Saturday, January 14, 2012

If You Don't Own You...Then Who Does?

Update...decided to turn this into a survey after all...Self-Ownership Survey (SOS).


Eh, this has been sitting in my drafts section for a while.  I would have liked to turn it into a survey... similar to my tax allocation survey...but other more pressing matters keep popping up so figured I'd just go ahead and post it.  I was also motivated to post it by a couple of relevant articles that were recently published.


We all agree with the self-ownership principle to some degree. The question is...where do we draw the line?  Here are 10 arguments with regards to the self-ownership principle.  How many, if any, do you agree with?  How ideologically consistent are you?  In other words...where do you see yourself on the continuum ranging from pragmatism to dogmatism?

Abortion should be illegal - DNA allows us to differentiate between where your fist ends and somebody's nose begins. If you invite somebody onto your property it doesn't give you the right to initiate violence against them. If somebody is forced onto your property it still doesn't give you the right to initiate violence against them.

Consensual slavery should be legal - If you fully own yourself then you should be able to partially or fully sell yourself.  You should have the right to sell your kidneys, your sex and your entire body. You should be able to sell yourself to anybody else for any amount of time as long as you fully agree to the terms of the contract.

Polygamy should be legal - If you fully own yourself then you should be able to enter into a marriage contract with as my people as you so choose.

Euthanasia should be legal - If you fully own yourself then you should be able to authorize other people to terminate your life.

Drugs should be legal - If you fully own yourself then you should be able to harm yourself in any way that you so choose.

There should be a licence to procreate - You should have the right to be raised by people who were willing to take, and able to pass, a test based on a Parenting for Dummies textbook.   It's a violation of your property rights to be raised by people who do not know the basic nutritional, health, safety, emotional, and educational needs of children.

Children of any age should be allowed to vote (children's suffrage) - Everybody should have the right, completely irrespective of all other factors, to try and protect their interests. By restricting any individual's right to try and protect their interests we are legitimizing the idea that one person can truly know what's in another person's best interests. If one person can truly know what's in another person's best interests then it's reasonable for congress to take our money and spend it in our best interests.

Campaign contributions should not be restricted - Everybody should have the right to try and protect their interests. By restricting somebody's right to try and protect their interests you are saying that you know for a fact what's in their best interests.  How would you respond if somebody told you that they know for a fact what's in your best interests?  Would you believe them?

Taxpayers should be allowed to directly allocate their taxes (pragmatarianism) - We all have a debt to society but no two people have benefited from society in exactly the same way. Therefore, you are the only one that can truly know how you can best repay your debt to society. Voters should determine the functions of government and taxpayers should determine which functions to fund.

Taxes should be abolished (anarcho-capitalism) - Your property is an extension of yourself. Nobody has a right to take your property. Somebody stealing one penny from you is as morally wrong as somebody stealing your kidney.

Bonus 11th argument...

Business owners should be allowed to discriminate. - Your business is your property.  You should be able to do whatever you want with your property as long as your decisions do not violate the property rights of other people.  If other people disagree with your business practices then they can express their disapproval by engaging in ethical consumerism.  In essence, business owners should have the right to shoot themselves in the foot if they so choose.  If they want to send customers and/or employees to their competitors then that is their prerogative.


  1. Abortion should be illegal - No. DNA and living cells do not constitute a person, and even if they did, if somebody is forced onto your property, you retain the right to forcibly remove them.

    Consensual slavery should be legal - Tricky, because it effectively is, however in practice you can reneg at any time. If you want to do something that a "reasonable person" would ever normally consider, it would be very difficult for someone trying to enforce the contract to hold you to your end of it, since all you would have to do is claim to have been insane when you agreed to it.

    Polygamy should be legal - Yes, no contest.

    Euthanasia should be legal - Yes, although the difficulty in determining that you were in your right mind when you agreed is likely to limit this in practice.

    Drugs should be legal - Yes, no contest.

    There should be a licence to procreate - Nobody is competent or trustworthy enough to judge anybody else's parenting ability before the fact.

