The AnCap Answer To The Native American Question

One of the most common objections AnCaps face is: “by your logic no one legitimately owns property, because virtually all property, especially land, has been stolen at some point in the past so all current titles are tainted”. The examples often brought up are the deprivations faced by Native Americans. However, there exists a sound answer from an AnCap perspective.

This answer is more of a practical/legal one than it is an ethical one (this is due to it addressing a practical problem: imperfect information). If any individual is able to demonstrate a superior objective link to a given plot of land (or any other good for that matter) i.e. that he is the rightful heir in title and that the land in question was taken via aggressive means from his ancestor in title then he should, of course, have title to that land transferred to him and away from the current possessor. However, it must be a particular person demonstrating a particular claim to a particular plot of land.

We may know, generally speaking, that Native-Americans had their land stolen from them, but legally speaking (and from a perspective of justice) two wrongs do not make a right. That is, arbitrarily transferring land from current possessors to others simply because they are Native-American would be tantamount to taking land from those who currently have the best known superior link to the land (current possessors) to those who in all likelihood are not the particular heirs in title to whatever particular plot of land is in dispute (after all, anyone could make a competing claim to someone else’s property without verifiable evidence). This in itself would not restore the true victims but merely transfer land from some who may or may not in fact have clean title to others who do not have have a demonstrable claim to the land. This would only be a superficially appealing solution to those who collectivize people (native americans are getting land back from white men), but justice deals with individuals not demographics.

With this said I’m sure there are many who can demonstrate a superior particularized claim to particular plots of land that are currently not in their possession, and they most certainly should have title to said land transferred to them.

Moreover, even if we started from the current distribution of resources and land, establishing a stateless free market will nevertheless tend to bleed resources away from those who are unproductive (and who amassed and maintained their wealth via cronyism/parasitism) and redistribute them organically to those who are productive (individuals who add value to the economy by satisfying consumer demand). Thus, a more just allocation of resources and land is tended towards once a free market is established, regardless of whether victims of the past are restored. Rothbard has this to say:

“It might be charged that our theory of justice in property titles is deficient because in the real world most landed (and even other) property has a past history so tangled that it becomes impossible to identify who or what has committed coercion and therefore who the current just owner may be. But the point of the “homestead principle” is that if we don’t know what crimes have been committed in acquiring the property in the past, or if we don’t know the victims or their heirs, then the current owner becomes the legitimate and just owner on homestead grounds. In short, if Jones owns a piece of land at the present time, and we don’t know what crimes were committed to arrive at the current title, then Jones, as the current owner, becomes as fully legitimate a property owner of this land as he does over his own person. Overthrow of existing property title only becomes legitimate if the victims or their heirs can present an authenticated, demonstrable, and specific claim to the property. Failing such conditions, existing landowners possess a fully moral right to their property.”1



1.) Resources 1. Murray N. Rothbard, “Justice and Property Rights,” in Property in a Humane Economy, Edit Samuel L. BlumenFeld (Lasalle. Open Court, 1974), 121.

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