Walter Block keeps coming up with weird and ridiculous arguments, decade after decade. His latest idea is a “negative homesteading theory,” which somehow has nothing to do with homesteading at all, but rather is about “misery” and the principle that one is not allowed to pass on “misery” to someone else. Block tried to use this principle to “prove” that we should be allowed to kill innocent people, but Carl Jakobssen replied in the Journal of Libertarian Studies on how this deduction is invalid.
Suppose that A kidnaps B, and uses B as a shield from any retaliation from C, whom A is trying to murder. C’s only way of saving himself is to use his gun and shoot A, through B. Also, B has a guardian angel that will defend B from any aggression from C, unfortunately not from A. So, if C tries to shoot B, B’s guardian angel will use his gun and shoot C.
In this scenario, either C or B must die, and since libertarianism is a way to resolve conflicts over property rights, only one of the two has the right to defend himself from the other (we’re leaving A out of the picture). The classical libertarian position is that, since B does not aggress against C, it would constitute aggression for C to shoot B. But, what if B is forwarding misery onto C? Then, it would be permissible for C to shoot B. How then, does B forward his misery onto [C]?
It should be clear now that C is indeed, in the first case, aggressing against B. To reiterate, in the first case B doesn’t aggress or try to forward his misery, so when C tries to shoot him, he’s aggressing against B. Thus the negative homesteading theory does not, contrary to Block’s claim, conclude that it is permissible to attack against innocent shields.