    Children of any age should be allowed to vote (children's suffrage) - No. The age of majority should be substantially lowered, and it might be possible to design a test that can fairly determine whether someone should be considered an adult, but at the extreme, this pretty clearly fails for infants and toddlers. Where the line should be drawn beyond that is a hard and fuzzy question, but there is a line.

    Campaign contributions should not be restricted - Tough call, but probably.

    Taxpayers should be allowed to directly allocate their taxes (pragmatarianism) - Insofar as you accept the need for taxes, at some level, yes. It's certainly preferable to taxpayers being unable to allocate their taxes.

    Taxes should be abolished (anarcho-capitalism) - Probably not. While taking a penny from someone forcibly wrong, I accept the principle from Common Law which is that you can commit a small harm if it's necessary to prevent a greater harm. A low level of taxation is a harm done to the populace, but there are several greater harms that (I believe with some confidence) cannot otherwise be prevented.

    Bonus 11th argument...

    Business owners should be allowed to discriminate. - Yes. Just as customers are able to discriminate.

  2. Hey Lupis42! You should really start a blog!! Why not?

    Well...I modified this a bit and turned it into a survey...A Participatory Experiment in Political Pluralism

    The survey is tied to the creation of new political parties.'re the first person besides myself to respond to the survey. According to the modified I correct to say that this is the party that you just started...

    My political party's unique ID is SOSDAAAAAAAAD

    You can see it's pretty easy to compare our views on self-ownership.

    Abortion...I'm pragmatic when it comes to abortion...meaning I'm pro-choice. That being said, I disagree with your logic. DNA is our unique is the basis of our individuality. Plus, if somebody leaves a baby on your doorstep it doesn't give you the right to directly or indirectly kill the baby. Again argument is in terms of the full ownership concept. I strongly support self-ownership but stop short of supporting full self-ownership.

    Consensual slavery...well...just like with any contract it would be up to the courts to decide if you were of sound mind when you signed the contract.

    License to procreate...the question it an unreasonable obstacle? Would you want to be raised by somebody that either wasn't willing...or wasn't able to pass...a basic needs test that was no more difficult than the written portion of a driver's licence test?

    Just because you receive a driver's licence in no way says anything about your ability as a just says that you know the basic rules when it comes to driving. It says that you wanted to drive enough that you were willing to jump through a reasonable hoop.'s very unlikely that such a procreation licence would ever go into effect. But my hope is that by supporting the idea perhaps we can start a discussion on whether there are any basic child rearing concepts that all parents should know. Such a discussion would help disseminate useful information regarding children's basic rights.

    Children's suffrage...what's the point of the line? Here's where I would draw the line...if I didn't support universal suffrage. The only point of drawing the line would be to influence the outcome. But by trying to influence the outcome you're automatically saying that one outcome is more desirable than another.

    Do I want everybody to vote for pragmatarianism? Sure...but I wouldn't try and produce such an outcome by only allowing pragmatarians to vote. The challenge is that it's nearly impossible for most people to consider suffrage from a purely objective perspective. If we were able to do so then we would have started with universal suffrage from the get-go.

  3. Regarding children's suffrage...check out Ex-Minarchist's's a perfect example of trying to influence the outcome. Incidentally, you two only disagree on one topic...anarcho-capitalism.

  4. I have considered starting a blog, but the opportunity cost of my time is already really high...

    I would go with SOSDAAAADDAAD - I don't have a problem with consensual slavery, I just don't think you'll ever find a contract that the person selling couldn't get out of down the line.

    The issue of right to procreate/children's rights is, for me a thorny one, but I see two easy tip-offs:
    First, as far as a basic parenting knowledge test, I don't see any way in which it could be anything but biased. We'd all like to have all children growing up in the best possible environment, but we all disagree on the best way to achieve that. I'm not willing to submit to the judgement of any committee or voting block on how to raise my children, so I can't justify forcing on anyone else either.
    Second, on children's voting rights: are you suggesting that infants, who start their lives literally unable to communicate anything other than displeasure and contentment, should be voting? Perhaps as toddlers, who are able to walk but not yet articulate their opinions? Or do you agree (as you seem to given your opinion on the previous point) that children, especially very young children, are still completely dependent on their parents judgement? I agree that teenagers should have voting rights, even though I also agree that on average, their judgement is much less effective than that of adults, but I don't think that "of any age" is a functional idea. Children are essentially owned by their parents/guardians at the start of their lives, moving towards self ownership in stages as they grow up.

