More on Immigration and Public Property

by | Apr 16, 2024

Inspired by scholar Simon Guenzl, it occurred to me that regarding “state-claimed” so-called public property, people have been wronged not primarily as taxpayers but as potential homesteaders. (See Guenzl’s “Public Property and the Libertarian Immigration Debate,” Libertarian Papers, 2016 vol. 8, no. 1, and listen to his conversation with Bob Murphy’s Human Action Podcast.)

Guenzl properly distinguishes between state-claimed land and state-seized land, such as that acquired through eminent domain. In the latter case, government personnel took land from identifiable owners, but state-claimed land never had owners. The state foreclosed homesteading.

Among the people prevented from homesteading are would-be immigrants, people from other parts of the world. In times past, many came to America to stake out parcels on the frontier to make better lives for themselves and their families. They demarcated, cleared, plowed, planted, and harvested it. They built homes with it. They “mixed their labor” with it, Lockean-style, and made it their own.

By foreclosing homesteading to this day of a vast portion of America, the government harms their modern-day counterparts as much as it harms those politically defined as citizens. Libertarians (and others) who would treat citizens from foreigners differently in this matter are obliged to justify that seemingly arbitrary distinction. So far they have failed to do so.

About Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.

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