The Homesteading principle contradicts Self-ownership
Debate Rounds (4)
Human  - "A rational animal." This article refers to humans as "man" though it should be clear that it is talking about "mankind" not just the "males" of the human race. This is used to distinguish human rights (and so what qualifies for those rights). We can see more arguments here for human rights .
Self-ownership  - "...absolute jurisdiction over one's own body." - Rothbard (summarized, he says "his" instead of "one's").
Homestead Principle  - "The way that unowned property gets into private ownership is by the principle that this property justly belongs to the person who finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor." -Rothband. This often just shortened to the first person the works or labors an un-owned piece of property, since "occupies" does not apply to all forms of property. If I'm a logger, I don't need to "occupy" a tree, merely find it, cut it down, and I am the owner (assuming it was un-owned to begin with).
Abandonment - "Abandoned personal property is that to which the owner has voluntarily relinquished all right, title, claim and possession, with the intention of terminating his ownership, but without vesting ownership in any other person, and without the intention of reclaiming any future rights therein."  This is the legal definition in regards to abandonment of property. Since this debate is about owning property, that is the definition which seems most fit, as there is not a solid libertarian definition on this.
Contradict: To be contrary to; be inconsistent with.
I thank whoever accepts this debate. They are free to start in R1, or pass and let me start in R2.
Thanks to OreEle for offering this debate on libertarian political theory, which has become a much discussed topic on DDO. I am not going to make any arguments in the first round of this debate because he has not yet explained where he believes there is a contradiction and I cannot anticipate his arguments. I will be defending the idea that self-ownership and the homesteading principle can simultaneously be true without contradiction.
While I will abide by the rules and not challenge OreEle's definitions, which I find fair and acceptable, I will note that multiple interpretations of the definitions may be possible without seriously distorting their original meanings. Voters should side with whatever interpretation is more reasonable and consistent with a) the libertarian theory from which the definitions are drawn and b) common sense. I could ridiculously play with the meaning of words like "jurisdiction" and "property" and make the debate about semantics, but the purpose of the debate is to discuss political theory.
I will also note that abandonment is not the only way someone may relinquish ownership of their property. Property may be given away or contracted to another individual. So if Pro's argument involves the transfer of property, we must keep these distinctions in mind.
Throughout this debate, I will primarily look to the following three works for clarification and explanation of what is meant by the libertarian position: The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard, and A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism: Economics, Politics, and Ethics and The Economics and Ethics of Private Property: Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. As the theories of self-ownership and homesteading are laid out in these works, I can conceive of no instance in which a contradiction would occur.
Best of luck to my opponent. I look forward to seeing what his objection is.
Simply put, self-ownership says that each person owns themselves, while homesteading says that a person owns anything that they make/put labor into, assuming that it is unowned prior to their work. Those are simple summaries of them, I put more complete definitions in the OP.
So this means that there is a natural contridiction in the case where you make someone. Or more accurately, if you make their body before they become a person. In order for this contridiction to really matter, this contridiction must exist in the real world, not just in hypothetical imagination land. But thankfully (for my side of the argument, at least I hope so, we'll see after Grape's counter) this does happen in the real world. All the time. And to every single living person.
During pregnancy, a baby body is created within the mother's womb. Now, based on the definition of human (or as I recently discovered, many libertarians call "personhood," either way, it is the state of qualifying for rights), the body is created long before the baby classifies as human, and so there is no self-ownership at that time for the baby. Since the body is not owned by the baby, that means that whoever does labor on it (ironic choice of words) is the legal owner as far as the homesteading principle is concerned. That means that the mother know owns it, since her body (which is part of her "self-ownership") is working and laboring to create that baby body.
Now, at some point, that baby crosses into the "human" or "personhood" club. Where the line difference is doesn't matter, even if it is at some point outside of the womb. When the baby crosses into the personhood club, they achieve self ownership. So their body is owned by themselves, however, the body is already owned by the mother. Ergo, the contridiction. To say that the mother no longer owns the baby's body, is to say that her property was taken from her (it was hers, now it isn't, by no choice of her own) and a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle.
