Peace Requires Anarchy

Implicit Contracts as an Argument Against Evictionism?

12 Comments

The first time I encountered the argument that there exist implicit contracts between mothers and their fetuses that make it so the mothers do not have the right to evict the fetuses from their bodies was when Mark Stoval made the argument in his post, “Murray Rothbard and I Disagreed on Abortion and Child Abandonment.”

I recently encountered the argument again in Jakub Wisniewski’s essay, “Response to Block on Abortion, Round Three,” and felt the need to respond more clearly, since I still do not believe the argument succeeds. Wisniewski writes:

[Walter] Block tries to show the supposed untenability of my reliance on the principle of pacta sunt servanda on the grounds that “at the time of intercourse (…) there is no one for the voluntarily pregnant woman to have a contract with!” True, but why should we treat intercourse rather than conception as the moment at which the relevant, binding decisions take place? since, obviously enough, no contract (even an implicit one) can be made with the fetus before it comes into existence, it seems only natural to think of the moment at which it comes into existence–i.e., conception–as the moment at which the mother, who voluntarily invites a new potential human being into her womb (i.e., voluntarily allows it to appear there), makes an implicit contract with it. Block’s attempt to portray intercourse as the relevant point of focus appears to involve a significant mischaracterization of the situation.

But the mother does not necessarily “voluntarily invite a new potential human being into her womb (i.e., voluntarily allow it to appear there)”, even if she did have consensual intercourse. At the moment of conception and perhaps the moment right before conception, the mother may be thinking, “Oh no, there are sperm cells and an egg cell inside me. I hope they don’t fuse and form a human being because I don’t want a human inside me. If I could do something to prevent a human from appearing inside me I would, but it is out of my control whether the sperm and egg fuse together or not.”

It’s clear that she’s not inviting a human inside her (i.e. voluntarily allowing it to appear inside her) since she is explicitly stating that she doesn’t want the sperm and egg to fuse together (i.e. she doesn’t want a human to appear inside her) and since she can’t control whether or not the sperm and egg happen to fuse together and cause a human to appear anyway.

So I disagree with Wisniewski’s position that whenever a woman has consensual intercourse and gets pregnant, she makes an implicit contract at the time of conception with the new human in which she agrees to carry the fetus to term.

Allow me to make the argument again in the form of a hypothetical conversation between Wisniewski and a woman for the sake of clarifying the argument:

Woman: I recently voluntarily allowed some sperm cells into my body. Currently they are moving around and there is a chance that one of them will fuse with an egg cell and form a new human being. There is nothing I can do to prevent one of them from fusing with an egg cell causing a new human being to form. If a sperm and egg do fuse together forming a new human, I will evict the human from my body.

Wisniewski: But that would be unjust to evict the human from your body.

Woman: Why would it be unjust?

Wisniewski: Because you would have formed an implicit contract with the human in which you agreed not to evict it from your body.

Woman: When would I have made this contract?

Wisniewski: At the moment of conception.

Woman: But I am saying right now that I don’t want the human to appear inside me and that I don’t agree to let it stay inside me if it happens to appear. And soon, when the moment of conception arrives (assuming it does arrive), my will won’t be any different. So how can you say that I would make an implicit contract with those terms if I am explicitly stating now that I do not agree to the terms of the contract and if at the time you say the implicit contract is made I am still explicitly stating that I do not agree to the terms of the contract?

Wisniewski: That’s a good question. Maybe my argument is mistaken. I think I might have assumed that the fact that you consensually had intercourse means that you would later (at the moment of conception) agree to have the human appear inside you. But now that you point out that it does not make sense to say that a person makes an implicit contract if that person is explicitly stating (at the time that the alleged implicit contract is made) that they don’t agree with the terms of the contract, I realize that this was a false assumption.

So in summary, I disagree with Wisniewski’s position that an implicit contract between the mother and new human obliging the mother to carry the fetus to term is made at the time of conception.