  5. The very first example I remember about opportunity cost was that of the brain surgeon who paid $6 to watch a movie. It's not like you would blog all the time...just whenever you felt like jotting something down or venting. With RSS feeds it's not like people have to check your blog everyday to see if you've added a new entry. Plus, look at how empty my blog list is.

    Regarding a procreation licence. See...this is the value of supporting the idea because either I have to prove that there are objective facts that all parents should know...or you have to prove that parenting is completely subjective. In any case children stand to benefit from the discussion. Here's some evidence to support my claim...State Advocacy.

    Regarding children's suffrage. The only two criteria should be 1. residency and 2. the voter cannot be accompanied in the voting booth.

    Every argument against children voting can also be used against adults voting. Plenty of adults still accept their parent's religious and political beliefs without question. Well...maybe they have questioned but then they came to the same conclusion as their parents.

    Would parents instruct their young children how to vote? Some would just like some parents decide for their children which religion they will follow. Perhaps parents would do so because they believed their religion/politics to be in the best interests of their children.

    If I see nothing wrong with people spending their money to try and protect their interests then it's hard for me to find fault in parents spending their time trying to teach their kids how to try and protect their interests. How much time/money people spend trying to protect their interests is an indication of how much they care about the issue.

  6. If you're going to use physical/mental ability to vote unassisted as a criteria, I'd say you're probably doing alright, although since I live in a state where paper ballots are fed into a scantron, we'd have to adapt the voting process slightly for small children.

    My argument is literally not based on the question of how well children would vote, though - I'm literally saying that I don't accept the premise that self ownership is conferred at (birth/conception), but rather happens gradually and incrementally over time. By the time they are teenagers, kids definitely own themselves. But I'm not convinced that they can be said to at birth, or even for the first few years of their lives.

  7. (I can't get your link to open, FYI)
    The fundamental problem with the procreation license is that it doesn't just indicate the existence of some objective facts that all parents should know, it also requires the existence of an impartial test that covers only those facts, and/or impartial examiners. I don't believe that impartial examiners can exist, and I don't view democracy as a particularly good tool for determining objective fact -

  8. Lupis42, your incremental self-ownership idea sounds reasonable...but it begs the question of...if you don't own you...then who does? It also somewhat hints at the idea that it's never too late to have an abortion.

    Regarding a procreation licence...if we're dealing with objective facts like seat belt laws...then where does the impartiality come into play? Here's a possible example question...

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics nearly one quarter of America’s children lack at least 1 of the basic childhood immunizations. (T/F)

    It's one thing for parents to object to immunizations for philosophical/religious reasons...but it's another thing for parents to fail to give their children recommended immunizations out of ignorance. If people object to immunizations for whatever reasons then the test wouldn't change their would just require them to be aware of what subject matter experts consider to be objective facts.

    The link that I shared with you was just from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here's another link with objective facts regarding child safety laws in California.

    With a pragmatarian system, as I mentioned when I responded to your critique of the very unlikely situation that a procreation licence law was passed...and a perhaps an even unlikelier situation that pragmatarianism was implemented...then it would be up to taxpayers to decide how much of their taxes they wanted to allocate to the government organization responsible for administering the exams.

    Surely if taxpayers felt that the procreation licensing did more harm than good then they wouldn't allocate any of their taxes to help support it. Pragmatarianism would offer an additional fail safe device.

    As I stated, parents and prospective parents would all stand to benefit from a national debate on the topic. I know there are objective facts regarding parenting...whether there should be a mechanism for ensuring that prospective parents are required to be aware of these facts...well...I guess it's a matter of children's rights...which tie into the self-ownership concept.

