The apparent paradox pertains to the homesteading principle. This isn't a question about the morality/immorality of homesteading, or ownership, or use, etc, just the logic behind it. The concept: everyone is allowed to use an unowned resource, then when you start using an unowned resource it becomes used and this allows you to claim exclusive ownership over it, but this turns an unowned resource into an excluded resource which violates the presupposition that everyone is allowed to use an unowned resource. By using an unowned resource you claim ownership over it which means you claim ownership over an originally-unused resource!

"Either you have the right to exclude others from unused property in which case you own it (since ownership means "the right to exclusive use") without having used it first, or you do not have the right to exclude others from unused property, in which case you cannot homestead, as that would be excluding others."

What's the issue here? It seems to me that the act of using is not taken into account completely and you cannot just use the transitive property like this.

  • You do not have to claim ownership of a resource, you can move along and let it return to being unused.
    – christo183
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 10:18
  • Once you use something, it becomes used, not unused. You wouldn't offer to buy someone's ''unused'' sandals at the beach just because they're not wearing them anymore. Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 10:20
  • You should make a distinction between 'resources' and usable objects.
    – christo183
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 14:41
  • Makes me think of Russell's paradox and the en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barber_paradox
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 21:58
  • The Barber ''paradox'' is not a paradox since it's just a claim of said claim Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 12:32

1 Answer 1


You need to distinguish between exlcusive and non-exclusive right to use the resource. An example of a similar procedure in a different setting might illuminate this:

A family has a basket of apples standing in the kitchen. Any familiar member is allowed to go there, take an apple and eat it. It is not allowed to wrestle an apple a person is currently eating from them, though.

Here we have an non-exclusive right to eat the apples in the basket, which is transformed in an exclusive right as soon someone starts eating it. There is no a priori problem in the symmetry, except maybe in the case that two people want to transform the right into exclusive at the very same time.

  • How is that a non-exclusive right though when you have the right to exclude others from the apple? Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 10:33
  • Exclusive means that only you have the right to eat it, not that you can somehow obtain the exclusive right.
    – Arno
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 10:39

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