However, I am not sure that I fully agree with Walter Block. In Wisniewski’s essay, “A Critque of Block on Abortion and Child Abandonment,” he writes:

Further, he [Block] denies that the voluntariness of the pregnancy obliges the woman to carry the fetus to term; such an obligation could stem only from there being an implicit contract between the two, and Block denies the existence of any such contract on the ground that one cannot consent (even implicitly) to any decision made before one came into being.

While I agree with Block that no such contract (even an implicit one) between the mother and fetus exists (as I argued above), I disagree with Block in that I don’t think that such an obligation for the woman to carry the fetus to term could only stem from a contract between the mother and fetus.

For example, could such an obligation not also stem from a contract between the mother and father? The father could say, “I will not have intercourse with you unless you contractually agree that if you get pregnant as a result then you will carry the fetus to term (unless doing so threatens your own life, etc.).”

If such a contract is legitimate, this would not mean that all evictions should be illegal, because it would not necessarily be the case that all fathers and mothers would make such a contract. However, for those possibly-soon-to-be-fathers concerned about eviction, they could make contracts like this with their partners and if their partners ended up becoming pregnant they would not have the right to evict their fetuses.

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Author: PeaceRequiresAnarchy

“A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” – Roderick T. Long

12 thoughts on “Implicit Contracts as an Argument Against Evictionism?

  1. Here’s my take on this (I think it is original, though it is certainly influenced by other’s):

    A.

    Positive obligations can not be imposed upon you unless 1) you undertake them voluntarily, as in the case of a contract, which Wisniewski says conception is, or 2) when you initiate aggression or commit a tort and are thereby liable to give restitution or subject to retribution.

    In my estimation the mother is doing exactly this. If she willingly gets pregnant she has essentially kidnapped and confined her fetus, which, even if this is beneficial for the fetus, is aggression. If she is just fooling around and assumes she will not get pregnant but does anyways, it is not aggression but a tort.

    In either case the mother 1) can not justifiably commit further aggression via abortion (or perhaps even via eviction), without incurring even more obligations, and 2) has incurred the obligation to allow the fetus to do the same to her as she did to it, for however long it takes for the woman to no longer be considered committing aggression or a tort against the fetus (i.e., natural birth or perhaps even eviction).

    B.

    The arguments in A. assume (as do both Block and Wisniewski, I believe) that the fetus is indeed a person, which is a separate discussion that involves, among possible other considerations, determining, 1) whether or not a fetus is a moral agent, 2) at what stage a fetus or child acquires moral agency (demarcation at birth is arbitrary for this because a fetus one day prior to birth and a infant one day after birth are identical, etc.), and 3) whether or not moral agency (and not just, for example, the potential for moral agency) is even required in order for the fetus to be considered a person.

    C.

    Arguments in A. and B. are even further removed from two other important concerns. 1) How a legal system would even handle the conclusions from A. and/or B. Here, the main question is: could a legal system enforce the ethical implications of A. and/or B. without causing more or worse aggression? 2) whether, even if it can be shown that such enforcement is justifiable, it is actually the best way to curb abortion or not. Perhaps simply improving the economic and social environment (primarily through mitigating or abolishing institutionalized coercion) that women otherwise likely to have abortions exist in, aided by persuasive practical and moral arguments against the practice, would have much more effect.

  2. Mark’s arguments about the boat (your link to his piece did not work for me, by the way, and no doubt he would appreciate the trackback) I think just misses the boat (pun intended). It is less akin to a boat owner inviting someone on his boat and then telling him to get lost and more like the boat owner doing something that he was perfectly and legitimately entitled to do, but which somehow caused the other person, through no fault of his own, to end up on the boat, and then the boat owner asking the other person to get lost. The boat owner could not justify this, I think, because it was through his own carelessness that the person ended up there, even if the boat owner mistakenly thought they were being careful. In Mark’s example there is a contract violation. In my modification there is a tort. If the boat owner had kidnapped the other person and then told them to get lost, it would be pure aggression.

