Self-ownership, property right and freedom
Schneider, Matthew Lee
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The self-ownership thesis claims that all persons own themselves and therefore have overriding control of their bodies and labor. Libertarians have argued that the self-ownership thesis also generates robust property rights to things produced with one’s labor, and prohibits redistributive taxation of any sort. Robert Nozick, in particular, argues for robust property rights not only to the products of one’s labor but to natural resources, which on his view can be acquired without the consent of others. I argue that the self-ownership thesis generates a host of desirable individual rights and freedoms, and conditions property and other normative rights to the products of our labor and resources in the world so as to protect and enhance individual freedom and autonomy to pursue a good life. However, I argue against the libertarian analysis of self-ownership, concluding that self-ownership does not justify full, liberal property rights to the products of one’s labor, nor does self-ownership generate unilateral rights to appropriate natural resources, or prohibit restrictions to the privatization of these resources, so long as these restrictions do not abrogate individual freedom and autonomy to pursue a good life.