Libertarianism

Self-Ownership and the Right to Say “No”

Speaking of Dan Russell, and speaking of self-ownership, if you don’t follow Dan’s work, you should. Here’s his webpage at the University of Arizona. Here’s his most recent book on happiness. And below is a video he did recently with Learn Liberty on “Self-Ownership and the Right to Say ‘No.'”

Published on:
Author: Matt Zwolinski
  • Joe

    This all sounds very reasonable and I imagine most people are nodding along.

    I propose an very mild generalization of the arguments and principles in the video, which nevertheless is seen as extremist and accepted by only a tiny percentage of the population. Here goes: non-human animals also own themselves.

    Therefore we do not have the right to kill them for their taste (in industrialized countries it is possible, and easy, to subsist on plants alone); nor to enslave them, forcefully impregnate them, steal their children and rob them of their milk; nor to imprison them and parade them around for our amusement.

    It is possible and easy to avoid all such actions and still live a very comfortable life in industrialized countries. Avoiding such actions is the course consistent with libertarian principles. Are we all doing that?

    • ben

      It’s not a “very mild generalization”, it’s silly.

      • adrianratnapala

        Why is it silly?

        I have gone from being a vegetarian to being a meat eater, without having the slightest idea about how to get around the kind of ethical objects that Joe would make. Perhaps you can help me.

        • Les Kyle Nearhood

          In my view there are no ethical delimas, I eat animals because I am at the top of the food chain. What Joe asked is not really silly, but it is beside the point. We are discussing human rights, and Animal wellfare is a totally different thing to be discussed on a different forum.

          • Sean II

            Well I happen to think Joe’s onto something here.

            Animals are self-owners, but self-ownership is defeasible in the presence of certain facts.

            One such fact: chicken is delicious.

          • Joe

            What an elaborate and convincing argument!

            I imagine slave owners are also quite happy to defease self-ownership left and right.

          • Sean II

            But you haven’t heard my full argument, Joe. I have a very nuanced theory about this.

            The short version is that in my ideal republic, slavery will be used only as a means to punish humorless pedants. Surely you can see there is nothing to fear in such a…

            Oh, wait.

          • good_in_theory

            Similarly, statists push around libertarians because they are at the top of the food-chain. No ethical dilemmas.

          • Joe

            > I eat animals because I am at the top of the food chain.

            Depending on how one reads this, it is either circular (“eating animals” is exactly what “being at the top of the food chain” means), or it is a “might makes right” argument. I would like to imagine that it is obvious to everyone in a libertarian forum that “might makes right” is utterly abominable as moral reasoning.

            > We are discussing human rights, and Animal wellfare is a totally different thing

            “We are discussing white matters, and black issues is a totally different thing”

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Only if you have reduced black people to the level of animals as you have obviously done.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          It’s not silly, but it’s not convincing either. What Joe has set forth–inadvertently I think–is not a powerful argument against eating chickens, but a powerful argument against adopting self-ownership as the ethical foundation for libertarian rights. I actually cover this subject in my Nozick’s Libertarian Project: An Elaboration and Defense (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), so I will take the liberty of quoting a few paragraphs (pp.29-30) [forgive the minor formatting errors]:

          Nozick’s single, off-hand reference to self-ownership contrasts sharply with his far more elaborate discussion of Kantian principles in developing the notion of side
          constraints, including the invocation of Kant’s second formulation of the Categorical Imperative. Moreover, in his discussion of animal rights Nozick expressly suggests “utilitarianism for animals, Kantianism for people” (ASU, 39) as the appropriate formula before finally rejecting utilitarianism as too lax a standard. (ASU, 42). Most importantly, since Nozick was seeking the strongest rationale for libertarian rights, he has good reasons for not relying primarily on self-ownership.

          First, I believe that the idea of self-ownership does not provide a convincing, stand-alone basis for side constraints. We can see this by asking in what sense humans are self-owners while all other animal species are not. These beings “own” themselves in the sense of controlling their bodily movements and functions.
          Yet we generally believe that side constraints do not apply to animals, so some other factor must be at work. As argued above, it is rational agency that
          forces us to take seriously the notion of human self-ownership, while largely ignoring the self-ownership of other animals.[i]

          Similarly, as far as I can tell, we cannot derive the inviolability of rights from self-ownership.
          Recall the scenario discussed above regarding the impermissibility of killing one innocent person to save five others. While the special status of moral
          agents renders them immune from the sort of consequentialist trade-off contemplated in this example, I see no comparable implication from
          self-ownership. After all, the five hostages in our scenario are also self-owners. Therefore, I do not see how principles of self-ownership would exclude the sort of consequentialist trade-offs condemned by Nozick as a mere “utilitarianism of rights.”

