Mixing and transforming (continued)
An obvious strand to pick up is this. Labour-mixing is in reality labouring, and labouring changes its object. The point was made long ago by David Hume: 'We cannot be said to join our labour to anything but in a figurative sense. Properly speaking, we only make an alteration on it by our labour.' Perhaps, then, it is the transformation which labour effects in objects that establishes a title to them.28 Some passages in the Second Treatise do appear to highlight this side of things. Thus, Locke writes that whoever has employed his labour 'about any of the spontaneous products of nature as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his labour on them, did thereby acquire a propriety in them'; and again, 'all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state nature had put it in, was his.' Another Lockean locution has things 'removed', through labour, from their original condition, where sometimes the force of 'removed' seems to be, simultaneously, a taking away, a privatizing of what was formerly 'common', and an alteration of things from their initial state.29
Now, from this angle one can, I think, give rough sense to the idea of 'mixing'. But the sense one can give it is not the sense Locke and its other sponsors need, to get the normative link they cherish between person and object.30 Here, at any event, is the rough sense. If I change something by working on it, then it will have features it did not have before, and I can say these have been 'added' by me; though, of course, features have also been 'subtracted'. (Locke himself expresses labour-mixing in terms of addition: 'That labour put a distinction between them and common; that added something to them more than nature... had done.'31) The features added, if one thinks of it in this way, are not themselves labour; they are the effects of labour. But the elision of cause and effect is, so to say, short, and even encouraged by some ways of speaking. The 'work of his hands' is what his hands do, an activity, and it is also what they fashion, the effects or the product of that activity.32 One can think of the effect as the cause, frozen.
Yet, for all that, the effect is not the cause, and ownership of the cause, labour, not equivalent to ownership of its effect, the alterations wrought by it, let alone of the whole object altered. We want pertinent ethical considerations leading from one to the other. It is easy to let oneself think this connection, cause to effect, is just obvious, undeniable. Imagine a sculptor. She takes a shapeless mass (as we say) of unowned matter, and struggles to give her vision form; bending her back, worrying, devoting her time, her effort, her best creative inspiration. Whose should the sculpture be?33 But is it because her labour was the cause, and the sculpture the effect? If I remove a loose bit of bark from the abundant fruit tree you lately sat against; or pick a raisin from that cake; or take a pebble from the beach; are tree, cake or beach all mine, because altered by me - and against the moral claims (of need, desert, equal right, etc.) of others? Say 'yes', for argument's sake. In the state of nature, then, I accidentally surprise a herd of unowned animals. Do I now own the herd, being the cause of an alteration in its condition? Try to suggest a recognizable moral ground for saying people acquire exclusive rights over everything they cause to change.
Readers who have not already done so may begin to lose patience. The subject, they may say, was alterations wrought by labour - scarcely what these examples embody. The examples are merely of effects, not of labouring-effects. But the hypothesis we set out to explore was that labouring on things gives a title to them, because it transforms them. If you now object, in substance: transforming things gives a title to them (only) when and because it is labouring, well and good. We lack, consequently, having failed again to find here, a moral reason why labouring does this.
 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, Part II, sec. 3. And cf. David Miller, 'Justice and Property', Ratio, 22 (1980), p. 5.
 See Two Treatises, II, secs. 37, 46 and - on the last point - 27 and 30 (first usage in each case). I am grateful to Geraint Parry for discussion of this point.
 Cf. here Waldron, p. 186; and 'Two Worries', p. 41.
 Two Treatises, II, sec. 28.
 See text to n. 2 here; and Day, p. 209.
 Cf. Rothbard, 'Justice and Property Rights', p. 109; or the same author's The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982), pp. 47-8.
(Part 8 is here.)