Header Picture

Header Picture

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where Do My Rights Come From? Who Am I? What the Hell Am I Doing? Can the Government Help Me Answer These Questions?

Today's discussion of self-ownership and liberty is in honor of August Landmesser, a forgotten hero in the struggle for freedom from government oppression and mob rule disguised as democracy. Mr. Landmesser was the person we all should aspire to be.

Standing alone in a cult of personality, Mr. Landmesser personifies the libertarian tenet of self-ownership.
"If freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be fed, like sheep to the slaughter." - George Washington
In August Landmesser's case, his decision to use his natural freedom of speech ended up in his death at the hands of the Nazis. When men prostrate themselves in front of other men, the victims are many and unknowable.

Landmesser was born with the free right to voice his opinion. Government that removed that right, as well as his right to live.

Landmesser was the ultimate individual in a sea of bleating sheep trying to avoid the slaughter.

Where did Landmesser's right to not salute the Nazi party come from? A theist libertarian will tell you it came from God. An atheist libertarian will tell you it came from nature. The difference is minute.

The Concept of Self-Ownership, Negative and Positive Liberty

Much discussion has been had over the past two years about positive and negative rights. Barack Obama derisively called the rights described in the Constitution of the United States as "negative" rights. This was a master stroke of political genius, because, even though he is correct as far as Isaiah Berlin's 1958 treatise "Two Concepts of Liberty" is concerned he is incorrect as far as his understanding of negative and positive liberty is concerned. The brilliance in Obama's demagoguery was that unserious people throughout the country heard the words "negative" and "constitution" and immediately ran to register to vote for Obama.

Negative liberty is best described by the statement "I am a slave to no man." Negative liberties are basically defined as freedom from the interference of other people.

Positive liberty is best described by the statement "I am my own master." Positive liberties are basically defined as having the power and resources to fulfill the destiny of one's own choosing.

The difference is minute.

Self-ownership is the concept that one has moral authority over one's own being, body, mind and spirit. The concept of self-ownership is at the very core of the American Constitution and libertarian philosophy in general. August Landmesser had the moral authority to refuse to salute the Nazis. The Nazis did not have the moral authority to kill Landmesser in return.

A person has the moral authority to put what they will into their body, but they don't have the moral authority to compel others to undo the damage caused by what they ingest.

A motorcyclist has the moral authority to chose not to wear a helmet when riding, but he does not have the moral authority to compel others to care for him after he has failed to take the proper precautions (physically and financially) to ensure his own health after he splits his head open on the curb.

I am responsible for me. You are responsible for you. We are responsible to (not for) each other to ensure that the frontier between our rights does not infringe on each other's self-ownership.


The minarchist believes the state is a necessary evil in order to protect individuals from aggression, including physical attack as well as breach of contract, fraud and theft. Extrapolated to encompass the needs of a functioning society, the minarchist view includes public fire and police protection as well as a standing militia or military. Minarchists understand that these necessary functions must be paid for from the common weal.

Consequentialist Libertarianism

Consequentialists are the market-driven meritocracy adherents among us who believe the free market and private property rights of people are good--as long as there is a common good derived by those rights. To a consequentialist, the use of force against others to ensure the common good is supported and is never thought to be immoral. Violence can be moral because they believe people do not have a moral right to self-sovereignty.

Taken to its extreme, consequentialism is the putrid hybrid political stew currently simmering on the stove of Republican Clubs throughout the country.

Deontological Libertarianism

This view, most favored by the Founding Fathers, states that human beings are born with natural, or moral rights, and that each individual is sovereign. Therefore, acts of violence are inherently immoral, regardless of the reason for the violence. This belief is also carried over to acts of fraud or theft. Our own belief in self-ownership dictates that we cannot engage in violence (physical, intellectual, or spiritual) against others.

Consequentialists do not oppose:
  • involuntary taxation
  • eminent domain
  • the anarcho-capitalist view that laws are amorphous and can be bought and sold as conditions merit
while deontologicalists oppose all three.

Some scholars have discounted the deontological view citing the suffering of losers in economic functions, yet that criticism is easily answered by asserting that self-ownership compels us to understand the possible results (consequences!) of all activities we engage in, and that is is morally incumbent upon us to accept the consequences of our decisions.

Taken to its extreme, deontological libertarianism is a hybrid of Christianity and Buddhism. 

I am a Minarchist Deontological Libertarian Who Understand the Consequences Of My Actions (And Yours Too!)

Shorter: My libertarianism is reality-based.

When a thief robs me he has violated my moral right to self-ownership by initiating an act of violence upon me (deontological libertarian view). When a cop (minarchist view) chases him down and physically restrains him (consequentualist libertarian view) he has protected my individual sovereignty as a function of my choice to include myself in a society.

I have the right to not pay taxes for fire protection, but I need to man-up and stop whining when the fire company refuses to stop my house from burning to the ground.

Pretty much after that, politically speaking, everything else we argue about is a waste of our precious time.

No comments: