The 'Self-Defeating Morality' of the Lockean Proviso

Homo Oeconomicus 32(2):235-274, 2015

40 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2016

Date Written: August 1, 2015


Locke's theory of appropriation includes the "Lockean Proviso," that one may appropriate ownerless resources only if one leaves enough for others. The Proviso is normative and obviously may be rejected on normative grounds. But it is less obvious that it may have to be rejected for positive reasons. According to Hoppe, private property is a means for minimizing social conflict under conditions of scarcity. But the Lockean Proviso would actually exacerbate social conflict. According to Demsetz, property emerges precisely when scarcity arises and there is not enough left for everyone. Accordingly, the Lockean Proviso may be logically incompatible with the very purposes of the establishment of property. Or the Proviso may constitute what Derek Parfit calls "self-defeating morality." Several adaptations of the Proviso – including Nozick's – are rejected as well, based on the impossibility of interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility and the problem of economic calculation.

Keywords: Locke, Nozick, appropriation, proviso, property

JEL Classification: A13, D23, K3

Suggested Citation

Makovi, Michael, The 'Self-Defeating Morality' of the Lockean Proviso (August 1, 2015). Homo Oeconomicus 32(2):235-274, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Michael Makovi (Contact Author)

Northwood University ( email )

4000 Whiting Dr
Midland, MI MI 48640
United States
48611 (Fax)

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