Zombies: A Rothbardian Perspective


At the risk of poaching on Tim Cavanaugh's turf, I direct you to a radical libertarian analysis of zombie ethics. An excerpt:

For the irreversibly-zombified human, libertarian theory tells us that zombies—not being moral actors—cannot own property. This means that any property held by a person becoming irreversibly zombified becomes unowned, and is therefore subject to immediate homesteading by the first comer. So long as no other non-zombified legitimate claimants exist, unlimited expropriation of formerly-just, now-unowned property from zombies is morally defensible. The same is of course true of the material of the zombie's body, leaving open the possibility of the assemblage of a zombie slave army by a sufficiently skilled and motivated propertarian anarchist.

However, what of the new zombie's heirs? As irreversible zombification is not typically provided for in wills (i.e., it's not really "death"), perhaps a variant of a living will could be used to ensure that the zombified's property passes to their regular heirs in the case of such an eventuality. We might call this new legal instrument an "undead will".


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  1. I am going to memorize this word for word and tell it to people when the subject of zombies comes up because it is thoroughly and utterly awesome.


  3. A zombie can eventually die, if it takes enough damage to the head or whatnot. What about his heirs then and all his property that has already been homesteaded?

    I used to think the archaeologists who take artifacts out of Egyptian tombs are just grave robbers. Then I thought they aren’t stealing from anyone. The dead can’t own property.

  4. OMGosh man what is all this talk about Zombies lately? I dont get it!


  5. I have to ask, what about different types of zombies? I mean sure, most everyone thinks simple reanimated corpses when the hear zombies but what of zombies like Bub or Big Daddy? They actually seem to still have some cognitive capacity.

    And taking it a step further, think of the zombies of the Return of the Living Dead series. They’re still fully aware. Granted, their need to eat brains to alleviate the pain of feeling their flesh rot is basically like a mind controller. That being said, do these zombies, still having the capacity to make moral choices, such as Frank cremating himself, still retain the right to private property?

  6. The dead can’t own property.

    What about zombie trusts, zombie estates, …?

    “Where will it all end, Mr. Natural?”
    “In the grave, my boy, in the grave.”

  7. What the fuck is all the zombie stuff in the media lately? Is it a fad? Or is someone out there actually having zombie issues to deal with?

  8. Proof that anarchists have a sense of humor. True, the article is an example of really lame humor, but even a lame singing pig is amazing.

  9. Anonymity bot beat you to that question, troy.

    The question here is a metaphysical one: does the property-owning personage rest in the body or in the mind?

    If a zombie is a Romero-type, then it has to die before rising again. Legally I think any ownership claims it has would die with it. Just because the same body gets up and starts shambling around doesn’t mean its the same person. The question here is a metaphysical one: does the property-owning personage rest in the body or in the mind?

    If it’s a virus-zombie, on the other hand, the line is a little less clear. Until you shoot it. Then its shit is up for grabs.

  10. Whoops. Sorry about the repetition sorry about the repetition. Looks like I haven’t had my helping of delicious brains today.

  11. The question here is a metaphysical one: does the property-owning personage rest in the body or in the mind?

    Well cool.


    Inspired by J sub D.

  13. The question here is a metaphysical one: does the property-owning personage rest in the body or in the mind?

    What about the machete embedded in the skull of a zombie? Does the zombie then own it?

  14. What about the machete embedded in the skull of a zombie? Does the zombie then own it?

    What about the arm in the zombies mouth?


    He’s right. He is a golem.

  16. I’m a little surprised there’s no mention of the quarantine issues. Granted, anarchists would have no military or police with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, but what about private businesses or individuals? Can those on the outside of an infected region wall it off in self-defense, knowing that they may be trapping uninfected survivors inside? Could said survivors make an escape attempt, knowing that they may endanger the outsiders?

  17. Although the term “undead” is bandied about, they are dead. They were dead and have just been reanimated, the same as if they were eaten by maggots. The maggots have no rights to the property either. I have not seen an explanation of the purpose of the zombification. Do they reproduce, or is there an organism in them that is benefiting. Even a zombie might ask: “What’s the meaning of life?”

  18. I like the idea of a zombie slave army…

    “Ready, shuffle!”

    “Sound off!”

    “I don’t know, but I’ve been told,
    Survivor’s brains taste good cold”

    “I don’t know, but I’ve heard tell,
    a shotgun blast can sting like hell!”

  19. You know this issue really gets messy when you factor in vampires. They too are undead but like zombies, can fall into different categories, and most are considered immortal unless exposed to sunlight or whatever. Clearly the inheritance and property laws need to catch up with all forms of the undead.

  20. The Fresh Start Club unequivocally denounces the idea that the undead lack property rights and is severely disappointed that a fine magazine like Reason and a respectable writer like Jesse Walker would permit such hate speech in their webpages.

    Undead – Yes! Unperson – No! The Silent Majority Wants Dead Rights! End Vitalism Now!

  21. Terry Pratchett already seems to have addressed something along these lines, by making several of his undead characters into attorneys, i.e. Messrs. Slant, Morecombe, and Honeyplace. From Wikipedia:

    Mr Slant (first name unknown) is the president of the Guild of Lawyers, a position that he has held for a long time due to being a zombie. He is also one of the three founders of Morecombe, Slant, and Honeyplace, Ankh Morpork’s leading legal practice. Considering that Mr Slant is a zombie and both Mr Morecombe and Honeyplace are vampires, they are old enough to have been around when many laws were first written up. Promotion is also an unlikely prospect in the firm. Mr Slant is the undisputed head of any legal action in the city and is one of major members of the civil council. However, Mr Slant has also been involved in more sinister affairs. He has attempted to aid in deposing Lord Vetinari from power several times, but only through serving other clients. After all, Lawyers are only in it for the money. He was decapitated during the reign of Lord Snapcase, but, since he defended himself, refuses to pass on until his descendants pay the legal fees.

  22. Maybe people are starting to worry about zombie rights now that there are so many zombie banks being kept undead by the Fed and the FDIC.

  23. Nonsense – of course zombification is death. The “person” who inhabited the corporeal shell has been replaced by a mindless creature that as the passage says is not a “moral actor.” It’s no different than if you killed me and draped my skin over a robot, or a cougar – I’m gone, and something else has replaced me inside that skin.

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