  3. Henry, I don’t think creating a new human being should be considered aggression / a tort. If I own an egg and some sperm and I fertilize the egg with the sperm in a process of in vitro fertilization (i.e. fertilization outside the body, such as in a petri dish), then according to libertarian theory, assuming as Block and Wisniewski do that the resulting thing is a new human being, then I have just lost ownership of my property and the property now owns itself.

    How have I committed aggression against the new zygote? I have given the zygote my property–everything it owns (itself) was a gift from me. Further, I have not harmed the zygote at all–it was dead (unborn) before, but I have given it life. I have done the opposite of murder.

    In “Response to Block on Abortion, Round Three,” Wisniewski quotes Block making this point and attempts to refute it:

    “Block writes: ‘The difficulty here is that Wisniewski likens the situation of the fetus as a worsening of his welfare when he is conceived. It is as if the fetus is kidnapped’ (ibid., 9-10). First, in the context at hand the fetus can be regarded as kidnapped only if Y from my drinking scenario, whom X forcibly (though not involuntarily) escorts to his home, can also be thought of as a victim of kidnapping, which I already disputed earlier. Second, it is not the case that existence is necessarily better than nonexistence, since deciding to abort the fetus often indicates nonchalance and disregard for human life on the part of the mother, and, arguably, having an unconscious existence that is treated in so contemptuous a manner is worse than having no existence at all.”

    It sounds to me like Wisniewski’s first point is an acknowledgement that the fetus is probably not a victim of kidnapping and his second point is not very persuasive at all. Causing someone to come into existence should not be regarded as aggression, even if the person causing the other person to come into existence is just going to let that person die rather than care for it long enough to make it able to take care of itself. As Block said, making the new person appear does not make that person worse off.

  4. I emailed Jakub Wisniewski this blog post and he replied:

    “In your example, the woman voluntarily allows sperm cells into her body, knowing full well that this is more than likely to bring about the existence of a new human being. She is still the ultimate and necessary link in the causal chain whose (likely) culmination is conception. Therefore, through her voluntary actions she does conclude an implicit contract with a potential new human being, her verbal protestations to the contrary nothwithstanding (as an analogy, think of someone who says to another person – I will force you to play Russian roulette, but I certainly don’t want you dead. If, through bad luck, you happen to die, you cannot hold me responsible).”

    I see Wisniewski’s point that the mother is “the ultimate and necessary link in the causal chain whose (likely) culmination is conception” and I agree with it. To elaborate on the Russian roulette comparison to make it match the hypothetical conversation in my blog post more accurately, it is as if the gun being used to play Russian roulette operates very slowly–it takes a minute for the gun to possibly fire after the trigger is pulled. The mother pulls the trigger and then in the next minute has the conversation in which she says that she can’t control whether the gun fires a bullet at the person or not (imagine the gun is locked in place at the person’s head) and that she doesn’t want it to fire a bullet and kill the person. Even though she doesn’t have control at this point, she is still responsible for whether or not the bullet fires and kills the person because, as Wisnewski said, she is “the ultimate and necessary link in the causal chain whose (likely) culmination is” the firing of the bullet.

    It is the same in the pregnancy scenario. Even though she cannot control whether or not she will become pregnant after she has intercourse and even though she may not want to become pregnant after she has intercourse, it remains that she is “the ultimate and necessary link in the causal chain whose (likely) culmination is conception.” She is therefore still responsible for the creation of the new human being (assuming of course that it was voluntary intercourse and she was fully aware that engaging in intercourse would quite possibly result in the creation of a new human being).

    The difference between the two scenarios, however, is that killing someone by firing a bullet at them is aggression, whereas creating a new human being (the opposite of killing them) is not aggression.

    So I agree with Wisniewski that the mother is “the ultimate and necessary link in the causal chain whose (likely) culmination is conception,” but I deny that if you conceive a new human then you have committed aggression against it and I deny that if you conceive a new human then you must have incurred some positive obligations to it.

