What Is The Libertarian View On Property Abandonment?

From: Morgen Mogus
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2020 9:59 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Question Concerning Abandoned Private Property

Hi Dr. Block,

I’m Morgen Mogus. I’m currently a college student attending XYZ University majoring in Business Management and Fine Arts and considering a degree in Economics. As of late I have been educating myself on right-libertarian theory, having been recently converted to a libertarian and having previously identified as a “classical liberal”. I’ve been getting involved in the Libertarian Party through the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus, so on and so forth.

Of all the topics that have been discussed in libertarian and Austrian economic circles, I have yet to see any information on the topic of abandoned private property. Regardless of if it is done intentionally by the owner of said property or is simply neglected because it may not be a priority to the owner, I am not sure what can be done through the libertarian lens. Living in rural western Pennsylvania, there is no shortage of abandoned plots of land or houses. There are also legal methods that exist where you can acquire abandoned private property by filing to transfer the title to your name with the intent to own it, since you are the one to “discover” it.

Can abandoned private property be considered to be owned? Are these legal methods of acquiring private property a violation of the non-aggression principle? And if they are, what could be done about the negligence of private property in a libertarian lens?

Thanks in advance,

Morgen Mogus

Dear Morgen:

Abandonment of property is one of those issues that are difficult for libertarians. Here are some readings:

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; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContainer.do?containerType=Issue&containerId=18709http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block-children.pdfhttps://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/03068290410518256https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/03068290410518256?fullSc=1&journalCode=ijse

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Expiration of private property rights.” The Journal of Philosophical Economics. Vol. VIII, Issue 2, Spring; http://www.jpe.ro/?id=revista&p=410;


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; https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498518802/Water-Capitalism-The-Case-for-Privatizing-Oceans-Rivers-Lakes-and-Aquifershttps://mises.org/library/case-privatizing-oceans-and-rivers

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; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_2.pdfhttp://mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_2.pdf

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


Kinsella, Stephan. 2009B. “Left-Libertarians on Rothbardian Abandonment.”  August 22; http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/08/left-libertarians-on-rothbardian-abandonment/

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2009C. “Homesteading, Abandonment, and Unowned Land in the Civil Law.” May 22; http://blog.mises.org/10004/homesteading-abandonment-and-unowned-land-in-the-civil-law/

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; http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm

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


Best regards,



11:15 am on August 24, 2020