THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN UNJUST INITIAL ACQUISITION a
Critics of Robert Nozick's libertarian political theory often allege that the theory in general and its account of property rights in particular lack sufficient foundations. A key difficulty is thought to lie in his account of how portions of the world which no one yet owns can justly come to be initially acquired. But the difficulty is illusory, because (contrary to what both Nozick and his critics assume) the concept of justice does not meaningfully apply to initial acquisition in the first place. Moreover, the principle of self-ownership provides a solid foundation for Nozick's libertarianism, and when seen in the light of that principle and its full implications, the standard purported examples of injustices in acquisition are revealed to be nothing of the kind.
a The original draft of this paper was written in the summer of 2002 while I was a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University. I thank the directors of the Center, Fred D. Miller, Jr., Ellen Frankel Paul, and Jeffrey Paul, for hosting me. I also thank colloquium audience members at Bowling Green State University for comments on that draft.