Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 423, June 24, 2007

"Never Give up, Never Surrender!"


How Should Free People Behave?
by Dick Wetherbee

Credit The Libertarian Enterprise

I have gone wrong from the start. Who has any right to tell a free person anything?

OK, no murder, assault, theft—give it a bit of thought and you'll think of a few others. What about annoying your neighbors? I like dogs. I have 3 large ones. They don't bite, they rarely bark, they come, sit and stay on command but they are big and they scare some people.

I could stay on my own property but my little 50 x 100 foot lot is too small for 3 big dogs. I like to take them to the beach at low tide. Then they can run and chase birds (which they never catch). Then we encounter a bird lover who thinks that my dogs barking at a Roseate Spoonbill is a bad thing. I don't really disagree. I love Roseate Spoonbills too, although I don't agree that being barked at will traumatize them. What is a free man to do? I prefer not to annoy my neighbors but to be honest, I value my dogs feelings more than I do theirs.

Hmm, I think. The state owns the beach, which means that everybody or nobody owns it. Then I think that the state has decreed that all dogs must be leashed. Then I think that no cop is going to take his shiny black shoes across the mud to where I am with my dogs. Then I think, "Why should I piss off a neighbor?" Then I take the dogs home.

I think that brings up several important issues. Should the state own the beach or any other property? If they didn't would that mean that I couldn't go to the beach until I could afford to buy some? I agree that would be right, but it would be a drag.

Perhaps beach owners and owners of wilderness property would let me visit for a fee. That seems fair. They might insist that I leash my dogs and I am not putting up with that.

L. Neil Smith once suggested, "It is all about guns". I suggest that it is all about dogs. My dogs see that nobody comes on my property while I sleep. If Thor does not care for a guest, I give serious thought to his feelings. If Freya gives me "that look" I consider whether I have been a jerk. They are my "early warning system". I'd rather be without a gun than without my dogs.

I have digressed, obviously I love my dogs, end of story, on to the point..

While I may have failed to make it clear, the whole point of this essay has been to discuss property rights

Would you like it if everything was privately owned. No State Parks, no Federal preserves. I rather liked when I was in Virginia parking my RV for 15 bucks a day in state parks. If you owned that property what would you charge?

I believe that private property owners would keep their rates reasonable, but what if I am wrong? Might my relative poverty ban me from the beach? No more camping in the countryside? There oughta be a law.

Great, a law that allows me to enjoy others property at their expense. That doesn't seem right. OK, not me. I'm a property and a business owner. It did take me until my 40s to become one. So what of those younger, less energetic or less fortunate than me? Should property owners be permitted to deny them access to beach and countryside?

Murray Rothbard has said that when a person takes fallow land and puts it to productive use, it then should belong to him. American Indians preferred to leave the land fallow and to hunt and gather on it. They held it by force of arms until better armed and more numerous people took it from them. This does not quite fit with the zero aggression principle. I find myself with more questions than answers. If I buy an acre in Arizona from the great, great grandson of someone who took it from the Indians, is that a moral act? How about if GGG took it from the Mexicans who had taken it from the Spanish who took it from the Indians?

This is more of a ramble than a rant. I believe in private property. If I grow beans in an empty lot they are mine, or are they? Somebody owns that fallow lot. Now who owns those beans?

My point, which I have taken far too long to reach, is that all property is first taken by force of arms. 20 generations later you can buy it and not hold yourself responsible for the crimes of the first owner/usurper.

I love owning my little 1/10 of an acre. What sane person would rent to a person like me? I am not convinced by Rothbard. I think that I bought my land from the son of a son of a son of a criminal. I would love it if someone could convince me that I am wrong.

Perhaps I should adopt my dogs' philosophy. "If you can't eat it, piss on it."

Dick Wetherbee has no credentials of any kind. He has been thrown out of every University that he tried to attend. Nonetheless, he has a moderately successful business seeing to it that you don't pay too much in taxes. You can reach him at

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