  9. In general, a baby is owned by it's parents - or adoptive parents/caregivers, first more or less completely (the parents are responsible for making every decision and taking every action that affects the baby's environment). As the baby grows into a child, it's widely accepted that the parents still retain complete authority over it, at a level comparable to that of a slave. As the child grows, ownership transfers incrementally - modern courts recognize this, in some ways (children can be tried as adults in certain circumstances, minors can be emanicpated if they object to their parents rule strongly enough, but they may also simply be placed in foster care). It's not a snap transition though, which makes it hard to pin down as a legal concept.

    Back to the parental fitness test:
    First, no matter how much it may be intended to test objective fact, there's no getting around the problems of framing - as the 2000 election proved, even the nominally objective fact of "Is this a vote for Bush or Gore?" was subject to plenty of interpretation by the people counting the ballots.
    Second, I'm not convinced that a pragmanitarian system would be as effective as you think in pruning away something like this - even if out of the whole country, only $500 was allocated to such a program, the legal requirement to get the license would remain - there just wouldn't be enough of an agency to get the license from!
    Third, as soon as you include the judgement of 'subject matter experts', the notion of 'objective fact' is out the window. ESR did an excellent essay on the more complicated nature of truth recently,, but the short answer is that on any subject, I can find you two 'experts' who disagree about the nature of any 'fact'. At a macro level, Evolution and Climate Change spring to mind, at a more basic level, remember that there are still serious and reasonably intelligent people who don't consider 'the earth is round' to be an objective fact.

  10. Lupis42, but can the baby truly be owned if it never consented to be owned? Think about consensual slavery. It just seems more reasonable to say that parents are responsible for, rather than owners of, their children.

    Regarding terms of pragmatarianism...just because something is illegal doesn't stop countless people from breaking laws. Every day here in LA people break the law when they drive over the speed limit. If only $500 was allocated to a procreation licensing program then the law would only be a law on paper...not in actuality.

    $500/year though would be enough to maintain a decent website dedicated to sharing objective facts.

    Of course I agree with you on the relative nature of's why I support universal suffrage and pragmatarianism. You can't be dogmatic and support those two things.

    Well...maybe the problem goes back to whether children own themselves. If I owned everybody else then there would be no need for me to get a driver's licence. It wouldn't matter if I ran you over while you were in a cross walk given that you were my property.

    But, since nobody owns anybody else...we all have an obligation to learn the rules of the road in order to receive a driver's licence.

    So, a procreation licence probably only makes sense if you can accept that parents are responsible for, and not owners of, their children.

  11. You assume that the starting state for the baby is "human, and self owning". I'm saying that it starts off as essentially an organ (early fetus stage), and goes through a period of being wholly owned, then partially owned, *before* it owns itself of has the capacity to consent at all.

    As far as saying that just because it's illegal, it would still be widespread if most people didn't care about enforcement, that's exactly the problem with the war on drugs today - laws exist, but they are widely ignored, enforcement is rare, and as a result the law doesn't serve it's purpose, but is instead a tool for blackmail and corruption by law enforcement. That's not an acceptable situation, much less one that would be worth replicating.
    If distributing information was the goal of the campaign, sure - it's funding would survive or not according to the level of support among the populace. But if it's proscriptive, if it can make behavior illegal, it must be either sufficiently functional to make obeying the law practical for everyone, or non-existent. The middle ground in that regard is worse than the extremes.

    It also comes back to the question of ownership vs. responsibility for a baby - (and incidentally, at what point to the parents consent to accepting the responsibility, if you view it that way?), but I would argue that even if you accept the responsibility model, the licensing concept is still impossible administer in a just and equal way.

  12. Right...your DNA is the first thing that you own. It's the basis of your individuality. Every other criteria is too subjective for me.

    Regarding law enforcement...what is your overall goal though? Everybody in Los Angeles drives over the speed limit. Is your goal to give everybody tickets or to change the laws to reflect reality?

