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?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • If no one wanted to help the outcast, then there would be no one upset that the person couldn’t stay anywhere, i.e., the question of concern would never even be asked. It’s only because there ARE people who would help such a person that the concerned questioner is his own answer as to who would provide space for the outcast.