  5. There is one more comment I wanted to add. In the “in vitro fertilization” scenario I brought up in my first comment, if I fertilized a human egg with some sperm in a petri dish, would I be obligated to do everything I could to ensure this new fertilized egg grew into an adult human being (or at least a teenager) that could take care of itself? How would this be a proportional punishment for the “crime” of giving this fertilized egg life? (a “crime” which I have said shouldn’t be considered aggression at all). I deny that I would incur any such positive obligations in the form of an implicit contract or as a kind of resitution/”punishment” for a tort/crime. It wouldn’t be proportional even if you did believe it was a crime to create a new human.

  6. Okay, but is making a person “worse off” the only definition of aggression? Say a person is “worse”, or “better off”. Is this because they really are? Or is it only the case according to our own subjective standards which we act like are indisputable objective truths?

    Say I kidnap someone. They could be drunk or sleeping or fully awake and aware. Whatever. Say he was formerly starving, cold, and weather-beaten. I put him in a warm room, clothe him, and give him a supply of food to last him a lifetime, and this is the only way he will ever have enough of these things to live a decent life. But for all this, whether he wants to be there or not, whether he has awoken from his slumber or recovered from his stupor yet, did I have the right to put him there? Even if he is clearly better off? What if he would prefer to go back out into the world, with the knowledge that he could die of starvation or exposure within a matter of days? What if he never fully regains consciousness and is completely unaware of what I did to him, and therefore can not even object to it or approve of it? Do I still have the right?

    I love Block, but this assumption of his about being better or worse off seems very objectivist or utilitarian to me. I think it clouds other areas of his thinking, including on an issue for which he is very well known. Voluntary slavery. If a person sells themselves (this is even a voluntary act!) to make themselves (or something or someone else) better off, does the ability he gave his owner to do, quite literally, whatever he wants to with his slave, even if it clearly makes the slave “worse off,” amount to aggression? Block would categorically say no. I bet even if we put the following conditions on it Block would still say no: What if the slave, even in the midst of being tortured, and not enjoying that at all, still feels that he is better off because he values the thing he exchanged his body for more highly than his body? He would be better off in his own opinion. So is there aggression? Block would again say no (and so far I would agree with him). But what if he changes his mind, and his will decides that his body can no longer tolerate the torture? Nothing physical or apparent outside of his own consciousness has changed. Not even the things he is saying (screaming) have changed, for even when the torture was worth it to him he preferred it when his master did less harmful things, and thus, though at that time willing to undergo the torture, still asked (begged) his master, emphatically, to stop. His subjective valuations are all that have changed, nothing else. Is he still better off? Clearly not! But according to Block, there is still no aggression taking place.

    Now I would argue that only the individual in question, because value in such matters is subjective, can determine whether they are worse or better off, but it seems pretty clear to me that Block, and (at least in this instance) you, are adhering to some objective or utility-based valuation principle when it comes to defining aggression.

    How can we say the fetus is better off if the fetus can not or does not determine this for itself? We can attempt to circumvent this question by saying, “Well, the fetus, at least at the earlier stages, is not conscious at all, so its opinion in the matter is irrelevant, and our assumption that it is better off, according to us, is all that matters.”

    But this assumes several things. That consciousness (and the fully developed moral agency that likely accompanies it), as opposed to just nerves and stimuli, are required for the individual’s reaction to be a valid consideration when determining what we can justifiably do to that person. That a definite line can be drawn between consciousness and the nerves and stimuli prior to their development into consciousness. That this line is a more important consideration than even the viability argument against late term or third-trimester abortions, regardless of whether the line is drawn during gestation (the period which, according to consensus, is when viability develops) or after birth (the period which, according to consensus, is when consciousness if fully arrived at).

    I maintain that even if you make someone better off (room, womb, petri dish, it doesn’t matter), so much so that it amounts to saving their life or literally bringing them into existence, it does not automatically mean there is no aggression or no obligation.