          Nothing above is intended to suggest that Nozick would deny the fact of self-ownership. As described in the following chapter, he follows the path blazed by Locke in
          defending the morality of “full capitalist property rights,” and self-ownership
          is the first step in this argument. However, Nozick simply assumes, as I believe he is entitled to do, that we own ourselves. Not only does it seem impossible to construct
          a convincing account of how other people could legitimately come to own us, at least absent our consent, but it seems to me that “self-ownership” is self-evidently true.

          On this view, the “self” simply is that part of “us” that constitutes our identity, which by its very nature is ours alone. If another person were to own you in
          the same way that things are owned, you would no longer have a “self” but would be an extension of your owner’s self, i.e. his alter-ego. Accordingly, when Nozick objects to redistributive taxation as equivalent to some people taking an ownership interest in others, he is simply using a metaphor to dramatize the moral force
          of side-constraints.

          [i] There are other serious objections to grounding libertarian rights in self-ownership. See, e.g., Lippert-Rasmussen, “Against Self-Ownership” and Gaus, “Property, Rights, and Freedom.”

          • Joe

            > As argued above, it is rational agency thatforces us to take seriously the notion of human self-ownership

            If it is rationality that separates humans from animals, then presumably we are entitled to kill and eat the mentally handicapped and young children.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Your presumption is unfounded. Lets start with young children. In the natural course of events, they will grow up to be rational agents. Pigs won’t.

            The case of the mentally handicapped is a little more complex. In my mind, the key aspect of rational agency is the ability to judge right from wrong in some deliberative way. I believe even many of the mentally handicapped can do this in a way that pigs can’t. But, clearly there are some people who are so profoundly disabled that they are not rational agents. So this particular argument will not suffice to show that we should treat them differently than advanced animals. But, this fact in no way implies that there are not other arguments that would do so.

            But notice where this leaves us. You started with “Avoiding such actions [using animals] is the course consistent with libertarian principles.” I have pointed to rational agency as a characteristic that gives libertarians good reason to respect the rights of persons (including children and many of the handicapped), but not animals. You are now down to arguing that libertarians have no good reason to treat the profoundly handicapped differently than animals. Quite a ways from where you started.

          • Joe

            > Let’s start with young children. In the natural course of events, they will grow up to be rational agents. Pigs won’t.

            There are two problems with this view. First, it sets up the most basic rights of a sentient being as dependent on future contingencies about this being. It clashes with most people’s moral intuitions: it’s bad to beat up children because they suffer, not because they will eventually become rational adults.

            Second, and relatedly, this point of view would seem to allow us to eat young children suffering from terminal illnesses, who we could be sure would never become adults.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            No. On commonsense morality it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain on any sentient being. This much of animal rights theory I certainly agree with. You don’t need to invoke rational agency to explain why it’s wrong to make kids suffer. But, if put to the choice of inflicting the same amount of pain on a child or a pig, I will choose the pig, because children are future rational agents and therefore have greater intrinsic worth. What would you choose, and why? As I understand your view, there is no reason to favor the child. Is this your idea of something that is consistent “with most people’s moral intuitions”?

            Second, it’s obviously wrong to eat terminally ill young children because as potential rational agents (even if we known they will never achieve this) they are entitled to greater respect than this. Here again, I refer you to the final para of my last comment.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Silly pedantry. Did you even pass a basic logic course? Children and mentally handicapped are protected because they are still human. Animals are not. In your world view animals are equal to humans but not to me or most humans.

    • The term ‘self-ownership’ seems to be used in two very different ways which often seem to be conflated. Thus, a self-owner is something x such that

      (1) x controls the body of x (in some significant ways); OR

      (2) x has the moral right to use the body of x (so others have the duty not to interfere).

      Clearly, (1) is a factual notion of self-ownership, while (2) is a moral notion of self-ownership. Personally, I always read ‘self-ownership’ as (2), or something like it, because it seems obvious to me that ownership involves rights and duties. Others (see Mark Friedman’s contribution) seem to read ‘self-ownership’ as (1). But all this is, as they say, semantics. What is important is to realise that (1) does not entail (2) and that moral discussions concern (2), not (1).

