Self-Ownership and the Right to Say No

Did you know you own a person? It’s you. When you own something, you have the right to determine who has access to it. This goes for your car as well as for your own body. While this may seem like a simple concept, it makes a big difference in how we live our lives.

Prof. Dan Russell uses an example to discuss how important self-ownership is. If we did not own our own bodies, we could be easily abused. Without self-ownership, others could try to use our bodies, our talents or abilities, or the things we produce for their own gain without our permission. Since we own our own bodies, however, people need our permission before they can have access to us or our talents or production.

If someone wants our help with something, we have the right to give that help freely or to say no. When it comes to our labor, we may make a trade with someone. We may, for example, choose to work for someone in exchange for monetary compensation. The point is, the choice is ours. We can say yes to arrangements that seem beneficial to us and we can say no to the things in which we don’t want to take part. And the right to say no and self-ownership are incredibly important to our everyday lives, although we may seldom realize it.

12 Comments

  1. Farid Faisal Bestari

    i wonder whether voluntary slavery is compatible with this concept(as suggested by robert nozick)

  2. man0cels0

    Damn, I’ve already seen like 99% of these videos before they were worth virtual points…still better than most things on youtube for sure…

  3. Daniel Pealer

    That is a interesting question, and I suppose that in the strictest sense the answer is yes, though I personally would never consider that option, I suppose it would be roughly equivalent to agreeing to work for a set period of time for a specific form of remuneration without control over your working conditions.

  4. Anonymous

    Your idea is absolutely correct in principle, but you don’t carry it far enough. You assume that "permission" is obtained without any form of coercion. It ain’t. Not when the person or organization you give "permission" to has more wealth or power. And I’m not talking just about government.

  5. Stephen Dincher

    The answer is no. Murray Rothbard details this in numerous works. The basic idea is that self-ownership is founded on the will of the person. A person’s will is unalienable. So even if I offered myself as a slave to you in perpetuity, I could always change my mind. Since my will is always my will and cannot be removed (unalienable) from my person, if I wish to leave and not be your slave, the only way you can force me to stay is with violent coercion, something anathema to the libertarian philosophy of self-ownership. So you can volunteer your labor to my benefit for life, but you always have the option to rescind. Even signed contracts of perpetual servitude cannot be enforced in a libertarian society because the every contract itself is a violation of the natural right of liberty and self-ownership.

  6. Anonymous

    Then why are there smoking bans which neglect an owner’s right to manage his own property independently?

  7. Razorboi

    How can you say that you don’t own your body, if there is one thing that you have the sole right to use, is your body. 

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