The Decline of Self-Ownership

Imagine a world in which self-ownership is denied. You would have no freedoms, no control of your life. With no self-ownership you would face an eternal struggle to find happiness and success that only happens when someone or something allows it. Some would argue that self-ownership is the foundation of our human rights and freedoms. There is no denying the importance even though there are some valid criticisms of the extreme libertarian ideal which denies compromise and promotes selfishness.

For the sake of clarity let us look, briefly, at the libertarian definition of self ownership:

‘In the most general sense, libertarianism is a political philosophy that affirms the rights of individuals to liberty, to acquire, keep, and exchange their holdings, and considers the protection of individual rights the primary role for the state. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)’

The Libertarian ideal extends to property and for this reason becomes problematic. While one should no doubt have rights over their products, property…etc if rightfully obtained libertarians feel that no one should be allowed to have this property without their permission under any circumstances. Self-ownership under libertarianism does not allow, for example,  someone to enter their property even in an emergency. Libertarianism, in its extreme form, doesn’t allow for a society that makes exceptions or provides charity. Obviously a society that does not allow exceptions under the right circumstances and does not allow charity is not a society that would function very well. So this blog does not embrace this concept of self-ownership instead we prefer the following:

Every individual owns all aspect of themselves. Self-ownership means a person has  right to ownership of both their bodies and  their minds (emotions and intellect). Self-ownership means every person is free to set their own goals and determine their own values. Self-ownership crucially involves recognizing the same rights in others and acting accordingly.

The definition of self-ownership is very close the definition of liberty that is the foundation of democracy.

Current dangers to self-ownership:

  • Social and Cultural
    1. Social Belonging. You wear clothes and act like others. A basic human need for acceptance within a culture/sub-culture. group, or sect causes this and can only be changed at an individual level.
    2. Traditions: Unquestioning acceptance of tradition can erode self-ownership. Whether it be through accepting a name change in marriage or giving ourselves up to a religion. Many traditions dangerously undermine self-ownership.
  • Political
    1. Collectivism: Rules and regulations that restrict our freedoms. A steady examination of the balance between laws and regulations that keep us safe and keep society functioning properly and the ones that stifle and suppress our fundamental freedoms is crucial.
    2. Corruption: Uncontrolled corporate and other interests that poison our bodies and destroy our environment.
  • Religion:
    1. Mind Body Dualism. The idea that the mind and body are separate. In the Abrahamic religions our mind is locus of filthy, sinful thoughts and our bodies are merely a vessel that does not go with us when we die. Thus we must strive to gain forgiveness from a divine creator in order to achieve eternal happiness. This is profoundly damaging to our self-esteems and forces us to give up control of our lives to external forces and religious authorities.
    2. Faith: A concept that glorifies believing without questioning and to not require reasoning or evidence before accepting something. This undermines our ability to think independently and own our minds.
    3. A Personal God:  An eternal and often wrathful God that constantly monitors and judges is perhaps the most damaging concept to self-ownership of all the concepts within religion.

‘I suggest a replacement of mind-body dualism with a view of mind and body, physical and intellectual, material and spiritual as integrated. Self-ownership embraces ownership of all aspects of my self: my body, my emotions, my intellect, my values. I express my values, beliefs, and emotions in physical actions. I cannot fully own my mind unless I own my body. I cannot own my body if I give up my mind. The two are aspects of one reality and so must be considered as a whole. ‘-Max More

Self-ownership is is extremely important but it is a constant battle to balance self-ownership with sacrifice for the sake of being a functioning, contributing member of society. This blog certainly rejects the self-centered, libertarian concept of self-ownership. We do however embrace the concept that self-ownership is a constant fight for personal liberty  but also carries with it all the psychological benefits (self esteem, success..etc) that kind of liberty provides.


Some More Reading:

  1. Libertarianism
  2. SELF-OWNERSHIP: A Core Transhuman Virtue
  3. Self-Ownership



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