From: Osereme Oigbokie

Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 12:16 AM


Subject: Re. Personal Property Abandonment and the Passing of that Property through Rubbish

Dear Professor Block,

I am a fellow libertarian and a current resident of Tennessee. There are a couple things that have been bothering me concerning personal property abandonment and the passing of that property through rubbish. Below are two scenarios that have been on my mind.

1. Say for instance a man decides to put an old computer on the curb outside his home to be picked up by the city waste management trucks, is he officially abandoning that old computer? Should that old computer to be given to the cities waste management facility personally?

2. Also, say for instance another man walking by sees that old computer on the curb and decides to take parts of that computer and leave the rest, would you consider that an official transfer of property rights from the man that left it there to him? Is it right foe that man to consider those computer parts “free”? Should the city waste management trucks be picking it up rather than him?

I would appreciate your input on this.

Kind Regards,

Clement Oigbokie

Dear Clement:

I’m a professor. I’ve learned early in my career that if I can’t answer a question, I change it to another question I can answer. So, I’ll try that here on you.

Suppose the government were not involved at all. There were private sidewalks, and private companies picking up garbage. Then, it all depends upon the contract the three parties (sidewalk owner, waste management firm, person who is throwing out the computer) have with each other. Presumably, the fourth person should not even touch that computer, since the garbage dump owner might want the valuable parts out of it.

It is very difficult for a libertarian to answer questions when private property is absent, and government is in control. As an anarcho-capitalist, I regard the state as a criminal enterprise, so what it says, what laws it promulgates, unless they are compatible with the NAP and private property rights (e.g., prohibiting murder, rape, theft) are invalid. With government sidewalks and garbage disposal trucks, all bets are off in terms of a clear and unambiguous answer. My feeling, however, is that the fourth person, the passerby, may do with the computer whatever he wants.

Here are some readings on abandonment:

Block, 2004, 2015; Block and Nelson, 2015; Kinsella, 2003, 2009A, 2009B, 2009C, 2011; Long, 1993; Wisniewski, 2010.

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Libertarianism, Positive Obligations and Property Abandonment: Children’s Rights,” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 31, No. 3, pp 275-286;

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Expiration of private property rights.” The Journal of Philosophical Economics. Vol. VIII, Issue 2, Spring;;

Block, Walter E. and Peter Lothian Nelson. 2015. Water Capitalism: The Case for Privatizing Oceans, Rivers, Lakes, and Aquifers. New York City, N.Y.: Lexington Books; Rowman and Littlefield;

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2003. “A libertarian theory of contract: title transfer, binding promises, and inalienability” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 11–37;

Kinsella, Stephan. 2009A. “A Critique of Mutualist Occupancy.” August 2;

Kinsella, Stephan. 2009B. “Left-Libertarians on Rothbardian Abandonment.”  August 22;

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2009C. “Homesteading, Abandonment, and Unowned Land in the Civil Law.” May 22;

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2011. “The relation between the non-aggression principle and property rights: a response to Division by Zer0.” October 4;

Long, Roderick T. 1993. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism,” Social Philosophy and Policy vol. 10 no.1, Winter, pp. 166-191;

Wisniewski, Jakub Bozydar. 2010. “A Critique of Block on Abortion and Child Abandonment.” Libertarian Papers Vol. 2, No. 16;

Best regards,



3:09 am on May 25, 2020