Monday, May 8, 2017

Property Rights and the Shower Question (Continued)

By Robert Weznel

Mark S. emails:
Don't Property Rights begin with "I own me."? Does the person in the shower abdicate their bodily property rights when they shower? If one has a level of modesty that says, "I don't show all my body parts to just anyone" do they automatically surrender their position on their property the moment they disrobe to some level, particularly behind closed doors? If the person in the shower leaves the bathroom door wide open perhaps they do lose some rights to their standards of modesty. However, the point made initially was that the photography was surreptitious and not made readily accessible to anyone passing by. Just as a person that leaves their drapes open at night in a well lit room shouldn’t expect other to not view their activities, the converse is also true. That is, if one makes an effort to not be easily viewed, closing the bathroom door in this case, they are taking steps to protect their property rights and to make secret attempts to circumvent those measures is an act of duplicity or fraud. Which, I believe, does violate the NAP in spirit if not in fact.

If one accepts the idea that it's fine to take pictures without someone's knowledge in the use of a shower, what about using the toilet? Is that also fair game? If not, why not?
First off, as I have made clear before, as Henry Hazlitt did, I reject the idea of natural rights. Thus, I hold that the fact that I may "own myself" does not deduce into the obligation that everyone else must leave me alone (though I wish they would).

It is really going to take my future book to make the entire case but I don't believe there is such a thing as natural rights and I do not believe self-ownership is at the fundamental core of a free society

As I have indicated before, I do not believe that every individual on the planet has to agree on every possibility of law before there can be peace and harmony.

A recognition of private property would be enough: You leave me alone on my property and I will leave you alone on yours.

If a person does not want to be photographed naked while taking a shower, she should
just stay away from properties that do not offer this protection.

As I have previously stated, I believe general "wise men" rules would be adopted by most. If, say, Walter Block, who I consider a wise man, sets down rules for a decent individual to live by (and he is against photographing people in the shower who don't want to be photographed) then I imagine he would get a lot of followers who would indicate the rules on their property are "those designed by Walter Block."

On the other hand, if there are those who are more free spirits, then maybe on their property they would subscribe to the "Hugh Hefner rules," which would allow naked photography of women in showers.

In general, people would do what they do now, stay away from "bad areas,"that is, areas where the rules (if any) do not match up to a person's own moral compass,

There would be no "libertarian dictators" who outline laws for all properties.

A simple respect for private property seems to solve a lot of problems, Otherwise, dictatorial libertarians are adopting the methods of the central planners and seeking to gain control, based on natural rights or whatever to institute beliefs on everyone (even when there are conflicts amongst us. See; Rozeff vs. Block)  and as Hayek has taught, this means the worst get on top.

I say let's eliminate "the top," libertarian or otherwise.

A basic general agreement of "You do whatever the hell you want on your property and leave me to do what I want on my property," would come a long way toward eliminating wars and political conflicts (since there wouldn't be any politics).

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics, on LinkedIn and Facebook. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on  iphone and stitcher.


  1. This is an argument that you will likely lose the general public on and should definitely not be something we as libertarians keep talking about.
    So your position is that now upon entering a property we must ask if the owner is willing to offer any privacy considerations in a closed door bathroom? Would that need to be a written contract to suffice? Would we now have to ask this question prior to entering any establishment instead of assuming common decency? What about restrooms in say a 7/11 that is not normally open to the public but sometimes can be used if the customer asks, shall they first ask if they will be photoed?
    If the property owner does take photos/video of the person in the bathroom without their consent and they (The person being photoed) believe this to be a violation, you (Wenzel) would say they have no recourse, correct? (Aside from never returning, which does nothing to prevent the distribution of such images and any harm that may come from that) I believe that there is recourse and as a man, if someone did this to my daughter (I don't have one but I do for this example) I would gladly head on over to their property and demand the destruction of such photos/video, with violence if necessary. I doubt a jury would convict a father for protecting his daughter from a creep and that would be a chance I would be willing to take. If you want to take photos/video of someone in a private setting, you better get their consent or else I view that as a violation of the NAP. What else could be more sacred to an individual than their most private moments such as in the shower. This is a bad position to take, in my opinion. Libertarian philosophy will not gain many followers with the absolutely abhorrent idea that a person has no privacy within a bathroom on someones property in which they were invited.
    Maybe you should stick to economic policy.

    1. "...if someone did this to my daughter (I don't have one but I do for this example) I would gladly head on over to their property and demand the destruction of such photos/video, with violence if necessary. I doubt a jury would convict a father for protecting his daughter from a creep and that would be a chance I would be willing to take."

      That would be incredibly unjust.

      "If you want to take photos/video of someone in a private setting, you better get their consent or else I view that as a violation of the NAP."

      Taking someone's photo is aggression? If you are Amish, you should go ask the church if you should be on the internet.

