What Is The Libertarian Analysis of Native People Murdering Missionaries?

(read from the bottom up)

From: Walter Block [mailto:wblock@loyno.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 12:40 PM
To: ‘P
Subject: RE: Sentinelese Ethics

Dear P:

On these assumptions of yours, the Sentinelese people have acted wrongfully, and should be held to the same standards as any other people. The friends of the missionary should invade that Island, and punish the few people who actually engaged in the murders.

Also, traditionally, in common law, if a boat or a plane crashes onto private property by accident, and these people are not otherwise bellicose, the land owners are not supposed to hurt them.

Best regards,


From: P
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 1:06 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Re: Sentinelese Ethics

Dear Prof. Block

Thank you for your answer. I’m not a native English speaker, so I might have made my question confusing.

In the case of the Sentinelse people, as far as we know, they killed the missionary merely for setting foot on the island. I guess one could argue that the island is their property, but I don’t know if I can accept that they own the whole island just by living on it. We cannot know, but my guess is that they haven’t “mixed their labor with the land” of the whole island, and thus the question is whether he really has violated private property merely by coming to the island.

If we conclude that the Sentinelese people have acted wrongfully, what would a rightful punishment be? Since they are indigenous people, I think many people from more developed societies believe that they are without guilt. At least without the same guilt that you or I would have. They hold them to different standards, so to speak.

Sorry if my questions/comments are still confusing 🙂

Best regards,


Den 19. dec. 2018 kl. 00.01 skrev Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>:

Dear P:

I don’t fully understand the scenario you mention. As a professor, if I can’t answer a question, I pose another, and then answer that one. So, if A trespasses upon B’s property, and they are both private individuals, what should occur, so as to be compatible with libertarian law? B should politely say to A, please leave my property, you are trespassing on it. If B says, “sorry,” I didn’t realize, I’ll get right off, that’s the end of the matter. As they say in basketball, no harm, no foul. In law, de minimus; the law does not take into account trifles. But suppose A replies, tough, I’m staying right here. Then B would be justified in physically removing A from the premises, in the gentlest matter possible. Rubber, not lead bullets. A net, not a baseball bat. If B succeeds in removing this criminal from his premises, all’s well and good, except that now A is a criminal, and ought to be subject to libertarian punishment theory. Third scenario. B tries to remove A in the gentlest manner possible; A resists, forcefully, endangering B’s life. Then, may B use great force, even killing A in the process? B would be entirely justified in doing so, in my view.

Best regards,


From: P
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2018 8:09 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Sentinelese Ethics

Dear Prof. Block,

Not too long ago a missionary was killed by the indigenous Sentinelese. Speaking about this with my friends and family, it appears to me that they apply a specific type of ethics to this case. You see, most of them think that the Sentinelese were perfectly entitled to kill the missionary, since 1) it is illegal by Indian law to visit the island, 2) they should be kept isolated to preserve their culture and environment, and 3) they should be protected from diseases that they have not previously been exposed to. You could perhaps argue that the missionary’s visit was a violation of private property, but then again, I can’t see that murder is justifiable in this case for the type of offense committed by the missionary. If we can even really call it an offense.

What kind of ethics are applicable here, and how would we potentially go about seeking justice?

Best regards,



3:57 pm on April 8, 2019