In this sixth episode of the new video blog, I explain why, for several reasons, the self-ownership principle is utter foolishness and makes no sense whatsoever. In fact, it fails the test for logical soundness on two counts. I put together a pretty detailed argument here, complete with solid references so if you assign a lot of importance to the self-ownership principle, this is going to shake you up!
Update: The comments are getting pretty intense over on YouTube.
- Wikipedia: Self-Ownership
- Video of Larken Rose at Porcfest 2011
- Rothbard’s Second Argument for Self-Ownership
- Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty Chapter 8
- Wikipedia: Reductio ad absurdum
- Freedomain Radio forum post
- Wikipedia: Is-Ought Problem
- Revising Self-Ownership
- Robert Lefevre on Self-Ownership
- Mises Community Forum post
- Self-Ownership is a Meaningless Concept
- The Case against Self-Ownership
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31 replies on “The Self-Ownership Principle is Bollocks! (AYMFL 0006)”
Actually, I would question the proposition that we can control ourselves. As I point out in my entries, 99.9% of what happens in our bodies are not under conscious control in the first place. If we are owners, then we are very bad owners indeed.
An interesting and thoughtful response, thank you!
Ownership is a social-moral concept. It’s meant to be thought of as an axiom for the non-aggression principle. For if no one has ‘any’ property, and isn’t even considered to own their own person, then no such thing as an inter-personal moral breech is possible. It’s not possible to even rape someone, for instance, if people are not thought to even own themselves. For an inter-personal moral breech of any kind to occur, then a property line must be crossed; which is a socially recognized line of demarcation. Throw it out, and you throw out morality.
This makes no sense whatsoever. Why would you ever think that morality depends on property claims? Like rape? Can you show me any proof that rape cannot be defined without the concept of property?
“Forcible sexual relations” seems to me like a fine definition which does not involve property in any way.
Self-ownership cannot be derived from property or anything else. It’s an assertion that people must choose if they want a foundation for an ethical system. Someone actually posted your video on Reddit yesterday, and I’ve been discussing it there.
There are certain facts that have to be incorporated into an ethical system, if one is to design one that is universal and consistent. Some of these facts are:
1) There must be some type of autonomy within individuals if there is to be such a thing as a moral breech. If people did not ‘have their own space’, so to speak, then there could not be a moral breech, and then inter-personal morality could not mean anything.
2) All values are subjective; meaning that the things that are important to you, in your life, in the order in which you value them, are not the things important to me, in my life, in the order in which I value them.
3) All actions that people take are taken to pursue their values, whether these actions are to find food, housing, and clothing; or to go on vacation, and provide their children with an education.
Therefore, in order to satisfy these conditions, we can say that we have self-ownership. This does not mean ownership in the way that one owns a car. Self ownership simply means that individuals make their own choices, act on those choices, and should be given responsibility for those choices. Self ownership is an assertion. You don’t have to agree to it; nor do you have to derive any ethical framework from it. It cannot be proven, and sits at the boundary between what is, (the facts I listed above), and what should be, (an ethical system which respects those facts).
However, if you don’t agree to it, then you won’t be able to design an ethical system which can be applied universally, and hence, you won’t be able to derive the non-aggression principle either. Inter-personal morality must have some line of demarcation between people, to separate one person’s sphere of activity from another, and that line of demarcation, I am calling a property line. The word doesn’t matter as long as we both know what it is, which is a line, that when crossed, denotes a moral breech between two people with different values, acting in different ways.
“1) There must be some type of autonomy within individuals if there is to be such a thing as a moral breech. If people did not ‘have their own space’, so to speak, then there could not be a moral breech, and then inter-personal morality could not mean anything.”
No, you don’t need the concept of autonomy to discuss moral breaches such as one body using violence on another body. We can assume that bodies are complex material machines and still discuss moral breaches in pretty much the same way we do today. All we have to do is delete the meaningless code-words like “will,” “[contra-causal] freedom,” “choice” and “property.”
“2) All values are subjective; ”
I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. But it’s irrelevant since (1) is already false.
“3) All actions that people take are taken to pursue their values, whether these actions are to find food, housing, and clothing; or to go on vacation, and provide their children with an education.”
So what? That doesn’t go anywhere towards proving “self-ownership.”
Can theft? My taking a wallet from your pocket is only a crime if it’s your property (and not mine). Likewise, it’s only rape if the body that you are forcibly having sex with belongs to someone besides yourself. Masturbation, for example, isn’t rape. Nor is having sex with a corpse that you’ve legitimately obtained.
Why must people always bring rape and sex with corpses into these philosophical conversations?
logical conclusions are an important consideration, no?
Do they really require using rape and sex with corpses as examples? This is part of a trend in extreme examples that make liberty folk look like nutcases.
touche, but i was trying to analogize theft with something body related.. i could only think of rape.. or i suppose kidnapping…
As for me, when I find myself venturing into that kind of territory, it’s a red flag that something is not right and I need to re-examine my premises. Those are extreme examples.
Rape is very common. Extreme, sure, but realistic.
No, rape can be completely described and validated as a concept without referring to property at all.
enlighten me, please.
Here is one definition:
“sexual intercourse (with actual penetration of a woman’s vagina with the man’s penis) without consent and accomplished through force, threat of violence or intimidation”
There is no property claim in this definition, just mechanical acts.
sure there is. “consent” requires property rights.
We can keep playing this stupid game as long as you want. Consent:
“A concurrence of wills. Express consent is that directly given, either lira voce or in writing. Implied consent is that manifested by signs, actions, or facts, or by inaction or silence, which raise a presumption that the consent has been given.”
consent is meaningless without property rights. you can dissent me taking my wallet out of your pocket, but that wouldn’t give you the right to prevent it.
What part of the definition I just gave you involves property rights?
(hint: none of them)
“express consent” and “wills”… both are meaningless to justification as they concern someone else’s property.
… and your proof that “will” as a term implies a specific property scheme is… ?
because will is “meaningless to justification as they concern someone else’s property.”
So you refuse to answer the question. Okay. I guess this convo is over then.
i did answer it. “will” as a matter of determining use (including forceful use) depends on who owns what the use of which is being determined.
Okay, I guess you also need a definition of will:
“Desire, intent, choice”
So where’s the property now, Collins?
obviously “will” by itself doesn’t require a consideration of property rights, but in the context of *this discussion* it does. that’s “where’s the property”.
No… in the context of consent, “will” doesn’t require any consideration for property rights. Only mechanical actions like saying “yes,” signing a contract, etc.
Isn’t “woman’s vagina” the same as “vagina that is the property of a woman”?
Wikipedia definition of property: “In abstract, property is that which is had by or belongs to/with something, whether as an attribute or a component. ”
A vagina sure as hell sounds like a female’s property.
my analysis of george’s objections: http://www.everything-voluntary.com/2013/07/self-ownership-as-self-determination.html#.UeQq0421HNg
Excellent. I will read that before I write the followup article. Thanks.