Adventure Capitalism

A history of “Libertarian Exit” movements.

Cory Doctorow
7 min readJun 13, 2022


The 17th century philosopher John Locke is a key grifter thinkfluencer, and his “labor theory of property” is key to understanding the libertarian mind-palace.

Locke says that property arises when the empty, unimproved natural places are mixed with human labor. You own your body, so you own its labor and the fruits of its labor. No one owns an empty place, so when you influse your body’s labor into a place, it becomes yours.

There’s only one teensy problem with this: there are no empty places. Locke’s empty places always — always — turn out to be either a commons, or a place that colonized people are slaughtered for.

In other words, “a place no one is using” can be “a place everyone is using” (a commons) or “a place brown people are using” (a colony — often also a place held as a commons). The labor theory of property always involves some mix of genocide and enclosure.

The Libertarian mind-palace is a place where there is no coercion, only agreements entered into by free people acting according to their own lights.

Now, maximizing peoples’ ability to act according to their wishes is a laudable goal.

The mind-palace part comes in when you go through the intellectual contortions and outright fabulations necessary to find a place where Locke’s labor theory can play out without the taint of coercion and conquest.

This is why junk science like Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” (a paper describing the universal collapse of commons, which presents zero historical evidence for its position) are so popular.

Not because they’re true, but because Lockeans wish they were, because that means that all those Olde Worlde types who enclosed lands, declaring them exclusive property weren’t stealing community lands — they were rescuing them from the “tragedy.”

That’s why there’s still pathetic fools who claim enslaved people fought for the Confederacy, or that the Civil War was…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: