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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5577/how-we-come-to-own-ourselves/

How We Come to Own Ourselves

September 7, 2006 by

Self-ownership is the first principle of the idea of liberty. If we don’t own ourselves, every form of slavery and despotism becomes ethically permissable. But how do we come to own ourselves? Through homesteading? No, in the case of our bodies, we must depend on the prior existence of an objective and natural connection to and relationship between the occupant and the body. FULL ARTICLE


Paul Edwards November 7, 2006 at 12:21 am


“The thing is that just because an individual has the ability to control themselves it does not then create a moral right to continue to do so without others controlling you.”

It is one thing to make such a statement, however it is an entirely different thing to make such a statement without falling into self-contradiction. A plain and simple fact becomes clear, if you stop to consider the presuppositions involved in making such a proposition as you have made. It is this: that in making such a proposition, you yourself have presumed that you have a right to make such an argument. You presume you have a right to exclusive control of your own body. You presume that you have the very best claim to the right to control your body. In short, you presume you are the rightful owner of yourself. Furthermore, you demonstrate a preference for self-ownership as do all who ever make an argument.

You cannot make an argument without presupposing self-ownership both of yourself and of those who you presume to debate an issue with. Furthermore, you presume that both you and the person you engage in discourse are both interested in determining the truth, and that whatever truth you arrive at, cannot be in contradiction with the presuppositions of the very act of argumentation itself.

Therefore, since no one can actually argue that people do not have a morally justified right to self-ownership without falling into contradiction, the libertarian self-ownership ethic is therefore indisputable, and universally valid. That’s all Kinsella is saying. I just worded it up a little bit.

“Only conventions create the guidelines for what acts are legitimate or not.”

But this is false. In order to communicate, people need language. This is not conventional, it’s a plain and indisputable fact demonstrated by reason. It is only the particular language that is the convention. Similarly, to achieve the goal of human cooperation and peaceful coexistence, with the possibility of avoiding conflict over scarce and valuable resources, a libertarian ethic is needed. This, as well is not conventional it is a fact again demonstrated by reason. All other non-libertarian ethics, if followed to the letter, result in either the extinction of the human race, or other problems that necessarily encourage conflict rather than allow for its avoidance. ONLY the libertarian ethic fulfills the goal of allowing for peace and justice.

“I just don’t think there is any need for the concept of self-ownership anyway even if it were coherent.”

Regardless of what you claim to think, or what you do think, your actions demonstrate that you, in fact very clearly value the concept of self-ownership. Your very act of debating the question demonstrates this indisputably. To demonstrate a clear lack of respect for the concept of self-ownership, you would need to act criminally, encroaching on other’s personal borders, aggressing in various manners like a wild animal. At that point, it would be clear that you had no regard for self-ownership and society could be deemed quite justified in putting you out of both yours and its misery.

“If X attempts to control Y without Y giving either implicit or explicit consent then Y is going to attempt to defend himself and the only way that X is going to be prevented from attempting to control Y is by ethical norms which themselves can only be conventional. You cannot derive an ought from an is.”

You miss a crucial point, which is that Y is also entirely justified by human reason in defending himself against the aggression of X. It is not simply a convention. You cannot derive an ought from an is, but you can show an act to be objectively justified or not. Justice is a science.

“We need to know what acts are just or unjust.”

Yes we do indeed. And the starting point of this is property. Justice and property are interdependent. The concept of justice demands the existence of property, and property implies justice.

“The category mistake is the application of ownership here and the meta-ethical and epistemological mistake is thinking that you can derive an ought from an is.”

Without the concept of property ownership, justice is meaningless.

“The cut off point then becomes conventional, yes?”

The cutoff point is conventional yes, the fact that there is a cutoff point is not. It is important to realize that in ethics there are principles which are necessarily true, and then there are empirical matters which must be weighed in the execution of justice. People cannot execute justice perfectly, but the principles of justice are perfectible.

“I mean voluntary communities in a free society can live by whatever rules that those individuals consent to, but these rules do not have to be even spoken never mind written in contracts. Indeed contracts need the convention of promise keeping in order to be kept. Without that contracts would be worthless.”

The key is consent and respect for property. That is the essence of a libertarian and just community. The principle is firm, conventions as to what people consent to are flexible according to preferences.

“Self-ownership implies that there is a distinction between a person and his body. Is this distinction a cartesian one between mind and body? It implies no such thing. Are you invoking the cartesian paradigm every time you feel proud of yourself.”

In this context self ownership means nothing more than having the best claim to have exclusive control over one’s own body. It does not imply the usual owner-owned relationship where one can alienate his body and sell it.
“Live Free”

Even this simple statement demonstrates an implicit preference for self and private property ownership and justice.

Charles Anthony October 14, 2008 at 7:37 am

Stephan Kinsella: “God owns you if and only if there is some objective connection that is relevant here. This needs to be demonstrated rationally.

That may need to be demonstrated rationally to convince you but it does not need to be demonstrated rationally to hold true.

A libertarian is still a libertarian regardless of what convinces him to defend the non-aggression principle.

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