Self Ownership

Foundational in the Libertarian philosophy is that of self ownership. One is born with a bundle of natural rights, recognized by the Constitution of the United States as the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Each individual has these as natural rights at birth. They are not granted by one’s parents, the government or any document. They are inherent to one’s existence as a human being.

While many give lip service to the idea of rights, or nod to the Constitution and declare (mistakenly) that it has given rights to individuals – the fact that people are less free each day in the U.S. is obvious by looking at just a few examples. Let’s examine a few of the issues that face citizens in the U.S.

The first aspect of self-ownership is that of the physical body. We are each born with a physical body. It is incumbent upon each person to take care of their own physical body as best they see fit. If one does a good job of this, the likely reward is health and a long life. If not, disease and misery may result.

What right, if any, does another person have to control the body of another? I would submit that I have only the right to control my own body and never the right to control the body of another. Although I don’t smoke or drink you won’t find me demanding that you stop smoking or drinking. Similarly, I avoid all drugs – whether prescription or not – and prefer to find my health in fruits, vegetables and herbs. I exercise sporadically and others exercise religiously. I admire them for their efforts and strive to emulate them. It is clearly a good idea to exercise but do those who exercise gain the right to tell me that I must follow them in their endeavors? Clearly not.

When people get together in a group and organize, they are often referred to as the “government.” In a sometimes misguided and other times brazen attempt to control others for profit or power, “government” will decree that some things are good and others bad. While making these declarations, the demand for certain behaviors to be emulated or eliminated is typically tied to a reward or punishment. Government often uses the carrot and stick to elicit outcomes. Whether the motivation of Government is good or ill is irrelevant.

History is replete with examples of the misery of unintended consequences. Take the so called “Drug War.” According to news reports in 2012, over a trillion dollars had been spent up to that point on trying to prevent people from exercising their right to self-ownership. A group of people decided that other people should not be allowed to use drugs, should not be allowed to determine for themselves what substances they would put into their own bodies. Simultaneously, this same group called government creates mandates on other substances that must be put in the body. Lunacy.

If we could instead recognize the natural right of self ownership, each person could make a cost versus benefit decision for themselves. The individual lives in the physical body and will suffer or enjoy the consequences of their individual decisions. A faraway group of people cannot effectively or efficiently make decisions for others. The basis of freedom is the freedom of the individual to act in his own self interest – as long as his actions harm no one.

I own my physical body and I also own my mind. Mental self ownership is clearly an important facet of freedom. The right to think one’s own thoughts, to hold an opinion or conclusion that is in opposition to the group – such is foundational to freedom. When the Constitution was created, amendments were added to necessarily reflect rights that by enumeration would be further accentuated.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Before the freedom of speech is exercised, those words are born in thought. We must guard and hold dear the right to think freely, to speak freely and to express ourselves openly and without fear of reprisal from those who disagree. Some say, “thoughts are things” and certainly a thought, an idea – can take on a life of its own. The spark of an idea may lead to a revolution or transformation of an individual or a nation. Each must own his own thoughts.

The First Amendment was first for a reason and recognizes spiritual self ownership. Many eschew religion and others espouse it – but for all the right to worship according to their conscience is foundational to freedom. It seems that many today exercise a false religion of patriotism – we call it Statism – where some look to government to validate their beliefs, choices and actions. Statists consult a peer group of sycophants so that they might feel safely ensconced in the herd.

There are those whose conscience demands that evil be recognized, revealed and reviled. Those whose spiritual self ownership leads them down that path recognize the danger of not bowing to Leviathan. The brave souls who penned the Constitution and stood up to the super power of their day knew that evil is pervasive….so good men must persist. This very time we live in and all the time before us shows that spiritual self ownership is foundational to freedom.

Grab hold of the foundation of your freedom. Self ownership. Guard it, harm no one.