Self-Ownership in an Unowned World (continued)
This brings me to (5) - see the beginning here - that is, the 'sufficiency' or 'not-worsening' proviso, sometimes held to limit original acquisition through labour. Where I have until now accepted without challenge the assumptions that frame the labour-mixing argument in the chain of reasoning under examination, this proviso I simply set aside as a detachable link of it.
Jeremy Waldron, it is relevant to note, has argued persuasively that there is no such proviso in the Second Treatise. That 'enough and as good', in Locke's phrase, is left for others, is merely an effect and not a condition of private acquisition in the early stages of this process in the state of nature.17 Still, the exegetical point is not decisive. Our interest is in a family of Locke-like arguments, including but not only Locke's own; and other writers have taken such a proviso seriously. Our acceptance, however, of the premise of original non-ownership of natural resources dictates that the proviso be set aside in the first instance, along with other qualifications of that premise. For it does qualify it. If I cannot through my labour appropriate a given area of untouched land, because to do so would either leave insufficient for others or make them, in some specified sense, worse off, then these others have rights on that land and it is not altogether unowned.18 I set aside the proviso as an initial assumption, whatever its precise content; and let the moral concerns which inspire it compete on an equal footing with the labour-mixing argument, from an original position of non-ownership of the world.
There are, it seems to me in any case, good reasons of expository 'purity' for so removing the proviso from the labour-mixing argument to which it is adjunct. This forces that argument to walk unaided, as it were, thus allowing us to estimate its independent strength. If it has little or none and the proviso is a crutch, we will be better able to see this. We prevent, by change of metaphor, a bad argument from hiding behind a good, or a less bad, one. But - it could be suggested - what if the argument is, not bad, but just partially adequate; in need, like many another argument, of supplementary support? Even were this so, viewing the argument on its own would enable us more clearly to perceive that, its strengths alongside its weaknesses, unobscured by other matter.
(Putting aside the proviso in order to focus on the argument it supplements, obliges me to meet a contention of G. A. Cohen's that the reverse is, in fact, better procedure. According to Cohen, Nozick, who does take a version of the proviso seriously, is right to concentrate attention on it, rather than on the labour-mixing notion with which he is much briefer. For it is the impact of any acquisition, Cohen argues, more than how it was brought about, that matters. An acquisition will be 'difficult to criticise', and the basis of it by implication unimportant, if no one is harmed by it; if, in terms of Nozick's version of the proviso, nobody's situation is worsened. But Cohen himself goes on from here to show, with great clarity, that there is virtually no acquisition which will not make other people worse off relative to some morally non-arbitrary alternative dispensation.19 His own demonstration reflects back on the observation made in introducing it. If, now, we cannot ever establish that an acquisition is harmless, then the moral basis of it may indeed be of concern.)
 Waldron, 'Enough and as Good', pp. 319-26; cf. Waldron, pp. 209-18.
 Some so-called libertarian writers therefore criticize Nozick for accepting such a proviso and allowing the shadow of common ownership to fall over full-blooded private property entitlements. See, e.g., Mack pp. 134-5, and Fred Miller, pp. 283-4.
 See Cohen I, pp. 122-3 and 133, and the matter in between.
(Part 5 is here.)