[Previous posts in the series: 1, 2. In this instalment, I say why I accept the assumption of an initial state of affairs in which no one owns those constituents of the world that are not themselves.]
Self-Ownership in an Unowned World (continued)
Bypassing for the time being (3) - see the beginning here - that is, the labour-mixing argument, I now want to explain how I shall handle the premise contained in (4), of an initial non-ownership of natural resources. I explain via a brief comment on Locke.
In the passage earlier quoted and at several other places in the Second Treatise, Locke speaks variously of the world, the earth and the things of nature as having been given by God to humankind in common. He does not, however, intend by this a condition of genuine joint ownership. He intends, in effect, one of non-ownership. For it is central to Locke's purpose to insist that nobody requires the consent of others - as they would so require it with real joint ownership - to appropriate from this common gift for their own private use.10 At the same time, the condition is not one of, so to say, 'pure' non-ownership. A shadow of the principle of joint rights hovers over it in the shape of Locke's stipulation that anything appropriated must be for use, must not be allowed to waste or spoil.11 The reason behind this is that his justification of private property is guided by a teleology of, broadly, welfare. Private appropriation for Locke is the means, and it serves the ends, of survival and flourishing. The preservation of humanity is a 'fundamental law of nature' and each person's right to preservation a right to the means of subsistence - including, in circumstances of extreme want, to the surplus or plenty of others.12 That this amounts to a residual common property right is highlighted by Locke's saying that to take more than one can use is to take what 'belongs' to others and that to waste anything is to 'rob' them.13
I shall not challenge, nor shall I, as Locke does, qualify, the premise of original non-ownership of natural resources. I shall accept it. But I accept it only as an initial premise: as a point of departure in discussion. Some kind of joint ownership or, for that matter, private ownership otherwise founded than on labour-mixing, might well be a conclusion of such discussion. But it is unfruitful to treat these simply as alternative premises to that of non-ownership. For, if private property through labour-mixing requires justification, an effort of moral foundation by means of normatively relevant argument, so too does any kind of joint ownership or differently conceived route to private property. The assumption of original non-ownership of the earth's resources clears the ground for an examination of the moral claims of one putative route away from that condition as compared with others.
I illustrate by addressing myself to an issue raised by Robert Nozick. Amongst a number of other questions about the labour-mixing argument, Nozick asks why mixing what one owns with what one does not should be a way of gaining the latter rather than of losing the former.14 Suppose, then, that I am the undisputed owner of a small sea. I spill a cupful of my sea into an unattended can of tomato juice and claim the mixture. If my moral title to the sea is indeed sound, why should I lose my cupful of it rather than gain the tomato juice? Perhaps someone else already owns this. But what if nobody does?
Imagine, instead, that one member, L, of a low-tech community of committed self-owners gets his leg caught in a high-tech trap from which it cannot be removed. The trap is unowned, remnant of a dead civilization. It is, for L's community, a virgin 'natural' object. L owns his leg, now fastened in the trap. No one else makes, or has, any moral claim on the trap: no one needs or even wants it, has ever made any effort to get it, nor deserves it for any other kind of reason; everyone else, as it happens, already has an identical trap, found earlier; etc. If L's right to his leg is incontestable - as for this community, and us here, it is - and no one has any moral right to the trap, then L is surely entitled to the composite 'leg-trap', formed by his leg and the trap. This is one way of answering Nozick's question. L has a rightful claim on one component of something to whose other components nobody has any moral claim.15
Suppose, however, that other such claims, amounting to competing claims of (either full or partial) ownership, are now made to the hitherto unowned trap. Then, an argument will be required to establish whether L's claim to the trap - in virtue of its being irremovably attached to something he owns16 - is more morally compelling than these other claims.
Our acceptance of the initial non-ownership of natural resources is not an acceptance that no other basis for ownership can be established than by labour-mixing. It is merely the concession that we do not begin by assuming the validity of another such basis. We leave the field clear both for labour-mixing and alternative types of claim. We allow that the principle underlying labour-mixing can be argued for, but also that it can be argued against. It is a fact, so far as we know, that there were once no people, so that everything was in the relevant meaning unowned. Taking this (pre)historic condition as also a normative starting point, we ask how labour-mixing fares against other putative foundational arguments for property.
 Two Treatises, II, secs. 25-28, 32, 34, 39, 44, 45, 51 (for the common gift); and secs. 28, 29, 32, 35 (for not requiring consent); and see Cohen I, pp. 129-30, on joint ownership and non-ownership.
 See Alan Ryan, Property and Political Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), pp. 29-30, and Waldron, p. 155.
 Two Treatises, I, sec. 42, and II, secs. 25 and 134-5. On this, see Waldron, pp. 145-7; and his 'Enough and as Good Left for Others', Philosophical Quarterly, 29 (1979), pp. 326-8; and cf. M. M. Goldsmith, 'The Entitlement Theory of Justice Considered', Political Studies, 27 (1979), p. 582, and Virginia Held, 'John Locke on Robert Nozick', Social Research, 43 (1976), pp. 171-2.
 Two Treatises, II, secs. 31 and 46.
 Nozick, pp. 174-5.
 This line of thought was suggested to me by a marginal note in a book I borrowed from Hillel Steiner. I take the opportunity of thanking him here also for helpful general discussion about these matters, which he has pondered as long as anybody.
 For L also has a claim of need on the trap.
(Part 4 is here.)