From one of my daily reads, the excellent Tim Sandefur. He ‘s knocking down a piece of nonsense on land rights from the hopeless Matthew Yglesias:
It’s typical of the left to argue that all property rights are somehow tainted by past injustices and therefore that government can redistribute to whatever groups wield sufficient political power to demand a share of the spoils. Of course, that is a non sequitur; past injustices do not justify new ones, against people who did not commit the original wrong. It’s true that, as Twain said, there’s not a foot of land that has not been stolen and restolen countless times. But isn’t this good reason to stop stealing what belongs to people? Instead of institutionalizing as social policy into the indefinite future a system that deprives people of their earnings, their belongings, and their substance, to serve priorities that others consider more important? The American Indian suffered terrible abuses, and stands today as an object lesson in what happens when government is given too much power to seize and redistribute property. Yet Yglesias praises that state of affairs and urges its repetition! That really is outrageous.
Absolutely. When debating collectivists over issues such as property ownership, I sometimes come up against the “but the original owners of land stole it” line, except that even if true, it seems absurd to suggest that every subsequent transaction, however free of coercion, is somehow tainted in some way. So a caveman beat up his neighbour and took a patch of territory – that hardly means I am not the legitimate owner of my small apartment in Pimlico.
Update: Related thoughts from Bryan Caplan. It includes an example of Murray Rothbard at his very best.