      So, the fact that (1) is true of animals does not imply that (2) is; as is shown by the fact that the (non-human) animals we know are not capable of exercising rights or performing duties.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Agreed.

      • Sean II

        I’m not even convinced that factual self-ownership applies in the present case.

        To say that a squirrel “controls” its own body seems very strange. It seems even stranger to speak in such terms about a jellyfish or a flatworm.

        Must we remind Joe, as Ricky Gervais frequently finds it necessary to remind Karl Pilkington, that the human brain is not like other organs, nor even other brains?

        • This is back to semantics. I was going to say, in my original post, that even robots, or even CD-players, may count as self-owners in that they control their own bodies in some significant ways.

          The ‘significant ways’ qualification is important because no creature controls its own body entirely (as the demand for viagra attests).

          • jdkolassa

            Ba-dum-ching!

      • Joe

        I find it an exceedingly strange claim to say that animals cannot exercise rights. How is a human’s exercising the right to life and freedom — by being alive and free — any different from a pig exercising the same rights?

        I agree with your distinction between (1) and (2) and I meant that animals own themselves in the 2nd sense. Certainly the video posted, which presents self-ownership of humans as an intuitive, almost obvious idea, offers no reason to differentiate between animals and humans in this regard.

        • Simply doing something is not the same as exercising a right to do it. If I punch Fred on the nose, I am not exercising my right to punch Fred on the nose. I have no such right.

          Whether we accord rights to animals seems a bit of a semantic issue. I think we have duties with regard to animals. If rights and duties are correlative, as some people claim, then it looks as though that commits me to animals having rights. However, having duties with regard to animals is not the same as owing duties to animals. It seems absurd to me to think that I can owe an animal anything. But then, to whom are my duties with regard to animals owed? Perhaps to other people; perhaps to myself. That’s a Kantian line.

          But even if we say that animals have rights (because we have duties with regard to them) that does not amount to saying that animals can exercise rights. Exercising a right seems to be a self-conscious activity: you must at least know that you have the right. But animals lack the requisite self-consciousness. (It is true that some animals appear to have a rudimentary self-consciousness – dolphins and chimpanzees, for example. But they do not have the concept of a right.) And I don’t think a being can own itself (or anything else) if it lacks self-consciousness.

          • Joe

            As far as I understand your argument, it seems to be saying that you are only obligated to not kill those beings which have a “right” to live (scare quotes because the notion of right that you use is alien to me); and that to have a “right” to live, one must have the abstract conception of right.

            It should set off all kinds of alarms that most people who ever lived would not have a right to live under your concept of “right”. Young children certainly have no abstract concept of right, nor did most peoples and civilizations older than 5000 years.

            > It seems absurd to me to think that I can owe an animal anything.

            Whereas I find it absurd to think that you are entitled to behave like a psychopath towards animals. I mean, since we’re talking about intuitions. You don’t have to give them universal healthcare and collective bargaining rights; just let them live and don’t enslave or torture them. It’s as simples as it gets.

            > But animals lack the requisite self-consciousness.

            This claim is at odds with both philosophical thought about consciousness, and current knowledge of animal cognition.

          • You haven’t quite got what I said, presumably because I said it too briefly.

            I agree we have duties regarding animals. If you want to say that therefore animals have rights, okay. I would prefer not to speak that way, but I won’t make a big thing about it.

            What I denied was that an animal can exercise a right. One reason is a lack of self-consciousness. Notice, I did not say that animals lack consciousness. But while some animals do seem to have a rudimentary notion of themselves (I mentioned dolphins and chimpanzees), most have not. If they are conscious (as many of them are) they nevertheless lack self-consciousness. I just did a quick search: there is some relevant info here:

            http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/10-animals-with-self-awareness.html

            Another reason that an animal cannot exercise a right is that it has no concept of rights. There is a difference between acting in accord with a right that I have and exercising a right that I have. I can act in accord with a right that I have even if I don’t know that I have that right. But I cannot exercise a right of mine without knowing that I have it (and thus without having a notion of myself). At least, that seems so to me.

  • Sharon Presley

    I have a problem with the concept of “self-ownership”–not with the intent behind it but with the use of this word. Call me heretical but from a psychological point of view, it smacks of Cartesian dualism. Psychologists are far more likely to view the body as inseparable from the mind. That is, there is no body to own separate from the mind because they are intertwined in a way that cannot be separated.
    I understand that libertarians are inordinately fond of the concept of self-ownership, but from a psychological point of view, it strikes me as an over-extension of economic concepts that are not appropriate.

