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Objectivism posits that since animals have no rights, it is up to the people to provide space to animals. Lets say all property is privately held, as it would be in in laissez-fair capitalism. Those who like animals, can buy a chunk of an existing Amazon forest, or build a forest and fill it up with animals.

What happens to migrating animals who rely on the migration as part of their life cycle? Lets say I buy a beach on which turtles congregate en-mass once a year. Do I own the turtles? Do I own the routes on which these turtles travel the rest of the year? What if another man catches one of these turtles while it travels — is he breaching my private property, or is my turtle breaching his private property land/sea?

Also lets assume the same turtles also come out en-masse on another beach, somewhere across the Atlantic. This beach is owned by someone else. Does he have the right to these turtles? Is he obligated to negotiate with me regarding treatment of the turtles?

asked Nov 30 '15 at 11:50

Bop's gravatar image


Why would you think that you own the turtles just because you own the beach where they congregate once a year?

There are some debatable issues when it comes to how to treat ownership of animals (for example, the 1805 New York case of Pierson v. Post explores one aspect of it), but I don't see how this scenario is one of them.

(Dec 06 '15 at 08:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The most likely relation between property owners and migrating animals in a free society probably would be simply to ignore the animals, unless they become pests or acquire identified value to man for food, medicines or some other human purpose (with man's life qua man as the standard of value).

The basic premise of the question appears to be the following:

Objectivism posits that since animals have no rights, it is up to the people to provide space to animals.

Objectivism does not posit that it is up to the people to provide space to animals. Objectivism recognizes no such human obligation. If man comes into conflict with wild animals, his rational course of action depends on the value or disvalue of the animals to man. Moreover, the prevailing rule in nature is that the stronger, smarter, quicker, more dominant animals will usually prevail whenever animals of any kind come into conflict with each other. It is only human-to-human conflicts that raise issues about the rationality of physical force against people (and their property) and how to place physical force under objective control in a civilized human society.

If a property owner chooses to domesticate certain animals and/or plants, and they subsequently escape from the property owner's domain somehow, they remain both his property and his responsibility (to avoid infringing other property owners' rights).

There are some further issues to consider. Objectivism is a philosophy that prescribes broad principles. A philosophy cannot be a substitute for special sciences such as law, philosophy of law, economics, political economy, psychology, history, etc. Philosophy (in the Objectivist view) deals with broad abstractions and guidelines. The special sciences work out the details, within the scope of the broad guidelines and in support of the broad principles. The philosophical principles do not prescribe every detail, but they set limits and general directions on how the details are to be resolved. In the case of property rights, there are numerous legal issues that arise as to what property rights do and do not allow the property owners to do. Land ownership doesn't necessarily include unlimited vertical space rights or mineral rights or an unlimited right to dump wastes into waterways or into the air, and so on. For further discussion of these issues in the literature of Objectivism, refer initially to the topics of "Property Rights" and "Pollution" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

In today's "D1" culture in America (referring to Leonard Peikoff's "DIM" categories), the proper relation between philosophy and the special sciences may tend to be obscured by the assumption that philosophy is nothing but abstract nonsense disconnected from reality, and that abstract principles inherently have no firm grounding in reality. Objectivism strongly disputes this "D" viewpoint (and also "M" viewoints).

The question mentions:

Those who like animals, can buy a chunk of an existing Amazon forest....

This raises the issue of how original ownership of land or other natural resources is established, i.e., from whom would one buy such a resource, and from whom would the previous owner acquire it and by what means? The best discussion of this issue that I know of in the literature of Objectivism is Ayn Rand's article, "The Property Status of Airwaves," published as Chapter 10 in her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (CUI). A key excerpt from that article is included in the Lexicon topic of "Property Rights." Original ownership of natural resources isn't properly established merely by being the first to assert a claim for it.

The question also mentions:

Lets say all property is privately held, as it would be in in laissez-fair[sic] capitalism.

Note that this pertains to property after a system of laissez-faire capitalism has been established, and after previously ownerless resources have been turned over to private ownership. As Ayn Rand describes in her CUI article (Ch. 10), natural resources that have not yet been turned over to private ownership remain unowned and under the custodianship of the government, for the eventual future benefit of properly established private owners. But the government ought not to hold onto unowned natural resources any longer than necessary to carry out the process of properly establishing private owners. Ayn Rand expresses the basic principle at the start of her CUI article and in the Lexicon excerpt on "Property Rights":

Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property -- by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort.

answered Dec 02 '15 at 11:48

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

What if the other man fences his beach, so that the turtles can’t get in, and therefore, can’t procreate ? Unless the turtles can figure out to go to a nearby beach a bunch of them will not procreate and the species may die. Does that man breach my private interest to keep those turtles alive and returning back to my beach?

(Dec 06 '15 at 00:19) Bop Bop's gravatar image

You still haven't established how anyone has come to own these wild turtles in the first place. Ownership of wild turtles just because they congregate on your beach once a year definitely isn't how it works in current property law, and I'm not aware of anyone claiming that this is how it would work under property laws which are compatible with Objectivism.

(Dec 06 '15 at 08:23) anthony anthony's gravatar image

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Asked: Nov 30 '15 at 11:50

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Last updated: Dec 06 '15 at 08:29