A Minimalist Theory of Appropriation

The Journal of Ethics 26 (2):319-335 (2022)
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This paper offers a conditional defence of a minimalist theory of appropriation. The conclusion of its main argument is that, if people do enjoy a natural right to appropriate unappropriated resources, then that right is best understood as a derivative right that stems from a more fundamental natural right to self-preservation. If this conclusion is correct, then insofar as people have a natural right to appropriation, it is much more limited than it is usually assumed, as the minimalist theory places very stringent restrictions on both the amount of unappropriated resources each person has a right to appropriate and the use they can make of those appropriated resources. The conclusion of my argument can be either used as a premise in a modus tollens argument to be used against natural-right theories of property rights or as a premise in a modus ponens argument in favour of a broadly left-libertarian theory.

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Gabriele Contessa
Carleton University


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