Monday, October 04, 2004
Mises.org's is a great site for those interested in libertarian ideals.
Here is some thoughts about property rights in life boat situtations.
In a lifeboat situation, indeed, we apparently have a war of all against all, and there seems at first to be no way to apply our theory of self-ownership or of property rights. But, in the example cited, the reason is because the property right has so far been ill-defined. For the vital question here is: who owns the lifeboat? If the owner of the boat or his representative (e.g., the captain of the ship) has died in the wreck, and if he has not laid down known rules in advance of the wreck for allocation of seats in such a crisis,2 then the lifeboat may be considered—at least temporarily for the emergency—abandoned and therefore unowned. At this point, our rules for unowned property come into play: namely, that unowned resources become the property of the first people possessing them. In short, the first eight people to reach the boat are, in our theory, the proper "owners" and users of the boat. Anyone who throws them out of the boat then commits an act of aggression in violating the property right of the "homesteader" he throws out of the boat. After he returns to shore, then, the aggressor becomes liable for prosecution for his act of violation of property right (as well, perhaps, for murder of the person he ejected from the boat).
Doesn’t this homesteading principle sanction a mad scramble for the seats in the lifeboat? Scramble perhaps; but it should be pointed out that the scramble must not, of course, be violent, since any physical force used against another to keep him from homesteading is an act of criminal assault against him, and aggression may not be used to establish a homestead right (just as one would-be homesteader may not use force to prevent someone else from getting to a piece of land first).