    2. Taking photos of someone that is naked without their knowledge/consent to me is aggression. What will that photo be used for? Blackmail? Would that then be a violation? I'm quite confident the majority of the planet would agree that you cannot take photos of a person in a private setting such as a dressing room, locker room, bathroom without their knowledge or consent. I'm not talking about a photo of someone walking across the street, I'm talking about a private setting. You may think that protecting your family from creepers is unjust, but I do not. And I have a feeling most people would agree with me.

    3. Rob,

      It sounds like you have more questions than answers to me.

      Regarding blackmail, see Walter Block's Defending the Undefendable:

      See Chapter 6: The Blackmailer Here is an excerpt:

      "What, exactly, is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It
      is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other
      good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the
      blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailee pays
      the agreed-upon price. If the blackmail offer is rejected, the
      blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize
      the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is
      that an offer to maintain silence is being made."

    4. In this case it is the offer of preventing release of private photos that were taken without the knowledge of the person in the photos behind closed doors while the person in the photos had a reasonable belief that they were not having their photo taken. I can think of a number of ways those pictures could be used as leverage. I don't think examples are required.
      I never claimed to have the answers, I just know how I would react and how I would feel if this situation happened to my family or myself. I think self ownership is very important and in situations where one believes they have privacy, even on the property of others, I cannot comprehend someone stating that the property owner has the right to take photos in a bathroom.

  2. >> A recognition of private property would be enough: You leave me alone on my property and I will leave you alone on yours.

    RW, what exactly is "property" in PPS?

    Take property in land... itself a really complex topic.

    How is a parcel of land defined in the PPS? With metes and bounds? And a deed? If yes, is there a universal standard? If there is, is there a universal authority that administers to such a standardized land system? And if there isn't, how is a parcel delineated such that every landowner in the PPS knows what's their land and what isn't?

    On what basis? Geocoordinates? State Plane Coordinates? On what datum? NAD27? NAD83? Any?

    In PPS, is the rain that lands on your land yours? What claim do you have to rain? Rain that lands on parcel A provides water for crops on parcel B... Who has the greater claim? To say, the rain landed on parcel A therefore landowner A owns the rain is arbitrary. The drop might have traveled across many parcel lines extended into space before hitting the ground. Should each of those owners have a claim to the drop of rain? Same for sunlight, air, sound...

    How high above your land is your property claim? 100 ft? 1000 ft? Infinite? How deep is your claim? To the center of the earth? Whatever the answer it'll be subjective thus conflict ridden.

    In PPS, is a river privately owned? What constitutes a river? The channel? The floodplain? The 50 year floodplain? 100 year floodplain? If the river is owned and floods, is the owner liable for damage to other properties? Where does a river even begin and end?

    If parcel A owner owns the rain landing on his land, wouldn't his rain running off into the river be a trespass? Shouldn't the landowner have to retain all rainwater that lands on his land in a PPS?

    Who owns the aquifer? It exists under many properties but is itself one continuous thing. Who has the greater claim?

    Who owns radio frequencies under PPS? By what right? Why should one person recognize another's claim on a radio frequency? Or airspace overhead? Or fishing rights?

    How are these and many more conflicts in land ownership resolved in PPS where by definition there is no common authority that would otherwise establish a standard rule-set for each?

    Private property in land is not possible without the state. Even if the PPS could be realized, a state or state-like authority would inevitably form due to the inescapable need to establish universal standardized rules for things like private land.

    1. This is the most thoughtful comment ever written on TL. I agree that a PPS wide authority or body of case law would provide the answers to these issues.

  3. Keep in mind that RW is being provocative to make a point (I believe that to be the case).

    Let's look at something less provocative ... eating ...

    If I go into a restaurant, I expect that dogs will not lick from my plate before it is served to me. In fact, I have am legally protected from that as well.

    In a PPS society, hosts (such as restaurant owners or individual homeowners) could allow their dogs to lick from my plate before setting the plate before me (say, hidden from my view in the kitchen). And, in fact, my neighbor can today do the very same. I have no legal protection from such an act.

    However, if that ever happened to me, I would never -- as in NEVER -- return to that house.

    We experience a quasi-PPS society every day. And that is why I do not return to homes that allow their dogs to lick my plate (never happened to me, at least to my knowledge, by the way) or jump on me without seeking my permission first.

    So, you can make Mike S. arguments, but such arguments fall short once one leaves state-governed places of public accommodation and enters an individual's home.

  4. Why have doors to the bathrooms in your house, then?
    This fall within the scope of culture. Having to ask/contract explicit terms for every nominal human interaction is not only impossible but insufferable.
    The only point successfully made is that people who thinks like this are academic nuts or, if actually carry out the idea, a pervert and untrustable "friend."

