Squatter bobcats of doom!

29 September 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in philosophy | 5 Comments »

From the LA Times:

These sweethearts don't share your definition of property rights. Should they be killed?

These sweethearts don't share your definition of property rights. Should they be killed?

First of all, everyone knows I love cats, right? KITTIES!!! You go, kitties!

Now, to serious matters.

With homeowner in doghouse, bobcats move in

Cute uberkitties challenge capitalist property rights

A family of feline squatters has moved into a foreclosed home in Lake Elsinore. Residents of the Tuscany Hills development first noticed the bobcats about a week ago.

With real estate values plummeting and foreclosed homes sitting empty, a family of bobcats apparently decided the time was right to pounce.

So last week, they slipped out of the parched foothills of Lake Elsinore and into a spacious, vacant home in well-groomed Tuscany Hills.

Residents of the development got their first look Aug. 27 when the feline squatters — at least two adults and three kittens — lolled atop a wall outside the Spanish-style house.

There arises now a moral question, the resolution of which sits at the base of your conception of property rights.

Get offa mah property!

Get offa mah property!

Very likely there is a bank that is presently the legal owner of this house. Can the bank come around randomly shouting “get offa mah property!” like Fuzzy Lumpkins, and if the cats disobey and refuse to vacate the property be justified in shooting them? Regardless of whether they were cats, moral actors, Randian ubermenschen or even Republicans, I should say no, and not wish to share my table with the type of folk who would believe that was really okay. Can the bank transfer legal title to the place to another party, and therefore be justified in killing the bobcats if they fail to timely vacate? I say that the bank may transfer title, but it may not evict the tenants (assuming that, quite characteristically, the bobcats have executed no auditable contractual agreement with the bank). Could the new owners evict the bobcats? To be consistent with the values that underlie the foregoing, I can’t permit them to do that. Could any of the foregoing (presumptively) evil owners delegate killing the bobcats to a disinterested third party charged with handling such matters, in the interests of all? It would all be legal, of course, approved by democracy of the highest quality and refinement.

If you’re the bank, is killing the cute, fuzzy kitties okay? If you’re the new owner? If you’re a delegate elected by the neighbors? If you’re the employee of Bob’s Ancap Defense Services and Pizza Company, Ltd.? If you’re the toppermost of the topmost federated syndicalist committeemen?

It is not okay to kill the kitties in these scenarios. If you kill the kitties under any of these scenarios, I don’t want you around me.

There are other scenarios. Maybe I’ll think about them while I go hunting for more photos of these adorable anarcho-cuties.

  1. 5 Responses to “Squatter bobcats of doom!”

  2. By Ethan Lee Vita on 29 September 2008

    I just want to clarify. Are you saying that property is only owned by those that actively homestead it?

  3. By Mike Gogulski on 29 September 2008

    Ethan: In short, no, though it might seem like that’s where I was headed with this. The point of the article and the questions it poses is to set up a situation in which I cannot (and in which I hope most others cannot) support an absolute right of property that doesn’t make some provision for abandonment and homesteading and for at least the temporary acquisition of a right of occupancy thereby.

    If we assume for the sake of argument that prior claims (that of the former owner who gave the security interest to the bank, that of the developer who built the house, and probably that of the farmer who sold the land to the developer for subdivision) are legitimate, then I still see the bank as the rightful owner of the place, whether we ascribe the same moral value to bobcats as we do to humans or not. I do tend to believe that the bank — as a holder of claims rather than physical possession — has a lesser right to exercise arbitrary (and possibly lethal) control over the property than would an actual occupier. I would support the actions of a new owner with intent to occupy exercising their claim by driving the cats off the property by physically non-injurious means of enclosure, ejection and exclusion.

    There are many different possible scenarios, and I don’t have entirely satisfactory answers lined up for all of them.

  4. By Ethan Lee Vita on 29 September 2008

    So you are saying that abandonment and homesteading should be provided for in a contract of land ownership?

    I would concur on that point. However, I don’t see bobcats as rational actors in the same way as humans are either. I’ve assumed you are using them merely to illustrate a point.

    And for this exact situation(ignoring the mire that government intervention has already caused in it), I believe there would be a more peaceful solution such as enclosure, ejection, and exclusion like you said. Advocates of bobcats, or nature in general, would have quite an issue with bobcats being killed. I believe a market solution to the problem would arise. At first thought, a group could offer(either charity or business) to remove them peacefully and take them to the wild, a zoo, or a nature preserve. This way the land owner retains his land and the bobcats are dealt with in a peaceful fashion.

  5. By John on 30 September 2008

    Wow, you find the most interesting news articles and always shine a pretty insightful libertarian-philosophy light on them.

    What if our vaunted State leaders cause our economy and our civilization to collapse entirely, as they seem so intent on doing, and new purported human homesteaders, desperate for shelter and sustenance, decide to kill the bobcats for food, and then take the property? Killing animals for food is not wrong.

    I think killing the bobcats just to take property that you (the bank) claim to own based on a piece of paper that might not be entirely legitimate, written under Statist legal structures that are definitely not legitimate, is excessive and inhumane. Driving the animals off non-injuriously is absolutely right. Animals do not have property rights.

    If driving animals off of their “homesteaded” land is wrong, then few other animals, humans included, would ever have been right in surviving on this planet.

  6. By Mike Gogulski on 3 October 2008

    John: Based on what you have written, I suspect that you and I share very similar values on the property question as well as on the animal rights question.

    The main point of using the bobcats as an illustrative tool here is certainly not to cast bobcats as moral actors of equal moral value to that of humans. If I had continued to lay out all possible outcomes and resulting scenarios from the bobcats’ squatting, eventually I would have come to a situation in which the bobcats, having been legitimately driven off the land non-violently by the proper (human) owners, attempted to come back, and were then met legitimately with deadly force.

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