    You all may not agree but this is a point that needs to be taken seriously. People outside of the libertarian movement are not nearly as enamored of the concept of the body as property as you all.

    • Libertarians often emphasis that a person owns his mind as well as his body. If you want to say that mind and body are one, rather than two, that does not seem to change anything. To put it another way: ‘I own myself’ does not say anything about whether my self consists of mind + body or embodied mind.

      • Sharon Presley

        I think you are missing the point. As martinbrock points out, this concept implies that you can sell your ownership but many libertarians think that you cannot, for example, sell yourself into slavery because your right to yourself is “inalienable.” The concept of “property” is generally seen as something separate from the self that one may dispose of as one wishes. Therefore there is a kind of contradiction. Many of the 19th c individualist libertarians avoided such a dilemma by using the concept of “individual sovereignty,” that is, the right to control the Self, both mind and body., without reference to the concept of “property.”

        This approach allows us to avoid the trap that Rothbard fell into when he tried to argue for the right to abortion by saying that the fetus was “trespassing” on private property. This is one of the most asinine and offensive things Rothbard ever said. Granted, other libertarians are not likely to follow that particular reasoning. However I still find the concept of body as property to be highly problematical conceptually.

        • I know that many people balk at the idea of a person owning his body, or owning himself. But many people balk at the idea that simultaneity is not absolute, and at the idea that the sun is not on the horizon when we (seem to) see it there. The fact is that a person who owns property has rights which imply duties on others; and most people (in western societies at least) think that individuals have rights over their bodies, or over themselves, which imply duties in others. The relationship of a person to his body, or to himself, is in substance one of property, despite some people finding that use of the word ‘property’ odd.

          Not all property can be sold: there are all sorts of restrictions on what you can do with various bits of property. While some libertarians argue (badly, I think) that a person cannot sell herself into slavery; others argue the opposite (in fact, I argue that in a forthcoming paper).

          I do not think that Rothbard’s argument that the foetus trespasses on private property was asinine. A similar argument was defended by Judith Jarvis Thomson – see here:

          http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm

          I would not label the argument ‘offensive.’ That is what ‘liberals’ do when they have no counter-arguments.

          • good_in_theory

            ” The fact is that a person who owns property has rights which imply duties on others; and most people (in western societies at least) think that individuals have rights over their bodies, or over themselves, which imply duties in others. The relationship of a person to his body, or to himself, is in substance one of property”

            This assumes the only kind of relationship between things which creates rights and duties is a relationship of property. But that’s not the case. The relationship of a person to his body may be one which shares a non-definitive feature of property relationships. That doesn’t get us to the relationship being “in substance” one of property.

          • In contemporary legal theory, property is considered to be a bundle of rights. I guess you are harking back to the notion of property as a thing. Perhaps Sharon has in mind a similar conception of property.

          • good_in_theory

            I don’t see how I’m saying that. The point is that not all bundles of rights are property, not that property is not a bundle of rights.

          • Okay. But my rights over my body are very much like my property rights over my CD-player. I am entitled to use it in all manner of ways, to exclude others from using it, to prevent others from stopping me using it, to permit others to use it, to permit others to use it for a fee (prostitution is not usually illegal), etc. Surely, to insist that, nevertheless, it is improper to call my body my ‘property’ exhibits an attachment to traditional usage as daft as insisting that the planets must be called ‘stars’?

          • good_in_theory

            Yes, there are ways in which it is like a property relationship. But there are other relationships that could work, which would imply similar, but different bundles of rights. Guardianship, for one, which would better reflect the idea that there are some limits to what one can do to oneself, or as Martin suggested, that bodies aren’t alienable but property is (regardless of whether or not such notions are correct, the idea that one should be prevented from harming one’s own body, or that you can’t alienate yourself, is certainly on the table).

            Or identity, which would get at Sharon’s argument that there is something dualistic, and inappropriate, about describing the relationship as one of property – as something involving two things connected by some relationship. Other things than relationships could confer bundles of rights, I’d guess. Like say having a particular status, like self-consciousness, or sovereignty (as Sharon suggested), which aren’t really matters of something subtending a connection between two relata.

          • Just a little logical point. Relations subsist not only between two things. The relation expressed by ‘between,’ for instance, normally holds between three things. And many relations hold between a thing and itself. Identity is one. Love or hate may do. Ownership also may do. Sharon’s point about dualism was irrelevant.

