*SHOW NOTES* EP. 028 - Self-Ownership & Liberty
Life, Liberty, and Property -
John Locke believed that people had three main natural rights; life, liberty, and property.
Many people misconstrue Locke's words and assume he meant that every person has the right to be given property. You'll hear Marxists use this quote to say he supported the labor theory of value (a theory of that argues that the economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of "socially necessary labor" required to produce it).
According to Locke's own writing what he meant was that people had the natural right to own private property and be able to protect it.
He also believed that a limited government's responsibility was to protect an individuals right to their own property.
Locke wrote, the government “can never have a Power to take to themselves the whole or any part of the Subjects Property, without their own consent.”
You might be asking why the hell are you explaining Locke's views on property, because it sets up our argument to protecting self-ownership...
“Every man has a property in his own person: this nobody has any right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.” - John Locke
Def: The concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one's own body and life. Self-ownership is a central idea in several political philosophies that emphasize individualism, such as libertarianism, liberalism, and anarchism. - Wikipedia
According to Locke our own selves are our own property and if we have a natural right to own, protect, and preserve our own property we can conclude that self-ownership is a natural right.
So when does the realization of self-ownership take place? According to many liberty philosophers; Maturity. This is described as the process whereby the child first becomes conscious of himself, and awakens to the recognition of his full self as unique and separate from the world around him.
Robert LeFevre explains it "As Each person grows to maturity, taking particular note of his own configuration." He continues "As he identifies himself with his physical structure, he will turn his attention within to note his own mental processes"
Essentially what LeFevre is saying is that a person is embedded with self-ownership from the very beginning but it they don't come to the realization of ownership until they enter maturity.
Even if a person doesn't formally think through this process where they recognize their innate right of self-sovereignty , they still take on the attributes of self-ownership.
The History of Self-Ownership:
To many of us this concept doesn't need to be proven by a scholar and liberty advocate like Locke or Leferve. It should seem obvious that you are yourself and therefore you own yourself, you belong to yourself, and you are responsible for yourself.
Now many, especially from the far left will claim (as they always do) this fear is unfounded and paranoid. So why are we as libertarians so protective over this principle?
Well for starters self-ownership was denied in the ancient world. At birth people were placed into a fixed social position with zero ability to improve their standing, many were born into a profession and life they had no control over.
It was only in the Age of Reason did the idea of social mobility take hold. With this came the realization from society in general that each person should be able to choose our own paths and lives.
It took a major widespread movement known as the enlightenment to wake up a world to this very simple yet profound, obvious idea. This wasn't a small task and it didn't happen overnight.
For centuries people were under the thumb of the tyrants and collectives with no right to their own life or their bodies so why would our society be so eager to return to this bondage? I think the simple answer is that they're ignorant.
The Importance of Self-Ownership:
Every philosophical outlook that focuses on what a person should believe and do presumes the center of control is located within the individual.
As Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius states “wholly to depend from himself and his own proper actions.”
Ownership of ourselves is important to grow as individuals by developing our own beliefs, morals, ideas, goals, etc.
It's essential to humanity. Philosophy focuses on the human condition and what the purpose of life is or at least how to live it.
At the very base level of this principle it is immoral to deny any one person their right to self-ownership because if you deny this then you deny the humanity of the person all together.
If a person doesn't own themselves then what do they truly own? Nothing.
Going back to Locke's idea of Life, Liberty, and property; once a person is denied their self-ownership they are denied all their natural rights. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the non-aggression principle, ownership of private property... All of it goes out the window.
It's essential to humanity. How can a person live a full life if they don't own themselves?
In the world we live in collectivism continues to spread and the false idea that people belong to the collective or world and not themselves is simply incorrect and dangerous.
If we belong to a collective then we don't own anything, it all belongs to the group. We can't have our own ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and if you do anything outside of the approved actions of the collective you are selfish or worse dangerous.
So if you have ever thought or been questioned on why we as libertarians are "obsessed with self-ownership" it's because literally everything we believe hangs on this one principle . It's our cornerstone and if it's ever removed then individual liberty goes with it.
I mean how can individual liberty exist if there is no right to the individual...
Do We Own Ourselves Today?
The existence of a state is an assumed power to rule over the individual.
Everyone believes it; no political system practices it.
Any ideology that proposes to support and expand the state implicitly denies it too.
I want you to think of the times where you are being treated as if you don't own yourself...
Ex/ Being pulled over, IRS, sitting at that red light when no one is insight, not being able to travel freely between countries, paying those fees to simply drive your own private property.
Anything outside of preserving the NAP is in effect removing your right to self-ownership.