    1. That is the major issue with these theories that cannot really be applied to real life. This is the reason so many people turn away from libertarian thought. RW is literally saying it is ok to take photos of a naked person in the bathroom because its his bathroom and he doesn't have to let the person know. What a dumb argument to make.

    2. Yet you live a world where your dinner host need not wash his hands before cooking your dinner. He could have his dog luck your plates, your silverware, or your toothbrush should you spend the night. Serve you horse meat while calling it beef. Cough on your burger. The list goes on.

      What if your guest decided to invade your privacy by sneaking a look in your medicine cabinet, your checkbook, etc? What if he then shared all with you neighbors?

      Are these not all violations of some right you claim to have?

    3. So, what do you think that closing the bathroom door means?
      I hope that you have better friends than you describe.

    4. On further thought, do we even have a common understanding of friendship?

    5. JaimeInTexas --

      You are missing the point. Your friends would never take pictures of you -- that is why they are your friends.

      Folks who you even slightly fear would photograph you are not your friends. You have self-selected them.

      That is the essence of PPS.

      I could turn things around to ask, "Why do you think I keep my checkbook in my desk? Or my toothbrush in a cabinet?" Yet there are no laws protecting me from the boorish inquisitor or the jokester who thinks it OK to have his dog surreptitiously lick my toothbrush and record the event for a Facebook post.

      Also, you are conflating "friend" with "host" or "guest," my terms. Not everyone who is a host or a guest is a friend, so to speak.

      In addition, I have no one I consider a friend who I even suspect would do anything I used as an example. Nor would I have a guest or attend an event thrown by a host where I had similar suspicions. And, again, that is the point -- I self-selected my friends, hosts, guests, etc.

      Note: I am not a PPS adherent. I am just correcting arguments made against it that are specious. Let's discuss PPS to see if it works. However, those discussions have to more than tangential arguments.

    6. Not true. In college my so-called friend and roommate set up his video camera without my knowledge to record me having sex with women. He showed another friend a video and luckily that friend told me so I could deal with the problem.

      In PPS this is fine. Even the rules created by property owners on private property are meaningless. It's one-party consent. The property owner can change the rules at any time without informing the guests.

      As demonstrated above, this shit happens now. No different than PPS. The difference in PPS is there is no recourse for what we would today call victims on another person's private property. By definition there are no possible victims in PPS except for the property owner.

    7. Stuffed --

      What is your recourse if your "friend" used your toothbrush to clean bathroom tiles near the urinal and then returned it to your toothbrush holder? Recourse does not exist for all violations of etiquette, common decency, etc. Unless you want government to legislate in all areas of behavior.

    8. I think the point people are making is that there is some level of common decency associated with being a person that we have all come to accept. We do not expect people to do these things (toothbrush toilet cleaning, video taping private moments etc.). However, they do happen and sometimes it comes from someone you think is a friend or that you trust. Evil people are great at blending in, if you haven't noticed. Keep in mind, most women are raped by 'friends' and most murder victims were 'friends' with their assailant.
      Rules cannot be enforced on private property unless the person entering the property is aware of those rules prior to entry. I think that is the main point here. RW seems to not agree with making the rules known prior to entry as he showed with his bathroom photo example. The 'victim' has no recourse because she should have known he was a creeper prior to entry, which is somewhat ridiculous. I would suggest some sort of contract if the person wants to have crazy, off the wall rules on their property but I'm sure in that type of society we would inevitably get a "standard" that came about which is somewhat like having a state.

    9. I disagree that property owners signing some "standard contract of behavior" is akin to the state. The difference being that the state (typically) only exempts itself, while in PPS, each individual owner makes the decisions to conform or not.

      That said, in society, no matter how it is structured, social pressures are great and "guide" behaviors. However, the state allows no exemptions.

  5. My assumption about a PPS is that most everyone will belong to some sort of legal, court and protective agency and they will know in detail where they should and should not visit and where they may and may to visit. And what the rules are in all of these places ahead beforehand. Therefore, there would not be very many places which would need to apply “libertarian law” within their borders since everyone would be in contractual privity regarding the rules and bylaws of the community.

    Further, the unmentioned issue in these matters always seems to be whether or not the behavior in question justifies an invasion of that person’s property and his physical seizure by way of arrest. Forgotten are the innumerable ways that one could punish someone for “bad” behavior simply by disallowing permission to travel on someone else’s road as a result. That could be a quite nasty and effective punishment and would not involve questions of the NAP at all.

    Considering how much hassling and haggling would go on in any event regarding proper levels of air and water pollution, I still do not think permitting the rescue of inadvertent trespassers from life as a sex slave or prisoner is a slippery slope to totalitarian hell.

  6. "...and this means the worst get on top" if there are a choice of PPSs to join, will competition prevent this?