What Is Libertarianism? – Part 3

Dave Killion — November 6, 2010

In my first post on this topic, I gave this definition –

Libertarianism is the recognition that individuals own themselves, and as such, have the right to live their lives in any manner they see fit, provided they don’t encroach on the equal and identical rights of any other individual.

In my second post on this topic, I explained that owning something means having the right to control the disposition of that thing, and then I promised to explain how we can conclude that individuals own themselves.

The self consists not only of blood, muscle, bone, and other physical constructs, but also of intangibles such as talent, skill, innovation, and intelligence.  Since the disposition of these tangibles and intangibles can be controlled, who has the right to control them?  The owner does.  But who is the owner?

There are three possibilities.  First, everyone owns everyone.  Second, one party owns another party.  Third, individuals own themselves.

In the first case, I would own you and you would own me.  That means I would own your food, and your bed, and your money, and vice versa.  If I decide to eat my food and sell yours, we would have conflict.  If you want to sleep in your bed and sell mine, we would have conflict.  Ultimately, control over resources would default to the strongest or smartest or most violent.  So the first possibility is actually an impossibility, as it must always default to the second possibility.

In the second possibility, I would own you, or you would own me.  But since a right must be universal to all humans, it cannot correctly be said that one party has a right to control the disposition of another party without consent.  So the second possibility fails on logic.

This leaves self-ownership as the only remaining possibility.  Unlike the situation in the second possibility, the self-ownership of one individual doesn’t encroach on the self-ownership of any other individual, so the right is universal.  Unlike the situation in the first possibility, since no individual has a right to another person’s property, there need be no conflict over the disposition of property.

So there you have it.  Libertarianism – the natural state of humanity.

Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: The articles and opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Libertarian Book Club.