    If you look at these “better offs” on a sliding scale, from “creating new life” to “saving life” to “helping someone” to “minding ones own business”, fill in the gaps, then if making someone “better off” on the one extreme can be achieved through aggression (or a tort), and the sole reason it is aggression (or a tort) is that it was done to the person in question without their permission, then there is no reason why something done on the other end of the spectrum, to the person in question, without their permission, can not also constitute aggression (or a tort). I don’t see the specific reason we did not have their permission as relevant.

    You ask (rhetorically, I presume) how you can be an aggressor against a zygote when you gave it everything it has. But how does affirming this rhetoric enable you to then say something along the lines of “I can take it all away again at any time”? If it what it has was given to it, then those things are no longer yours, no matter how grateful the zygote should be to you, and they can not justifiably be taken away. Does the zygote now have an obligation to you (an implied contract?), because you did something for it? Does it owe it to you to leave or risk being forcefully removed once it is deemed inconvenient or problematic? On the other hand if what it has was not really given, then the zygote has no reason to be grateful, nor an obligation to leave or risk being forcefully removed.

  7. Great comment. I agree with your point that “even if you make someone better off (room, womb, petri dish, it doesn’t matter), so much so that it amounts to saving their life or literally bringing them into existence, it does not automatically mean there is no aggression or no obligation.”

    Even though it may not “automatically” mean there’s no obligation and its not aggression, I still don’t think it’s aggression and I still don’t think any obligation is incurred on the part of the mother.

    Your argument that is aggression from your first comment was: “If she willingly gets pregnant she has essentially kidnapped and confined her fetus, which, even if this is beneficial for the fetus, is aggression.”

    I still disagree that she has kidnapped the fetus. Creating a new human being on your property and forcefully taking an already-existing human being from another person’s property and bringing the him/her to your property are distinct things and it’s not clear to me why you regard them both as kidnapping.

    In the latter kidnapping scenario, the kidnapper uses the other person’s property (that person) by moving them to the kidnapper’s property, but in the former conception scenario, the mother uses her own property (e.g. she drops the sperm and eggs she owns into a petri dish).

    Further, the mother has not “confined” the fetus as you said, due to the fact that it may be true that she is making every effort she can to evict the fetus from her body and her property during the entire time that the fetus exists.

    What action(s) taken by the mother do you consider aggression against the fetus? Unless I’m forgetting something, I think the only (possibly relevant) action she takes is to voluntarily allow the sperm and egg to go close together. But I don’t think this action can be considered aggression against the fetus, because the fetus does not exist at the time that this action is taken. She’s not doing something with the fetus’s property against the fetus’s (presumed) will that could possibly be aggression since the fetus does not yet exist. Rather, she is doing something with her own property (the sperm and egg), so I don’t see how that could possibly be aggression.

    If we discovered that snapping our fingers caused humans to appear on the moons of Saturn, would snapping our fingers be aggression? I don’t think so, for the same reasons. If we snap our own fingers we are using our own property, not the property of others. Would we be violating implicit contracts with the humans on the moons of Saturn if we failed to rescue them? Again, I don’t think so. I’m yet to see a persuasive argument for these implicit contracts.

    True or False?: It is not possible for Person A to commit an act of aggression against Person B if Person A has never performed an act using Person B’s property.

    Note that I don’t believe that snapping my fingers causing a human to appear on one of Saturn’s moons is an act performed using the new person’s property.

    You wrote: “But how does affirming this rhetoric enable you to then say something along the lines of “I can take it all away again at any time”? If it what it has was given to it, then those things are no longer yours, no matter how grateful the zygote should be to you, and they can not justifiably be taken away.”

    I don’t think it enables me to say “I can take it all away again at any time.” That’s why I oppose abortion. I support eviction because I don’t think that eviction amounts to aggression against the fetus, because I deny that the mother has incurred any positive obligations to bare the fetus until term.

    “Does the zygote now have an obligation to you (an implied contract?), because you did something for it?”