          • good_in_theory

            Well, when I called identity a relationship I’m pretty sure I was aware that identity is not a relationship between two things, and (as just a little logical point), saying that self-consciousness or sovereignty aren’t about a connection between two relate in no ways implies (logically, of course) that relations only hold between two things. So your little logical point is irrelevant.

            What I take Sharon’s point to be, is that one of the properties *she* takes to adhere to the “bundle of rights” called property is that it is between an owner and an owned and that these two things are per definition separate. Accordingly it would be (on her account) inappropriate to talk about something owning itself.

            This could, or could not, be a useful way to distinguish property from other concepts like property, but it doesn’t strike me as irrelevant. Rather, it strikes me as quite relevant to the question of whether or not self-ownership is a good way to think about what grounds “a right to say no,” as it is presented in this video.

          • You seem to be begging the question. You say (last but one message):

            “Or identity, which would get at Sharon’s argument that there is something dualistic, and inappropriate, about describing the relationship as one of property – as something involving two things connected by some relationship.”

            And (last message):

            “What I take Sharon’s point to be, is that one of the properties *she* takes to adhere to the “bundle of rights” called property is that it is between an owner and an owned and that these two things are per definition separate.”

            But people who talk of self-ownership plainly do not define the relation of ownership in such way that it subsists between two things. If they did that, then self-ownership would be self-contradictory.

            So when you say (last message),

            “Accordingly it would be (on her account) inappropriate to talk about something owning itself”

            that would be simply because, on that account, it is defined to be inappropriate. That would be a pretty childish way of arguing against the notion of self-ownership, so I would not attribute it to Sharon.

          • martinbrock

            Property rights are artifacts. One may posit an inalienable right to self-determination ruling out a person selling herself into slavery without contradicting another assumption. You may think these assumptions “bad”, subjectively, but the person positing them presumably thinks them “good”, so I don’t know where the moralizing gets us.

            In Rothbard’s way of thinking, a person may contractually obligate herself unconditionally to serve another person unless and until she changes her mind and decides that she will no longer serve the other person, whereupon she is free to cease being the other person’s servant, subject only to an obligation to return all or part of the price of her servitude.

            In this way of thinking, the person’s master “owns” her only subject to her persistent right of refusal, but this right is not consistent with common usage of “ownership”. [All sorts of people have “masters” historically, not only slaves. An apprentice has a “master” for example.]

            This servant’s relationship with her master is more like “full-time employee” in modern usage, where “full-time” is more literal than usual, meaning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until she chooses to resign the position.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            FWIW, here are my counter-arguments (from a libertarian perspective): http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2013/06/libertarians-abortion-and-kermit-gosnell-part-i/ and http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2013/07/libertarians-abortion-and-kermit-gosnell-part-ii/. Thomson’s argument is discussed in response to a comment on the second link.

    • martinbrock

      “Ownership” is also problematic as the title of a right to self-governance, because ownership is ordinarily alienable, i.e. my “ownership” of something implies my right to sell it or to transfer my right to govern it to someone else, while many libertarians (including Rothbard) formulate self-governance as an inalienable right.

      For example, Rothbard asserts that contractually exchanging my future labor, for a period of time, for a sum of money does not oblige me to provide the labor but only obliges me to return the sum of money if I do not provide the labor.

      • Libertymike

        The same reasoning applies to the NCAA attempting to prevent Johnny Football from making a little autograph money. Some libertarians shout “freedom of association” in support of the proposition that Johnny is receiving a free “education” and that by accepting his scholarship at Texas A&M, he agreed to forfeit opportunities to profit from his name and image while simultaneously agreeing to permit the NCAA to do the same.
        Both the NAP and self-ownership dictate that, in a truly free society, A does not have the right to use force to compel B to abide by a contract. Likewise, A has no right to ask a nation state to confiscate the property of C, D and E in order to finance the adjudication of his claims against B.

        • martinbrock

          If Johnny Football leaves Texas A&M and the NCAA, I suppose he owes no allegiance to either and may sell his signature however he likes; however, he owns what others exchange for his signature only insofar as others respect his claim on these things, and I don’t know that anyone at Texas A&M agrees to respect these claims, so Johnny possibly should avoid A&M after selling his signature outside of the association.

          When you speak of the property of a C, D and E, I don’t know what you mean outside of a free association. In my way of thinking, you have specified property rights within a free association only because other members of the association freely agree to respect these specific rights.