I will leave this at this, that way my opponent has plenty of room to quote my argument and put his own (I hate it when you use 2/3's of your characters just quoting your opponent and so can't present your own argument).
Thanks to OreEle for proposing what I think is a difficult and interesting philosophical puzzle. It will require a fair amount of exposition and analysis for me to develop and explain my solution, which we can debate the merits of in the following rounds. The gist of OreEle's argument is that if a person creates another person, there is a conflict of ownership: the created person has a claim to self-ownership and creator has a claim to ownership through the homestead principle. I will attempt to show that there is no conflict and that the question of ownership can be easily resolved through examining the underlying philosophical foundations of the rights of ownership. In the interest of organization I will break my analysis into a few broad categories.
C1: A Challenge on Ownership
Pro believes that a baby is created by the labor of its mother, and at first glance this seems to be the case. However, considering it really means to mix one's labor with property and exert one's will in the world through the creation of something, I see no reason why this should be taken to be the case. A baby is 'created' by its mother in a sense wholly different than how a table is created by a carpenter.
Consider the example of the carpenter first. When he creates a table, he has the idea of some distinct object in his mind which he wishes to bring into being in the world through his skills, knowledge, and tools. He then exerts his will over his property, including himself, his tools, and his materials, and through his skills and knowledge creates the object he imagined. He has used his will to impress his mind upon the physical world and is thus wholly responsible for and entitled to his product. This is the basis on which the homesteading principle rests.
The example of the mother 'creating' a a fetus is entirely different from this. It is a wholly involuntary process that goes on in her body, and the influence of her mind (as contrasted from her brain as an organ, which has some influence) over it is minimal. There is no relationship whatsoever between the mother's will, knowledge, and skills and the baby that results. She is not specially entitled to own the born child any more than one is entitled to own his arm if it randomly falls off. I might well be the first person to pick it up, but there is no other relationship between me and the arm. Likewise, the fetus does not specially belong to the mother just because it was involuntarily and forcefully expelled from her body.
C2: Resolving the Issue of Child Ownership
Of course, this still raises the question of how ownership of the born child is to be determined for the period in which it cannot own itself. Fortunately, this can be solved through allotting a form of limited or “trustee” ownership to the caretaker of the child until it reaches maturity. As a consciously acting individual (and any child that is capable of voluntary motion meets this criteria), the child possesses a right of self-ownership and therefore cannot be physically aggressed against. The child unlimitedly possesses its rights insofar as it is capable of exercising them. The caretakers of a child may 'own' the child insofar as it does not exercise these rights, and they lose their ownership whenever this ownership is challenged. The child is in a real sense always a self-owner, and the ownership of others over the child is in absentia only.
C3: The Final Issue of Self-Ownership and Homesteading
In order to clarify any ambiguities in the position on self-ownership and homesteading that I have outlined, consider a philosophically relevant but physically impossible scenario: upon the carpenter's creation of the table, the table comes alive and demands the right to self-ownership. It obstinately marches out of the workshop and refuses to be the slave of anyone. There is still no issue here when we consider in more detail the basis for the carpenter's ownership of the table.
Specifically, the carpenter's exercise of his will over the physical world through the table was the connection between his mind and the physical world that established his basis for ownership. It is not based on some totally arbitrary claim that if you alter an object, you are its possessor (this leads to the ridiculous conclusion that barbers can homestead people's hair, etc). Once the table begins to act of its own will, the basis for the carpenter's ownership of it through the homesteading principle no longer exists and it is now the will of the table itself the establishes the connection between minds and the physical world that is the basis for property. The table is a self-owner as soon as it claims that right. The very basis on which we are able to own anything is that the thing in question does not assert its own ownership and so we may claim it. The very same principle is fully applicable to children.
