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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Libertarian Virtues of Dumpster Diving

I intend to ask the question, "Is it libertarian to dumpster dive?" -dumpster diving being the activity of retrieving food products from dumpsters or grocers and feeding them to people that need it.

The first obvious question is whether the grocer still possesses and owns the food upon placing it in the dumpster. Well? There are two sides to this. On one hand, the owner of the dumpster would in concrete terms have ownership of the food and any other refuse in the dumpster.

But on the other hand, by discarding materials into the dumpster the grocer has arguably discharged ownership of the refuse. A case can be made for the food being ethically retrievable from a property rights standpoint.

If we accept this premise, then there are multiple organizations that can be embraced into the libertarian fold. An excellent example of this is Food Not Bombs. As quoted from their website homepage:

"Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?"

In so far as the feeding is not done through legal plunder I whole heartedly agree. How can we continue to spend another dime on interventionist imperialist wars?

Now of course FNB has a lot of very leftist and
unlibertarian messages and affiliations but they are half way there, as evidenced by the following sequential sentences,

We hope you will join us in taking direct action towards creating a world free from domination, coercion and violence. Food is a right, not a privilege."

I'm totally down with a world free of domination, coercion, and violence (esp. at the hands of the state). And while food is not a human right, in the absence of programs like food stamps that are funded by theft, it is up to people like Food Not Bombs to voluntarily give food to people who have none. While Food Not Bombs is not totally libertarian, the act of giving food voluntarily to the hungry

What really is at stake here is expanding the awareness of the scope of the free market. After all, a free market is simply a system where people owning property are free to exchange it in whatever way pleases them. The progressives can be very down on businesses but they fail to realize that things like Freeganism, Really Really Free Markets, and giving away discarded food are all forms of voluntary exchange.

When a libertarian says, "welfare should be handled by private charity", this the most raw and real example of that. Charity isn't just a church coat drive it is ordinary people coming together to help people in need.

That is what Liberty is all about, giving people the flexibility and freedom to make their own decisions. Actions like those of Food Not Bombs are the fundamental fabric of a libertarian society.

Eric Sharp
Regular Columnist, THL
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