By Nicholas Sinard

Kinsella on Pets, Soup, Kidneys, & Consent

A few months ago I emailed questions regarding property rights to Stephan Kinsella. This post will contain the top 4 most important questions and answers from the email exchange.


My question:

From what I understand you emborder unused objects or use them to homestead them, but how do you homestead animals — namely pets? Is it a sufficient objective link to simply feed the animal or pet it to gain property rights in it?

Response:

I think that an actual property rights system is a practical matter, and so we cannot be sure we can answer all hypothetical questions ahead of time from the armchair. The basic issue is to establish some publicly visible link of control to the resource in question, and the nature of this link is obviously dependent on the nature of the resource itself and how it is controlled and used. In the case of animals, this is just another resource or scarce means that people want and need and seek to control; it is a type of thing over which there can be conflict. That is to say, it is a type of thing in which the allocation of property rights makes sense and will arise. So when there is a dispute over an animal, people have to try to inquire as to what type of indicia of control or ownerhsip — what link — makes sense. Given the way animals are controlled, this can vary, but for cows, the brand emerged as one way, given the way that cows wander around, etc. For dogs, or pigs, it would vary, and depend on the nature of the animal and how humans tend to control and use them.

My question:

I have tried to find this example dealing with your conception of property rights, but it seems that I cannot. This is a fairly common question when it comes to natural rights and owning objects, including parts of the oceans. If I mix in a can of soup with the ocean, do I now own the part of the ocean that the soup was mixed with and/or emborders?
I think you lose your soup in this example.
I think more work needs to be done on this, but it has to be rooted in what Rothbard talked about as the “relevant technological unit” — as I mentioned in the same note: . See also on this Rothbard’s discussion of the “relevant technological unit” in Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution; also B.K. Marcus, “The Spectrum Should Be Private Property: The Economics, History, and Future of Wireless Technology” and idem, “Radio Free Rothbard.

My question:

In one of your Kinsella on Liberty podcasts you talk about the impossibility of voluntary slavery. Our bodies cannot be sold since we did not acquire them by appropriating them, or rather we did not homestead them in the same way we do unused resources. If a person were to sell of a kidney of theirs, could they truly give up the rights to the kidney? By taking the kidney out of their body the person no longer has the objective link to it that they once had — direct control; however, at the same time they did not acquire it by appropriating it. So, does the person have the ability to forfeit their rights of the kidney and sell it, or would it be more like the patient paying to borrow the kidney and the donor could take it back at any time since they cannot forfeit the property right in it?

Response:

It’s a difficult issue. My view (at present) is that your claim to your body is based on your intimate connection to it (direct link, direct control). As long as this exists you have a better claim. Despite a promise etc. BUt this can be changed, if you commit aggression.
for other items that are not part of your body or your “self,” that were previously unowned, you acquire ownership of them by original appropriation. So you can “get rid of” this ownership, by abandoning this. By undoing the original acquisition.
I think if you sever your kidney from your body, then you own it like an external object now. And it is alienable.

My question:

Why can a person allow another individual to hit them, let’s say in an MMA match, but a person cannot allow another person to use force on them to stay on a plantation?
Because timing matters.
If you kiss me, it’s okay if I consent to it. If i don’t, then it’s battery. But what consent? Obviously, the most recent matters. If we are on a date and I hint or say that you may kiss me, then if you kiss me half an hour later, there is implicit consent, because I manifested my consent half an hour ago and you can rely on this communication. but if you try to kiss me and I say “no” then you may not. Because I have changed my mind. Kissing, [etc.] someone, is fine if they consent to it. But if htey want to step out of the boxing ring, get off the bed, or step off the football field, then you can’t just hit them. They are no longer consenting.
In the slavery or army cases, people want to use force against these people to compel them to serve/comply even though they are now refusing. Because they in the past said “okay.” But it is only the most recent expression of consent that matters.

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Nicholas Sinard is a contributor to the Liberty, Economics, and Philosophy publication and BeingLibertarian.com. Be sure to follow me if you enjoy economics and philosophy.