There are never two owners of the person. Once a child exhibits the capacity for self-ownership, its homesteader (if such a homesteader so exists) loses the right to own it because that right had been based on the lack of self-ownership of the child in the first place. There is not even any reason to believe that a mother is a homesteader of a child because she does not create it in a meaningful sense. It is equally unreasonable to believe that caretakers of children are anymore than trustees of the rights that the child has but is not presently capable of exercising.
There is a chapter of The Ethics of Liberty on this topic (Chapter 14). That was the only outside material I directly used.
1) A Challenge on Ownership
My opponent is right, in that this is wholly different from building a table, or really, the manufacturing of anything. However, it is not that much different from someone who isn't a manufacturer, like say, a farmer. A farmer cannot will the sun to shine, nor can he will the rain to fall, or the seeds which he planted to grow. However, I don't think my opponent, nor libertarian philosophy in general, would argue that the farmer does not own his crop during the entire time it is growing.
My opponent may say that the farmer willed the crop and exerted his labor by tilling the soil and planting the seeds, but in the case of having a baby, can that not also be true for a women? Can she not have sex with the willed intention of having a baby?
Regarding a fallen limb, I would assume that you would be the owner of it, even if someone should pick it up first. Unless of course, you left it on the ground willingly, and so it would be considered abandoned property and be owned by the first to take it and labor upon it. But should it just fall off, and I grab it first while you are attempting to grab it, I wouldn't think that any libertarian would agree that the arm is mine instead of yours.
2) Resolving the Issue of Child Ownership
My opponent states, "allotting a form of limited or "trustee" ownership to the caretaker of the child until it reaches maturity." Now, for this to make sense I will first clarify the word "allotting." According to the dictionary, this means "to assign as a share or portion" . But I ask, who is doing the assigning? At the early stages of pregnancy (any time between conception and the baby reaches self-ownership) the baby is nothing more than a group of cells with no rights (since it does not meet the definition of personhood). Any entity coming in and telling the mother that she has "limited ownership" over something that has no legal difference than a farmer's crop, would be a violation of her property rights.
3) The Final Issue of Self-Ownership and Homesteading
Here, my opponent goes into a more philosophicaly arguement and claims that the right of homesteading or therefore owning any property is dependent that object not claiming self-ownership of itself. While this sounds inherently true, upon just a little bit of digging, we find this to be the equivilent of theft, that is, non-agreed transition of property from one ownership to another.
The baby's body was owned by the mother, once the baby reaches the level of self-ownership, it takes ownership of its body, even if against the mother's (the current owner's) will. It is this very theft, even if we agree that the baby "should" hold self-ownership, that is the contridiction between the two. It wouldn't be hard if placed before a court to look at this. The body was owned, by accepted libertarian philosophies, by the mother. It was her property. Then the baby took ownership of that property without the mother's consent.
For this round I am going to return to the same issues as before while elaborating on them and showing how OreEle's view is simplistic and ultimately incorrect.
C1: A Challenge on Ownership
What Pro demonstrates here is that people do not have direct power over every process of a constructive task and only set certain parts of it in motion. In reality, the analogy of the farmer is the same as a carpenter who uses glue but does not will it to dry. However, this distinction does not really change the point I was making, which is that the created object is the result of the creator's will. A carpenter conceives of a table or a farmer conceives of a farm in his mind and expresses his will upon the world in his action of creation.
When a child is conceived, it is not the product of anyone's will, it is not anyone's idea, and it does not require anyone's skills and knowledge to exist. It is simply the result of a natural process that is ultimately outside anyone's control. One does not decide to start or stop being pregnant and no skills, ideas, or effort is required to move the process along. It is quite possible that one could have a child without actively choosing to do anything. Cheer leading the process as it goes on is not an act of creation.
