Re: Larger question about Libertarianism (was: Re: Reparations)

From: Steve Davies (
Date: Wed Aug 01 2001 - 12:23:53 MDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Alex F. Bokov <>
To: <>
Date: 01 August 2001 17:56
Subject: Larger question about Libertarianism (was: Re: Reparations)

>On Wed, 1 Aug 2001 wrote:
>> So, let's take a look at how much of America could really be claimed by
the descendants of slaves if basic Lockean and libertarian rights theory is
fairly applied. It might end up being a lot more than 40 acres.
>> n.b. The above is not intended to imply that I am myself a libertarian or
endorse the libertarian or objectivist philosophies.
Alex says

>Hmm. That raises an interesting larger question about Libertarianism
>that I hope somebody smarter than me can answer-- how would
>transfer/sale/inheritance of stolen goods be handled in Libertopia?
>Does it automatically revert to the original owner if they can prove
>that they are, or would 'posession is nine tenths' prevail?
Good question. There is much division about this. Some (eg Nozick and
Rothbard) argue that it should revert to the original owner or their
descendants/heirs - which implies most Americans should be paying rent to
Native Americans, Australians to Aboriginals. Others argue that the should
be a "statute of limitations" so that title should be acquired after a
certain period of unchallenged possession, even if the original acquisition
is unjust. This is the solution most jurisdictions use for land. The limit
varies - in Rome it was two years, in modern America it's ten (I think). In
England the traditional (and I think good) practice was to allow title if
the land/goods had been held "from time out of mind" ie beyong the memory of
the oldest person still alive. This has interesting implications for eg
Zimbabwe and South Africa where land was forcibly taken from the Africans
and given to white settlers, well within living memory in the Zimbabwe case,
just about in SA. Steve D

>Also, do Libertarians support inheritance of debt?

Again a good question. This has a direct bearing on the debate about
reparations. If you hold that reparations are not due because no one now
alive is personally responsible, then you are saying that debt is not
heritable (among other things). In that case what about the National Debt ?
Logically you should not support taxing people now alive to pay for an
obligation incurred before they were born or were minors.

My own position on that question BTW is that reparations are not justified
in principle but are defensible on prudential, or even Machievellian
grounds. Technology is relevant to all these questions because it can
profoundly affect what is possible/knowable. Steve D>- --
>NASA Vickie Weaver SOG
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