    No, because we have no reason to believe that the zygote agreed to take on any obligations. If I perform a service that benefits you, you don’t necessarily owe me anything. You would only owe me something if you agreed (either implicitly or explicitly) to give me something in return for me performing the service for you. But it’s not necessarily the case that you would have made such an agreement, and in the case of the fetus, we don’t have any reason to believe that the fetus made such an agreement (and it may not even be possible for the undeveloped fetus to make such agreements).

  8. I also (theoretically) agree with evictionism. That there may be an obligation to the fetus does not necessarily mean that this obligation means carrying it to term. It could mean instead being free to evict it but still having the obligation of doing the bare minimum to make sure that it is not left to die of exposure.

    Let me ask, if there is no aggression involved in putting the fetus in the womb, why do you oppose abortion? I realize that there may be a reason for it, but as of yet, in your case, I don’t know what it is. Do you think abortion itself is aggression, or is there some other reason to oppose it?

    I think you misunderstand what I mean by “confine.” I do not mean it as necessarily a purposeful act. If she is trying to evict, and thus not willfully confining, the “confinement” is still the result of her actions, and though not aggression would be the tort I am referring to.

    What is the reason you disagree that it is kidnapping? That the fetus does not exist until after the act has occurred? It seems arbitrary to me to presume that the current non-existence of a person (that is absolutely going to exist) means the person does not own themselves the moment they do exist.

    And let me be clear, I do not think that the homestead principle for acquiring ownership is correct. I do think it is a proper way to explain certain types of ownership, but ultimately is rooted in something others have called Objective Link. With this in mind, a person owning what they created is secondary to a person owning what is already objectively theirs. Woman may have objective link to her own body and thus the womb (hence why she could theoretically evict without being an aggressor) but her homesteading of the fetus would be trumped by the fetus (if a person, and remember, we have yet to define that and so far have not, which I think is best since neither of us objectively “knows”) having objective link to itself. At this point you have two self-owners. One inside, one outside. It has never been clear to me why the one we can see has all the rights, but not the one we can’t see. If something I own ends up in your house, through no fault of my own, is the criteria for determining who can do what in order to rectify the situation based on which one contains (the house) and which one is contained (my property)? Of course not. It is rectified by who has title to what. So if the fetus does have title (even if it didn’t prior to its existence if we assume Objective Link over pure homesteading), it can not be aborted, or even evicted if that eviction amounts to dropping an rightfully incurred obligation (which I maintain it would if the fetus owned itself the moment it existed).

    As to snapping fingers that incidentally leads to the creation of new beings on Saturn. This is supposed to be an analogy of intercourse (for purposes other than procreation) incidentally leading to new beings in the womb, right? I will grant you that this is a good analogy. Weird. Probably not perfect. But good enough for our discussion. Now, wouldn’t this be automatic eviction? They are not in your womb, they are already outside of it. As I said early on in this comment, all that I think a person would (theoretically) have to do once a person is evicted is the bare minimum it takes to prevent that person from dying from exposure (you may disagree), but what is the bare minimum in this case? Flying to Saturn, which is physically impossible for any normal person to do in their lifetime, and if undertaken just for this purpose, ignoring the cost prohibitiveness and basic impossibility of it, would likely lead to more harm than would be prevented, and even if it didn’t, likely wouldn’t have the effect of preventing the harm intended to be prevented. Where the undertaking is a possibility without causing greater harm, then I hold that an obligation should still be met.

    Also, if Saturn, or the specific part of Saturn in which a person appears, is owned, wouldn’t it be aggression to snap your fingers? If aggression or a tort it would be hard to give justice to the property owners on Saturn without running into the same problems we faced in the last paragraph.

  9. “Let me ask, if there is no aggression involved in putting the fetus in the womb, why do you oppose abortion? I realize that there may be a reason for it, but as of yet, in your case, I don’t know what it is. Do you think abortion itself is aggression, or is there some other reason to oppose it?”