Describing sex as a constructive act to create a child clearly cannot work. Is anything being created at all or does anything go on that is remotely connected to the physical construction of a human being? That fact that it is possible to have sex without thinking of the possibility of pregnancy (I hope I don't need a source for this) indicates that no constructive act is really occurring. The fact that it is possible to pretend that you are creating a baby does not invalidate this; it's a bit like enthusiastically watching a tree grow and claiming you were the reason why it did.
Finally, the arm analogy has difficult consequences for the Pro position. If I decide that I no longer wish to shower, do I own the air through which my stench permeates? The result of consequences of one's passive actions, even those directly resulting from his or her physical body, cannot be considered homesteaded automatically the way intentional acts of creation are. They must be homesteaded as new, unowned entities.
C2: Resolving the Issue of Child Ownership
Pro's first objection to this point is that I have not defined who is responsible for establishing the trustee relationship between parents and children. Ideally, parents would agree to care for their children and make limited decisions for them until their children were old enough to do this themselves. A child's rights could be ignored only insofar as it is not capable of expressing or exercising them. For instance, a baby cannot give its consent to be carried around. More harmful forms of aggression could still be prohibited.
What Pro is asking for now is an outline for a legal system and not an ethical theory. They are many possible ways a system of definition and enforcement of such rights could be set up, some of which are by no means radical or incompatible with the state, that could be equal on ethical grounds or flawed on points too minute to warrant a place in this discussion. The point is that trustee ownership of something while the proper owner is in absentia does not violate either the homestead principle or self ownership and thus provides a coherent way to resolve the issue of child ownership.
Pro asserts that anyone telling the mother that she had limited rights over her creation would be violating her property rights. I have stressed above in some detail why the child is not the legitimate homesteaded property of its mother, so I consider this entire claim invalid. Indeed, the child has much more to do with its own existence than the mother, who does nothing but involuntarily provide it with room and board. The fetus is the entity that creates itself in this scenario.
In any case, the restriction to limited ownership is not problematic since there are already limitations on what you can do with property in a libertarian society. If a own a gun, I may not shoot it at innocent people. A farmer may not grow poisonous plants and burn them, creating a deadly fume that expands into other people's houses. In short, we may not do things that violate the rights of other people. That means that even if we 'own' a person, we may not do things to that person that violate its rights. Killing or hurting a child that we are the temporary caretaker of is a clear example of violating someone's rights since the child clearly does not consent to such a thing. On the other hand, it is still permissible to preform a lifesaving surgery on an infant because it would reasonably consent to such an agreement but by circumstance cannot.
A mother's homesteaded property rights are not being violated if she is prohibited from harming her children. This is the protection of their right to self ownership. She has not created her children, and even if they are her creations she cannot own their 'selves' which are ultimately being threatened.
C3: The Final Issue of Self Ownership and Homesteading
Pro argues that any circumstance in which ownership is transferred from A to B without A's consent must be theft. This is a gross oversimplification of what is necessary for an act to be theft. Prohibiting a person from using drugs would qualify, though this is clearly a different offense. Likewise, picking up a lost item that was not willingly abandoned would be theft. Rather, theft requires that B forcibly remove from A what is otherwise still under A's will and rightfully his.
I maintain that the ownership of an object by a person is dependent on that objects nonownership of itself. The entire purpose of property rights is to determine who shall fairly use an object that already owned, and an object claiming self ownership cannot be unowned. Pro's suggestion is equivalent to meeting a person for the first time while he is asleep, 'homesteading' him, and claiming he is your slave when he wakes up. Once an object claims ownership of itself, it cannot be owned in any other way.
This is more than simply a transfer of ownership. The maturation of a child (or the coming to life of an inanimate creation) is a change in the state of a thing that makes self-owning what was previously externally owned. The ownership of objects, and indeed the possibility of ownership of objects, is ultimately dependent on their physical states. The physical state of an object may change so that it becomes self-owning.
