Mixing and transforming (continued)
The second (altering) strand in Locke shares with the first (mixing) one a further difficulty, which should not be passed over. For, although well-known, it has never been satisfactorily met. It is the issue of boundaries. It is most crucial in relation to land. By turning a shovelful of earth, I alter or (assuming this did make sense) mix my labour with the earth turned by my shovel. But so - incontrovertibly - do I alter, mixing my labour with, the mound on which I dig; and the area visible from it; and the entire land mass on which it stands. To add to its other problems, this principle of appropriation is radically indeterminate. It could yield large first claims.
Locke, for his part, at least offered something on the issue. Our property, according to him, is bounded by our uses. Through labour, one may obtain ownership of as much as one can use 'to any advantage of life'.34 Simply to enclose an area is insufficient: lying waste, it remains available for appropriation by others. 'As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, enclose it from the common' (my emphasis).35 But there is here a discrepancy between the formal criterion offered - use to any advantage of life - and the substantive specification of it, which is exclusively agricultural. Land can obviously be used otherwise.36 The criterion will fail to place meaningful limits on appropriation. Just by setting foot on this big uninhabited island I alter it, and digging I mix my labour with it, thus beginning (immediately) to prepare it for use as a recreational facility, by me, my family and friends - and anyone else willing to pay me for the enjoyment of what I own. As this example also shows, to appeal to purposes here ('The extent... [is] naturally defined by the purposes for which one labours')37 will help not at all.
The point is that there is no natural boundary, and so a conventional one has to be given.38 But this is ruinous for the principle. The convention can be made to leave space for ownership rights founded on other moral bases than labour-mixing/transforming, if not to render the principle itself altogether nugatory. 'A beautiful sculpture. But you altered only the outside. As we are equally entitled to the inside, we'll retain occasional borrowing rights.' 'Sorry, but we need the inside'. 'Some of the top-soil is yours'. It is understandable if those who still have time for the labour-mixing idea evade this difficulty. Nozick raises it; and passes on. Steiner concedes that it is 'well worth dodging'. Another writer wonders why 'vagueness' here should even matter.39 Vagueness? This is not a case, as is indeed common, of some approximate way of drawing a line, with the unavoidable rough edges. It is a case of there being no line - except by appeal to considerations that are extraneous to the principle supposed to determine it.
(I include Nozick amongst those attached to the labour-mixing principle. It is Waldron's contention that he 'rejects it completely', but I think this is wrong. Nozick, it is true, is coy about actually accepting the principle, but some of his argument depends on it.)40
 Two Treatises, II, secs. 51 and 31.
 Ibid., II, secs. 38 and 32. Cf. Goldsmith p. 581 n. 13, Ryan, pp. 35, 37-8, and Waldron, p. 173.
 David Lyons, 'The New Indian Claims and Original Rights to Land', in Jeffrey Paul (ed.), Reading Nozick (Oxford: Blackwell, 1982), p. 361.
 Becker, p. 34.
 Of interest here, albeit in connection with another notion of appropriation, is G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of Right (Oxford: OUP, 1965), p. 238, Addition to Paragraph 55; and Marx's comment on it, Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 37 n. 26. Rothbard (The Ethics of Liberty, pp. 33-4, 47) has no difficulty with the idea that the extent of one's 'true' property is a 'natural fact' - defined for him, however, by one very specific kind of usage, what is 'brought into production'.
 Nozick, p. 174; Steiner, 'Capitalism, Justice and Equal Starts', p. 61; Fred Miller, p. 285.
 See Waldron, pp. 256-7; and, by contrast, Mack, p. 133, and Onora O'Neill, 'Nozick's Entitlements', in Paul, p. 312. Cf. Nozick pp. 150, 153, 174-5 and 178. And see the text to note 49 in a post to follow.
(Part 9 is here.)