          • Libertymike

            First, I submit that there is no legitimate “free association” position where, as with Johnny Football and thousands and thousands of similarly situated 17 and 18 year olds, the state is the biggest and most influential and the most powerful member of the association. The NCAA is comprised of its member institutions, a significant portion of which are state colleges and universities, like Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, THE OHIO STATE (football fans will know why I employed all caps for the buckeyes) et al.
            Second, as to your question, C, D and E are taxpaying serfs who finance the operation of the courts.

          • martinbrock

            I don’t think much of states imposing standards of propriety on free associations. I also don’t think much of states enforcing any claim of Johnny’s outside of a free association, other than Johnny’s right to exit any association at will.

  • good_in_theory

    I don’t really get the point of this video. It seems pretty empty. ‘You have the right to say no. This means you own yourself.’ ‘You own yourself, this means you have the right to say no.’ ‘These people said no. Isn’t that reasonable?’ ‘Isn’t it so much nicer when people trade rather than use theft or slavery?’ Well, that’s informative.

    The whole question is just begged. Because we are self-possessed we are able to say no. Do we always have the right to say no? Maybe, maybe not. Nothing in the video attempts an answer.

    Maybe that’s the point though. To assert things as truth without actually making an argument.

    • Sean II

      I don’t know if you noticed this, but the video is just three minutes long.

      I’m sure we could come up with a long list of things it failed to accomplish, and I’m equally sure that list would be even less informative than the video itself.

      Maybe – and I’m just thinking out loud here – maybe the video was made to introduce a very basic concept (without offering a complete justification or defense of that concept – which I agree is completely shameful) to the kind of people who don’t spend all day thinking and chatting about such things (although it’s an open question why we should care about those fucking pathetic losers). All I’m saying is…maybe.

      • good_in_theory

        I’m not expecting a complete defense or justication. Just some. As it is, I don’t see anything other than “you can describe self-ownership as the right to say no.” 3 minutes to say that is a waste of time.

        • Sean II

          It’s a waste of time for you or me, but what of someone who has never heard of self-ownership? They might intuitively believe there is something called “the right to say no”, and they might be very interested to know that this is nested in a larger concept called “self-ownership”.

          I noticed, within about ten seconds, that’s who this video is made for. My first clue: it’s really short. My second clue: it’s a video. My third: it’s on youtube.

      • Fallon

        Follow the money. Russell’s bunch got more than $1m from Charlie G. “Libertarian as long as it does not interfere with my plutocratic privileges and Republican Party strategy” Koch. This admission would have taken just 4 more seconds in the video. But like Koch’s choice of Steve Horwitz as his “Austrian” guy– I am sure Schmidtz and co. at U of A were vetted for “self-selecting” compatibility (docility?). Are the exceptions to self-ownership that Russell might list basically defeating to the premise? Any bets? Who knows, maybe Russell is one that got by– what a pleasant surprise that would be. How would we know?

    • reason60

      It does sound like a Sesame Street version of The Golden Rule. “Its wrong to hurt people!”
      It would be a bit more interesting to see the boundaries of self-ownership explored a bit more, such as what heppens when Billy & Mary make an agreement, then Problems Arise.
      How to resolve, wrt self-ownership?

      • Libertymike

        Perhaps they could have explored your hypothetical.
        Perhaps they could have ratiocinated that, just because Billy and Mary make and agreement and Billy doesn’t do as he contracted, does not thereby mean that the principles of self ownership and the NAP should be abandoned in addressing Billy’s apparent breach.
        Although I premise my anarchic views upon deontological grounds (anything else is just morally inferior), consequentialists should look at the spectacular misallocation of resources attendant to a nation state’s monopoly of the administration of justice.

        • reason60

          Which is where philosophy rises above idle chatter, by exploring where different value systems interact and making convincing arguments that people can use to choose various courses of action.

  • jacksmind

    And if we create a system of taxation which helps the other poor people on the other side of the wall and treats them with basic decency (even though they don’t have the natural abilities of George, Sam, and Jill), and GSJ still have a right to say ‘no’ to work under that situation. But if they don’t then we call all work together to insure self-determination for all. (After all, isn’t the real basis of self-ownership?)

  • Im reading through the comments here and noticing some very well thought out and constructive arguments. However, I think I will let you all philosophize against or for self-ownership and simply show my teenagers this clip. After all, it is a simple explanation into something that as adults we find to be self-evident but most children have yet to be properly introduced to. This video offers them a really good base to start with.