neither protection of person and property nor victim compensation requires a state.
John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Property in the abstract is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In the context of this article, it is one or more components, whether physical or incorporeal, of a person's estate; or so belonging to, as in being owned by, a person or jointly a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation or even a society. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things, as well as to perhaps abandon it; whereas regardless of the nature of the property, the owner thereof has the right to properly use it, or at the very least exclusively keep it.
Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which is owned by a state entity; and from collective property, which is owned by a group of non-governmental entities. Private property can be either personal property or capital goods. Private property is a legal concept defined and enforced by a country's political system.
Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights. Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are universal and inalienable. Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system.
Geolibertarianism is a political and economic ideology which integrates libertarianism with Georgism.
Free-market environmentalism argues that the free market, property rights, and tort law provide the best means of preserving the environment, internalizing pollution costs, and conserving resources.
The homestead principle is the principle by which one gains ownership of an unowned natural resource by performing an act of original appropriation. Appropriation could be enacted by putting an unowned resource to active use, joining it with previously acquired property or by marking it as owned.
Self-ownership, also known as sovereignty of the individual or individual sovereignty, is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one's own body and life. Self-ownership is a central idea in several political philosophies that emphasize individualism, such as libertarianism, liberalism, and anarchism.
Two Treatises of Government is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory.
Mutualism is an anarchist school of thought and economic theory that advocates a socialist society based on free markets and usufructs, i.e. occupation and use property norms. One implementation of this system involves the establishment of a mutual-credit bank that would lend to producers at a minimal interest rate, just high enough to cover administration. Mutualism is based on a version of the labor theory of value which it uses as its basis for determining economic value. According to mutualist theory, when a worker sells the product of their labor, they ought to receive money, goods, or services in exchange that are equal in economic value, embodying "the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility".
Entitlement theory is a theory of distributive justice and private property created by Robert Nozick in chapters 7 and 8 of his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The theory is Nozick's attempt to describe "justice in holdings" —or what can be said about and done with the property people own when viewed from a principle of justice.
Left-libertarianism, also known as egalitarian libertarianism, left-wing libertarianism or social libertarianism, is a political philosophy and type of libertarianism that stresses both individual freedom and social equality. As a term, "left-libertarianism" is used for several related yet distinct approaches to political and social theory. In its classical usage, it is an anti-authoritarian varieties of left-wing politics such as anarchism, especially social anarchism, whose adherents called "libertarianism". In the United States, it represents the left-wing of the libertarian movement and the political positions associated with academic philosophers Hillel Steiner, Philippe Van Parijs and Peter Vallentyne that combine self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources. This is done to distinguish libertarian views on the nature of property and capital, usually along left–right or socialist–capitalist lines.
The Lockean proviso is a feature of John Locke's labour theory of property which states that whilst individuals have a right to homestead private property from nature by working on it, they can do so only "at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others".
Propertarianism, or proprietarianism, is a political philosophy that reduces all questions of ethics to the right to own property. On property rights, it advocates private property based on Lockean sticky property norms, where an owner keeps his property more or less until he consents to gift or sell it, rejecting the Lockean proviso.
The right to property or right to own property is often classified as a human right for natural persons regarding their possessions. A general recognition of a right to private property is found more rarely and is typically heavily constrained insofar as property is owned by legal persons and where it is used for production rather than consumption.
Appropriation is a process by which previously unowned natural resources, particularly land, become the property of a person or group of persons. The term is widely used in economics in this sense. In certain cases, it proceeds under very specifically defined forms, such as driving stakes or other such markers into the land claimed, which form gave rise to the term “staking a claim.” "Squatter’s rights" are another form of appropriation, but are usually asserted against land to which ownership rights of another party have been recognized. In legal regimes recognizing such acquisition of property, the ownership of duly appropriated holdings enjoys such protections as the law provides for ownership of property in general.
The law of equal liberty, also known as the law of equal freedom or equal liberty, is the fundamental precept of liberalism. It has been stated in various ways by many thinkers, but can be summarized as the view that all persons must be granted the maximum possible freedom as long as that freedom does not interfere with the freedom of anyone else.
The position that taxation is theft, and therefore immoral, is a viewpoint found in a number of radical political philosophies. It marks a significant departure from conservatism and classical liberalism. This position is often held by anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, most minarchists, right-wing libertarians and voluntaryists.
Left-wing market anarchism is a strand of free-market anarchism and an individualist anarchist, left-libertarian and libertarian socialist political philosophy and economic theory associated with contemporary scholars such as Kevin Carson, Gary Chartier, Charles W. Johnson, Roderick T. Long, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Sheldon Richman and Brad Spangler, who stress the value of radically free markets, termed freed markets to distinguish them from the common conception which these libertarians believe to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges. Proponents of this approach distinguish themselves from right-libertarians and strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets while maintaining that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labor positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding issues such as class, gender, sexuality and race.