In any case, consider any possible justification of self-ownership and the homestead principle. There is no way that a discourse ethics approach could justify external ownership to a person who protested it, and natural rights arguments are clearly on the side of the child. Even a utilitarian argument like David Friedman's could not favor child slavery.
There is no possible justification for the mother's ownership of the child; every approach concludes that the child has a right to own itself and that this right can only be limited in the child's interest and only insofar has it cannot be autonomously exercised. It should not be taken for granted that a mother is the rightful owner of her children, and indeed there is no reason in particular to think that this is true. Even if this is so, the natural shift of ownership from caretaker to the individual as a result of growth cannot be construed as theft under any reasonable and contextually relevant definition of the term.
Those who create autonomous beings do exactly that. They create beings that are autonomous and self-owning. The fact that the creator has created them does not alter the fundamental characteristics of their being that grant them the right to own themselves.
C1: A Challenge on Ownership.
My opponent states, "When a child is conceived, it is not the product of anyone's will, it is not anyone's idea, and it does not require anyone's skills and knowledge to exist. It is simply the result of a natural process that is ultimately outside anyone's control. One does not decide to start or stop being pregnant and no skills, ideas, or effort is required to move the process along."
Parents often preform actions with the direct intent of having a baby. And the mother often takes direct action to make sure the baby develops healthy, such as taking pre-natal vitamins. This is no different from farming. A farmer is free to planet his seeds, and put effort into helping it grow. He cannot directly make a planet grow, but he can take known steps to improve its success, exactly like a mother can.
"Describing sex as a constructive act to create a child clearly cannot work. Is anything being created at all or does anything go on that is remotely connected to the physical construction of a human being? That fact that it is possible to have sex without thinking of the possibility of pregnancy (I hope I don't need a source for this) indicates that no constructive act is really occurring."
It is no different than a farmer planting a seed. Whether the seed is planted intentionally, with the hopes of growing a crop (like parents having sex with the intent of getting pregnant), or whether it is from him tossing an apply core that he finished eating onto the ground (accidental pregnancy).
The fact that it is one can accidently have sex does not change that it is the initiating process of pregnancy.
C2: Resolving the Issue of Child Ownership.
Parents "could" do that. Parents could also simple willingly give the ownership rights back to their children, and avoid the contradiction. But that is merely a possibility, while parents also could simply "not" do that.
While different system may not be incompatible with state, they are incompatible with Self-ownership and the NAP. If I own my property, no one is allowed to force me to use it in a particular way, unless my way is violating their rights. We see this argument all the time with "taxes = theft" arguments.
"The fetus is the entity that creates itself in this scenario."
This is entirely false. The egg of which started it, was created by the mother. The Placenta, which delivers all the nutrients, is created by the mother. The mother's body gives the baby all it's food for growth.
Thanks to OreEle for a fun and interesting debate. There are a ton of loose ends here, and I'm going to try to tie as many of them up as possible without bringing new arguments. This has made me think about a few points that I would like to develop and which could be the subject of future debates. That all said, I am going to go on to the actual debate.
C1: A Challenge on Ownership
OreEle says that parents can take actions with the intent of having a baby. I can take actions with the direct intent of causing the sun to rise. It will, but that doesn't mean I caused it. Unless intentional action is taken against it, the baby will be born. There is no will or intention involved. Doing something to “help” the fetus does not count as creating it if it would have existed anyway. Even if a prenatal vitamin was the difference between life and death for the fetus, a casual relationship between an action and an object's existence is not enough to homestead it; the result must be an expression of the actor's will upon the world through a direct action. Complex biochemical processes cannot qualify.
The farmer argument is at best a wash because I can just agree with OreEle that the farmer does not own the crops. They are presumably on his property, so he can just forbid anyone from taking them and go formally homestead them by reaping them after he's grown them.