    You're clearly against drug laws...yet you would prefer if drug laws were better enforced. Do you want everybody who uses drugs to be prosecuted? Personally, I think poor enforcement is the lesser of evils in this situation.

    Every single law has costs and benefits to society. The only way we can effectively measure a law's true value to society would be to observe exactly how much money taxpayers allocated to enforce that law. This is the partial knowledge and opportunity cost concept.

    We're dealing with "adequacy" here. Can the private sector supply national defense? Sure...we could have a militia patrol our borders. But the issue has to do with whether a militia can truly provide adequate levels of national defense. You and I guess no...and Black Flag and Kent know that we are wrong.

    Maybe Kent's a one man army? I don't know him.

    Yes we can install video cameras in everybody's home to make sure that people are not engaging in illegal activities. But most would agree that the costs of 100% enforcement are greater than the benefits. So where do we draw the line? Are you happy with 95% enforcement...or 80% enforcement?

    I can't truly know a law's impact outside of my immediate reality. Nobody can. Sure...I can consider traffic statistics for days but they don't tell me anything about your opportunity costs. You're the only one who knows what your opportunity costs are. That's the basis of pragmatarianism. Humility on my part is why I would strongly support your right to directly allocate your taxes...even though I might strongly disagree with your tax allocation decisions.

  13. Try 2, 'cause the intarwebz ate the first reply.

    - Right...your DNA is the first thing that you own. It's the basis of your individuality. Every other criteria is too subjective for me.

    But donor organs have distinct DNA. Millions or billions of women, every month, send a group of living cells with distinct DNA down the toilet - not from Birth Control, but because that's how biology works. Chimps and dolphins have DNA, and so do cockroaches and ebola and the bacteria in your GI tract. Even your tumor, should you get cancer, will have slightly different DNA than the rest of your cells (which is what makes it a tumor). So whether you acknowledge it or not, you're using some additional criteria.

    - Regarding law enforcement...what is your overall goal though? Everybody in Los Angeles drives over the speed limit. Is your goal to give everybody tickets or to change the laws to reflect reality?

    I would like the laws changed to reflect reality, but if that fails, everyone should be getting tickets. 1) voters need to experience the consequences of the laws they enact, it should just fall on the unlucky, or whatever groups the police are prejudiced against.

    - You're clearly against drug laws...yet you would prefer if drug laws were better enforced. Do you want everybody who uses drugs to be prosecuted? Personally, I think poor enforcement is the lesser of evils in this situation.

    I view poor enforcement as the greater of two evils. Think of it this way: if the drug laws continue to exist, but enforcement is strong, voters will either act to change the law, or people will stop breaking it. If enforcement continues to be weak but non-zero, many people will, effectively, be criminals. These people now have something to lose when standing up against bad behavior by police or DAs, which silences dissent, but there's something even worse: it enables corrupt DAs/police to selectively prosecute. The police office can arrest the guy who he feels overcharged him for some plumbing work, the DA can choose to prosecute the guy who gave a big donation to his opponent. It turns us from rule of law to rule of bully. That's not what I'd call the lesser evil.

    - Every single law has costs and benefits to society. The only way we can effectively measure a law's true value to society would be to observe exactly how much money taxpayers allocated to enforce that law. This is the partial knowledge and opportunity cost concept.

    Sure, but now we're off the topic: my argument is that a law which is not consistently enforced (say at least 50% of the time for victimless and regulatory crimes) is worse than either a bad law or no law. To allow taxpayers to defund enforcement without removing the law actually makes the situation worse, not better.

  14. Yeah, you're correct that there are other criteria besides DNA...but I still lean towards the idea that newborns have more than enough criteria to qualify for self-ownership.

    Well...when it comes to greater funding for law enforcement...I guess the issue is what you want to do about it. If you want to go into greater debt to pay for it...then obviously I'm not on board. If you support a system that allows everybody to put their money where their mouths are...then I'm all for it.

  15. I'm not saying that we should go into debt to cover enforcement, I'm saying that laws where enforcement is not funded should be automatically repealed.