    Yes, I believe that abortion itself is aggression, assuming of course that the fetus is a self-owning human being. Abortion involves killing the fetus, which is ususally murder unless the only way to evict the fetus necessarily involves killing it, in which case it may be true that the mother has the may justifiably kill it in the process of evicting it, assuming that evicting the fetus from your property is justified, as I have said I believe.

    “What is the reason you disagree that it is kidnapping? That the fetus does not exist until after the act has occurred?”

    Yes, basically. When you kidnap someone you use their property, either forcefully against their explicit will (e.g. “Don’t kidnap me!” but you drag them to your property anyway), or without their permission (e.g. the victim is unconscious and you drag them onto your property despite not having their permission), but when you create a fetus, you are not using the fetus’ property to create the fetus. Rather, you are using your own property. The fetus can’t say “Don’t fuse my sperm and egg together,” because you own the sperm and egg, not the fetus. And you are not dragging an unconscious fetus onto your property without its permission, either, because the fetus does not exist.

    “It seems arbitrary to me to presume that the current non-existence of a person (that is absolutely going to exist) means the person does not own themselves the moment they do exist.”

    I agree. I don’t think that it is my position that the fetus doesn’t own itself the moment it does exist. Rather, I think it’s my position that the fetus doesn’t own itself *before* it exists, i.e. the fetus doesn’t own the separate sperm and egg, and the mother thus has the right to put them in close proximity to each other so that they will fuse and create a new human being.

    “And let me be clear, I do not think that the homestead principle for acquiring ownership is correct. I do think it is a proper way to explain certain types of ownership, but ultimately is rooted in something others have called Objective Link.”

    I haven’t thought about this in detail much, but I think I probably agree. Stephan Kinsella brought this point up in his article, “How We Come To Own Ourselves”: http://mises.org/daily/2291

    “At this point you have two self-owners. One inside, one outside. It has never been clear to me why the one we can see has all the rights, but not the one we can’t see.”

    I still think the fetus has rights.

    “If something I own ends up in your house, through no fault of my own, is the criteria for determining who can do what in order to rectify the situation based on which one contains (the house) and which one is contained (my property)? Of course not. It is rectified by who has title to what. So if the fetus does have title (even if it didn’t prior to its existence if we assume Objective Link over pure homesteading), it can not be aborted, or even evicted if that eviction amounts to dropping an rightfully incurred obligation (which I maintain it would if the fetus owned itself the moment it existed).”

    I deny that evicting the fetus would amount to dropping a rightfully incurred obligation. To use your metaphor, if something you own ends up in my house, through no fault of yours, do I have an obligation to keep it in my house against my will, or do I merely I have an obligation to return it to you / let you come and get it? I can’t imagine why I would not have the right to remove it from my house (evict it) and give it back to you, so long as I take care to do what I can not to break it or damage it in the process (i.e. so long as I don’t kill it in the process of evicting it (abort it)). How would I have incurred an obligation to keep it on my property?

    “As to snapping fingers that incidentally leads to the creation of new beings on Saturn. This is supposed to be an analogy of intercourse (for purposes other than procreation) incidentally leading to new beings in the womb, right?”

    Right.

    “Where the undertaking is a possibility without causing greater harm, then I hold that an obligation should still be met.”

    Okay, so let me modify the analogy a bit: If snapping my fingers caused new human beings to spring into existence in the middle of the un-owned woods not far from where I live (such that it would be reasonable for me to go to that new human fetus and help it,) then you would maintain that I was obligated to go to it and help “prevent [it] from dying from exposure”? I assume that you would answer yes. My answer is still no.

    “Also, if Saturn, or the specific part of Saturn in which a person appears, is owned, wouldn’t it be aggression to snap your fingers?”

    Interesting question. I think the answer is yes, but it would be aggression against the owners of the property on Saturn, not against the the new human being appearing on the property on Saturn. I suppose that the property owners on Saturn, in addition to of course having the right to remove the person from their property, would have the right to demand restitution from *me* for any damage caused by the body appearing (e.g. if it appeared in the air above a delicate piece of furniture, that it then destroyed upon impact when it fell on it). And the Saturn owner would have the right to demand restitution from the new human being for damages that the new human being caused that it did not necessarily have to cause. So, for example, if I made the new human appear on the front lawn of the Saturn owner’s property, and then the new human ran up to the person’s house and smashed their windows, I would not owe restitution for that, but rather the new human would.

