I’m not entirely sure what I think about this issue, but I lean toward Walter’s position – not because I agree that “libertarianism abhors a property vacuum,” but because Walter’s position seems like a natural extension of what I already believe about easements. I’ve long argued that one property owner cannot legitimately buy up all the land around another’s property and thereby either keep the latter prisoner (if she was on the property at the time) or bar the latter from her own home (if she was away) – since one cannot legitimately use one’s own property to interfere with the liberty and property of others. (And why should we count this kind of action as “interference”? Well, that’s where thick libertarianism and unity of virtue come in. And yes, I recognise the irony of invoking those sorts of considerations on Walter’s side in a debate!) And I’ve recently extended that argument to a defense of open borders, on the grounds that even if the government were the legitimate owner of the nation’s borders, it would not have the right to prevent immigrants from moving freely on to property where they are welcome.
Well, then, let A be a circular plot of land owned and resided within by you; let B be a doughnut-shaped plot of land owned by me and completely surrounding plot A; and let C be the rest of the planet, ex hypothesi unowned. I have no right to imprison you within A by denying you an easement across B allowing you to travel between A and C.
Now let the boundaries of A and B gradually expand until they surpass the circumference of the planet and begin to decrease on the other side:
The result is that, from the perspective of the other side of the globe, unowned territory C is now a small circular area surrounded by doughnut B, while A comprises most of the earth’s surface. But does this shifting of boundaries obviate the obligation of B’s owner to allow access from A to C? I can’t see why it should. Surely mere relative size is not a decisive consideration; and what counts as imprisoning has little to do with which boundary is “inside” or “outside” the other. Recall the marvelous image that opens Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed:
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. … The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.
Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.
So anyway, those are my initial reactions.