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Leftist: Only Capitalists Believe in Self-Ownership

In The Unidirectionality of Conversions, I noted that most political conversions regarding libertarianism are toward it, and rarely away from it–an indication that it’s a basically sound, correct doctrine. Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule, especially among libertarians who fall prey to leftism and nihilism. Left-libertarians have done some good work in pointing out the perils of corporatism (which standard libertarians are already aware of, of course), but ultra-leftist ideas about egalitarianism, labor, alienation, class battles, workers and capitalists, land, property, and associated kooky economics can lead to error and confusion. Case in point is a leftist, former libertarian (if he ever was one) who thinks he’s scoring points by … accusing me of believing in self-ownership. Uh, guilty as charged. I … confess. He writes:

“Self-ownership” is nonsense, but let us be clear on the goal of such a concept. Self-ownership is a capitalist attempt to justify individual freedom in a world where property reigns.

Self-ownership is not nonsense at all. It means that you have the right to control your body, not someone else. What else could be more simple, intuitively obvious, or libertarian?

What is striking here is that we have a former libertarian, taken in by leftist delusions and confusions, proclaiming that only capitalists believe in self-ownership. In arguing that only capitalists believe in self-ownership, he’s making a damn good case for why people should be capitalist! I dunno. Maybe he’s a capitalist double agent. More likely he’s just confused.

Then he accuses me of favoring self-ownership so that I “can promote the repulsive and unjust doctrine of parental privilege? What utter nonsense from Kinsella, the king of the Misesian dunces.” Let me get this straight: I argue for the right of people to own their bodies, to be sovereigns; and for children to become adults and own themselves … in order to justify the “repulsive and unjust doctrine of parental privilege”? Say what? I have to say it’s a bit embarrassing to have such pathetic critics.

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  • wirkman virkkala March 22, 2010, 10:06 pm

    I would say that self-ownership is a pregnant re-formulation of the very concept of liberty. So is self-government.

    But it’s all about freedom, liberty.

    To oppose self-ownership, in the context of slavery, and competing varieties of slavery, is especially strange. A slave is owned by another. A free man is owned by himself. To oppose self-ownership . . . I have to ask which form of slavery the opposition prefers.

    And I reach for my revolver.

  • David Kramaer March 22, 2010, 10:07 pm

    So I guess your left-wing friend is anti-abortion because the last time I looked, don’t the pro-choice women say that they own their own bodies and, therefore, have a right to do what they want with them?

  • wirkman virkkala March 22, 2010, 10:11 pm

    By the way, “where property reigns” is rhetorically suggestive, but literally idiotic. Everywhere there is some kind of property. Property is control+exclusivity. Public property is control by “the public” (almost always “the state,” really) with exclusionary rules about certain types of usage. On public property the state REIGNS.

    On private property, the property owners REIGN.

    There is no system of human interaction without some form of control, since we are human actors who control things. The question is, how much scope for the individual is to be carved out? The question is not “does property reign?” but HOW DO HUMAN BEINGS REIGN?

    Your disputant does not seem to be dialectically sophisticated, though he has a knack for base rhetoric.

  • Db0 March 24, 2010, 4:27 am

    Stephan, you seem to be avoiding the actual points Francois made in favour of pure rhetoric. Instead of avoiding the actual criticism, why don’t you try to answer it?

    Once you do, perhaps you can check all these contentions as well.

  • Tibor Machan April 3, 2010, 5:29 am

    “Self-ownership” is problematic because it splits one into two: the self that is owned and the self that owns. Very tough ontology here. Having a right to one’s life is a more cogent idea.

  • wirkman virkkala April 3, 2010, 4:31 pm

    But man is full of self-reflexive properties. Consciousness itself is, perhaps, made up of such narratized mirrorings.

    I see ownership as exclusivity and control. Self-ownership is just another way of saying “individual liberty.” An individual’s liberty is his/her exclusivity in controlling one’s own decisions and actions, particular in relationship to threats of force and barrages of force from others. Just as ownership of a tract of land sets up boundaries against trespass, so ownership of self sets up boundaries. And that boundary is liberty, “freedom from others’ initiated force.”

    I also see “self-government” as another synonym, a translation into terminology set of the same basic notions. Government is control. To govern another is to take that person’s liberty away. To govern oneself is to exercise one’s liberty.

    Individual liberty, self-ownership, self-government — these three. But the greatest of these is . . . not possible to determine, for each is the other, they are all the same.

    Am I way off base here?

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