  10. “I deny that evicting the fetus would amount to dropping a rightfully incurred obligation. To use your metaphor, if something you own ends up in my house, through no fault of yours, do I have an obligation to keep it in my house against my will, or do I merely I have an obligation to return it to you / let you come and get it? I can’t imagine why I would not have the right to remove it from my house (evict it) and give it back to you, so long as I take care to do what I can not to break it or damage it in the process (i.e. so long as I don’t kill it in the process of evicting it (abort it)). How would I have incurred an obligation to keep it on my property?”

    I agree with you here. My point was not to draw a parallel between what you specifically do with the object versus the fetus, but just one between where the object is versus the fetus (they are both inside something owned by someone else). I am not saying you have an obligation to keep it there. I am saying that the owner of the thing inside (the fetus owning itself and the the object owner owning the object) always has rights to that thing, even if the thing on the outside (the mother owning the womb and the homeowner owning the house) is owned by someone else. So the right to evict would be equal to the right to return an object to its owner. Both are essentially valid in and of themselves. The difference here is that the owner of the object is better off, whereas an evicted fetus may not be. I’m not entirely sure what conclusions to draw from that. Especially since we agreed that “better off” and “worse off” aren’t necessarily the right criteria for calling something aggression or not.

    As to the modified analogy and the question you posed: I think the obligation could still be there, but it may be impossible to enforce it without doing greater harm. If this fact is enough to say that the obligation is therefore meaningless, then in that sense, there isn’t one.

    I have read that Kinsella piece a couple times, which I actually had to look up to make sure I got the right terminology in my previous comment. As I type I am listening to one of Kinsella’s podcasts on “ownership”: http://www.stephankinsella.com/paf-podcast/kol-037-lockes-big-mistake-how-the-labor-theory-of-property-ruined-political-theory/ Here is a transcript as well: http://c4sif.org/2013/04/lockes-big-mistake-how-the-labor-theory-of-property-ruined-political-theory-transcript/

    Some more that may be relevant

    http://www.stephankinsella.com/paf-podcast/kol004-interview-with-walter-block-on-voluntary-slavery/

    http://www.stephankinsella.com/paf-podcast/kol-036-rothbardian-circle-qa-lockean-homesteading/

  11. Libertarian theory can apparently be quite complicated. I think this might be one of the most difficult issues to analyze, especially since there aren’t really any other similar issues to compare to (conception is the only issue that involves creating new human beings). I’m definitely going to be thinking about this subject for a while to come. I appreciate your comments a lot–you’ve made me think more deeply about the issue more than I have ever thought about it before and I realize now that there are many more things I am going to have to think about before I can form a solid position on it. I’ll check out more of what Kinsella and others have said/written about this area when I get the time.

    Do you happen to live in/near New Hampshire or are you considering moving there for the Free State Project? I’m excited to get involved in some liberty activism soon. I’ve become even more passionate about justice since when I first learned about libertarianism about three years ago. It fascinates me that such a large percentage of people still support many things which are blatantly unlibertarian. On April 18, a jury sent Rich Paul to a cage for selling cannabis. This seems completely absurd to me now, but many people still just listen to the state. If people become outraged when a non-government person performs action X, they should be outraged when a government person wearing a badge does the same X, but they often aren’t. I want to do what I can to change that kind of behavior, or at least get people to realize that they apply different standards of justice to government than they do to every other person and organization in society. It’s a weird phenomenon.

  12. Indeed.

    No, I’m in Montana. I like the FSP, but I lean more towards these guys: http://www.freestatewyoming.org

    Yes, I read about the Rich Paul thing, here on your site in fact. Pretty amazing what people can be made to accept just because they have been told there is a social contract.

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