Land Reform, Reparations, A Libertarian Perspective

From: A
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2017 5:47 AM
Subject: A question on “Socialist Land Reforms”

Dear Dr. Block: Mises wrote this about pre-capitalist conditions: The pre-capitalistic system of product was restrictive. Its historical basis was military conquest. The victorious kings had given the land to their paladins [i]. Question –Is it legitimate for the state to forcibly redistribute land (title and ownership – not tenancy rights) as part of a Property Rights program? I came up with a fictional example (sorry to Tax your patience, because taxation IS theft): Let us say that in a country called Dystopia, Queen Hillary and her military captured all the land that was homesteaded by lovely peasants and gave it to her paladin Bernie. Bernie set up an extractive State. He ate off the peasants’ labour while promising them free college. When he was done, he passed the land on to his kid Bernie the Baby Boomer; who passed it on to his son Bernie GenX; who in turn passed it to his son Bernie the Millennial aka BernieM. All Bernie’s lived off of Tax Revenue i.e. theft. At the turn of the millennium, the peasants demanded – and got – adult franchise. They elect a hitherto unknown Murray Rothbard as their President. Murray and the peasant Congress pass legislation to forcibly take over BernieM’s land and redistribute (title and ownership – not tenancy rights) based on who is cultivating how much land. They also do away with all taxation, subsequent to which Murray dissolves his government. All goods and services (including ‘government’ services) are privatized. At first glance, President Murray is violating the Non-Aggression Principle and forcibly stealing BernieMs’ land, which is a strict No-No. On second thought:

1. BernieMs’ ownership title is defective as he cannot claim originally stolen goods (land) as being his own. Thus, there is no aggression involved
2. The fact is that it is the peasants of this generation (and not BernieM) that are working the land; BernieM violates the non-aggression principle by taxing them – so why should he complain when the shoe is on the other foot?
3. More people have property (and property rights) under the post-Murray dispensation so all libertarians should support Murray

Notice in this example, we do not claim that Murray is good because he ‘set right a historical wrong’. The peasants of Queen Hillary’s generation are all dead. Not Murray (and not even Divine Providence) – can ‘set right’ the wrong inflicted on them.

I feel President Murray is wrong as his redistribution of land is naked aggression against BernieM. Another libertarian friend feels Murray is right only if Title & Ownership are redistributed; Murray is wrong if he gives them only tenancy rights, because tenancy rights can be revoked. If this happens Murray will be corrupted and eventually become the new Bernie (gulp) Please could you pass judgement on President Murray? Kind regards, A

P.S – For a reasonably close real-life example of this problem (without the happy ending), please Google “Operation Barga”

P.P.S – I only recently became libertarian and was a Neocon thug before I read you, Thomas DiLorenzo and Hans Hoppe. I feel very ashamed of my earlier ways. I want to thank you for helping me overcome my ignorance and stupidity. Even though we have never met – you have made a positive difference in my life.

Dear A: I’m with President Murray. Hillary-Bernie were never the rightful owners of the land in question in the first place.

Here are some publications of mine that support land reform, reparations, but only from a libertarian point of view, not from the Barga perspective:

Alston and Block, 2007; Block, 1993, 2001, 2002; Block, Futerman and Farber, 2016; Block and Yeatts, 1999-2000; Futerman, Farber and Block, 2016.

Alston, Wilton D. and Walter E. Block. 2007. “Reparations, Once Again.” Human Rights Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, September, pp. 379-392;

Block, Walter E. 1993. “Malcolm X,” Fraser Forum, January, pp. 18-19;

Block, Walter E. 2001. “The Moral Dimensions of Poverty, Entitlements and Theft,” The Journal of Markets and Morality, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 83-93;;;

Block, Walter E. 2002. “On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery,” Human Rights Review, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-September, pp. 53-73;
(David Horowitz)

Block, Walter E. and Guillermo Yeatts. 1999-2000. “The Economics and Ethics of Land Reform: A Critique of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s ‘Toward a Better Distribution of Land: The Challenge of Agrarian Reform,’” Journal of Natural Resources and Environmental Law, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 37-69;

Block, Walter E., Alan G. Futerman and Rafi Farber. 2016. “A Libertarian Approach to the Legal Status of the State of Israel.” Indonesian Journal of International and Comparative Law. Vol. 3, Issue, 2, June, pp. 435-553; (a critique of Murray Rothbard)

Futerman, Alan, Rafi Farber and Walter E. Block. 2016. “The Libertarian Case for Israel.” October 13; The Forward;

Operation Barga: “The Land Reforms Act of India (1955) and its subsequent amendments stated that all sharecroppers would have permanent use rights on land that they had lease and that such rights would be inheritable.” The sharecropper is given the rightful owner’s land? This looks like theft to me.

I am DELIGHTED you are no longer a “Neocon thug.” Welcome home to the land of libertarianism. No need to be ashamed. I venture to guess that 99% of present libertarians were not born that way!

P.S. “Bernie set up an extractive State?” ALL governments are “extractive.”


1:33 pm on September 29, 2017