There is a great little video on YouTube called The Philosophy of Liberty that I would recommend to anyone who has not seen it yet. It is about as concise a primer on liberty that you will find anywhere. The very first premise that we must agree on in any discussion of liberty is who owns me. If I do not fully and completely own myself then I am accepting the premise that someone else has some claim on my life. If this is true then I am not completely free and to the extent that others have a claim on my life; I am in fact that much a slave to those others.
The problem with this acceptance of non-ownership of self is that whatever assertion is used to determine the legality of this non-ownership will always be subject to the whims of change by those who create the rules, and that change is almost always for the worse. One only has to take a random walk down the main street of history to appreciate that the normal state of our human existence is one of slavery and subjugation, all based on the premise that we do not in fact own ourselves. Therefore the basis for a truly free society has to be complete and sole ownership of the individual by themselves. Thus the first rule of the philosophy of liberty is, You Own Yourself.
While self-ownership may seem like a simple and self-evident concept, I believe that most Americans residing in the land of the free would become very uncomfortable when the full implications of self-ownership become evident. We know for example that many of our fellow Americans are Statists in one form or another and the premise of all Statists is that we are actually owned by the state and that all of our liberties and rights come from the state. They also believe that the product of our lives is first the property of the state and what the state chooses to give back to us then becomes ours.
The other group that completely rejects the concept of self-ownership is what I will call the moralists. Most of these people in the U.S. believe that they are Christian. In a country like Saudi Arabia they are Muslims. Either way they are convinced that whatever life choices that they have made for themselves is also good for their neighbors and seek to impose, through the force of government, that way of life on others. What I find so dangerous about these people is that they believe that their right to impose their morality on others comes not from a manmade philosophy, like Socialism or Fascism, but from God himself. Because of this aberrant belief, arguing with these folks takes on the equivalent, to them at least, of the appearance of arguing with God, and we all know only a fool would argue with God.
Regardless of what these two groups and others like them believe only the philosophy of self-ownership is consistent with a free and liberal society (since liberal means liberty and not statist, I believe it is time to take back the language of liberty). It is consummately American to believe in self-ownership. Our founding document, The Declaration of Independence, states that it is “self-evident”, that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights and that among them are, “Life, Liberty, and Property” (I know it says pursuit of happiness, but trust me they meant property).
By saying that these are self-evident truths these men were saying that these declarations stand on their own and need no further proof. At this point I might be inclined to say that our founding fathers hadn’t met the average American living here today, but that will have to be a subject for another day. Let’s just go with self-evident for now. If our founders were right then, not only do we have an unalienable right to life, but that life can only rightfully belong to us in its entirety and therefore implies 100% self-ownership, there cannot be any form of dual ownership here. Not only is this concept universal in my opinion, but fundamentally American according to the Declaration of Independence.
The next step in the philosophy of liberty is the concept of owning your life in all three dimensions of time; past, present, and future. The tangible evidence of our past life is in the property that we accumulate. Our life in the present is represented by the liberty that we experience day in and day out. Our future is represented by the promise of life. All of these are representations of our life and self-ownership throughout the time continuum. Our founders understood this. It is why they chose to put life, liberty, and property in the Declaration of Independence.
One of the many manifestations of present day America’s wholesale rejection of the concept of self-ownership is the taxing of labor, or the income tax. Our founders understood that if we gave the government the ability to directly tax the people it would be the beginning of tyranny. They were right. It is interesting to note that the same people who forced the Federal Reserve and Prohibition on us are also the same ones who overturned the concept of no direct taxation and passed the 16th amendment. The taxing of labor is one of the most onerous things that a government can do because the underlying assertion here is that that government does have a claim on some portion of the fruit of your labor and therefore by extension your personhood. Once a people have ceded the argument that the government does have a claim to a portion of your life it is just up to the politicians to determine how much of your life they should be allowed to own and control.
Self-ownership is a concept that is so important and fundamental to the principles of liberty that unless it is considered sacrosanct by a society and protected at all costs by that society then they will never be able to enjoy true liberty. The history of humankind on this planet teaches us that once the foundations of liberty are breached in a once free society it is just a matter of time before the entire house is washed away. We know that the foundations of our own liberty here in America have already been breached. The question that we must ask ourselves today then is this: Have we lived so long as slaves to the state that our fate now is much like that of the ancient Israelites who God would not let pass into the Promised Land, because of their slave mindset? Have we become so utterly lost in the wilderness of dependence, that we may never find our way back to the Promised Land of liberty?
…Stay tuned my brothers and sisters.