Labor theory of property


Labor theory of property

The labor theory of property is a natural law theory that holds that property originally comes about by the exertion of labor upon natural resources. (This is not to be confused with a labor theory of value).

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 persons own themselves and therefore their own labor. When a person works, that labor enters into the object. Thus, the object becomes the property of that person. Locke argued in support of individual property rights as "natural rights". Locke argued that a landowner's property was "his" because he had worked for it. Locke held that this relation between labor and ownership pertained only to property that was unowned 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 instance, economist Murray Rothbard stated: :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.("Man, Economy, and State").

The labor theory of property does not only apply to land itself, but to any application of labor to nature. For example, 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." (Law of Intellectual 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. [Tucker, Benjamin, [http://fair-use.org/benjamin-tucker/instead-of-a-book/more-questions#art14n1 "Instead of a Book", page 61, footnote.] ]

References

ee also

* Natural law


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Labor theory of value — The labor theories of value (LTV) are theories in economics according to which the values of commodities are related to the labor needed to produce them.There are many different accounts of labor value, with the common element that the value of… …   Wikipedia

  • Property — is any physical or virtual entity that is owned by an individual. An owner of property has the right to consume, sell, mortgage, transfer and exchange his or her property.cite web|url=http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/property.html|titl… …   Wikipedia

  • Labor mobility — or worker mobility is the geographical and occupational movement of workers.[1] Worker mobility is best gauged by the lack of impediments to such mobility. Impediments to mobility are easily divided into two distinct classes with one being… …   Wikipedia

  • Labor history of the United States — involves the history of organized labor, as well as the more general history of working people in the United States of America. Pressures dictating the nature and power of organized labor have included the evolution and power of the corporation,… …   Wikipedia

  • LABOR — Jewish Labor Organizations IN THE PRE STATE PERIOD Since the last decades of the 19th century, a number of sporadic labor associations have arisen in agriculture and in the printing, clothing, and building trades, as well as groups limited to a… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Theory of the firm — The theory of the firm consists of a number of economic theories that describe the nature of the firm, company, or corporation, including its existence, behavior, structure, and relationship to the market.[1] Contents 1 Overview 2 Background …   Wikipedia

  • Mutualism (economic theory) — This article is about the economic theory. For the biological term and other uses, see Mutualism (disambiguation). Part of the Politics series on Anarchism …   Wikipedia

  • Marx's theory of history — Part of a series on Marxism …   Wikipedia

  • History of capitalist theory — The theory of capitalism describes the essential features of capitalism and how it functions. OverviewThe conception of what constitutes capitalism has changed significantly over time, as well as being dependent on the political perspective and… …   Wikipedia

  • Marxian Class Theory — is a broad range of social concepts related to the study of Marxism. It asserts that an individual’s position within a class hierarchy is determined by his role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.