Bargaining without property rights?

I am reblogging part 20 of my review of Robert Nozick’s magnum opus “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (ASU). The post below covers the fifth subsection of Chapter 4 of ASU (pp. 63-65), where Nozick launches a powerful critique against “permissive” or compensation-based moral systems in which moral boundary crossings are allowed so long as the boundary-crosser pays full compensation to his victim.

prior probability

The fifth subsection of Chapter 4 (pp. 63-65) returns to the first of Nozick’s two theoretical questions (p. 63): “why not allow any boundary crossings provided full compensation is paid?” (Nozick will revisit his second question, “why not prohibit?”, later in the chapter.) Here, Nozick identifies two potential problems with such a permissive or compensation-based system of enforcing rights. One problem is that property rights would not be secure or stable, for in the words of Nozick (p. 64), “Anyone [could] seize a good, thereby coming to ‘own’ it, provided he compensates its owner. If several people want [the same] good, the first to seize it gets it, until another takes it, paying him full compensation.” (An economist, however, might be puzzled by this objection, since goods under such a permissive system would end up gravitating towards their highest-value uses! This simple economic argument, of course, is bullshit, since it…

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About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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