There will always be certain components of a creative process that we don't have perfect control over, but that is not the key issue. The key issue is whether will and intent are present. It is possible to become pregnant involuntarily and care a fetus to term against your will and unintentionally. You cannot unintentionally plant crops or build a table. Because it is possible to have a baby unintentionally, an infant cannot be considered the product of its mother's will or intention. Even if there is will and intent, it's not essential. I cannot homestead the stars because I claim I will them to shine.
C2: Resolving the Issue of Child Ownership
Some of the debate here seems to have resulted from an organizational problem on my end. C3 should have come before this, because the purpose of this claim is to resolve discontinuities in ownership that could result from various interpretations of C3.
Thus, Pro's claim that parents might or might not be willing to give up partial ownership of their child is resolved under C3. Once the children acquired certain traits, they would have to. I will defend this under C3.
This is not an example of people being forced to use property in a certain way, it is an example of ownership being shared. It is possible for us to agree to share the use of something without violating libertarian laws. Pro is conflating the possibility of him owning ½ of A and me owning ½ of A, which is possible, with us both owning all of A, which is impossible.
So, when the child is born and has no self-ownership, it would be owned by its parents. As it grows and its capacity for self-ownership increases, ownership would be shifted from the parents to the child according to the principles outlined in C3.
Finally, I will explain what I mean when I say the fetus creates itself and why Pro's objection is a non sequitur. He claims that the mother creates the fetus because the nutrients come from her body. Well, when my body regenerates old tissue the nutrients may come from a sandwich, but it does not create me. The processes of growth that go on inside a person's body are not controlled by anyone. Under Pro's interpretation they are my action (or the fetus's action), and as per C1 I don't think we should consider this valid homesteading activity anyway.
C3: The Final Issue of Ownership and Homesteading
Pro's response on this point is located in the comments section. It's a bit confusing and doesn't directly address my core argument, so I'll go over my original point again. I have argued that whether or not we can own something is dependent on the characteristics of the thing itself. This is not controversial because most theories already accept that you cannot own non-scarce resources. I have added that we cannot own an acting being that claims self-ownership. In effect, self-ownership always supersedes homesteading, and for a legitimate, non-arbitrary reason. The purpose of the homesteading principle in the first place is to allocated the use of unowned property with respect to acting beings. Applying the homesteading principle to beings that are already self-owning is unnecessary and incorrect.
Pro takes a very simplistic view of this and says that an involuntary transfer of property must be theft. There is a serious problem with this idea: in order for someone to steal himself, he must be externally owned in the first place. This is question-begging with regards to my argument, which stated that upon certain changes in the mental characteristics of the child it could no longer be owned.
Con also argues, “This argument only looks at the child after it has reached personhood, and can claim self ownership. The entire [sic] contridiction focuses on before a child reaches personhood, at a time when it does not have self ownership.” The purpose of this argument is to explain the transition. An unconscious bundle of cells could be wholly owned and an adult human could not be owned at all. As the characteristics of the individual shift from one to the other, the extent to which it is possible to claim external ownership of the individual decreases. That is not theft; it is simply a description of what you can and can't do. You can't own something that claims ownership of itself.
This is not an instance of a car 'claiming' you are a bad driver. A car is not a willfully acting being and do not make requests, so they are fundamentally different from people. If a car really did come alive and ask for a better driver, you should have to respect its request!
Remember, C1 and C3 are independent of one another and if either argument is sound then there is no a contradiction. C2 explains how details could be resolved to prevent discontinuities. In short, I think that there can only be a contradiction if we take an extremely narrow view of the issue.
Pro's thesis for this debate has been that since self-ownership entails that we own ourselves and the homesteading principle entails that we own our creations, if we create someone there is a conflict of ownership. I have resolved this issue by arguing that we do not create people in a genuine sense because human development is wholly separate from our will and that there are sound reasons to belief that even if we did, the basis on which property rights rest entails self-ownership be prioritized over the homesteading principle. Things that claim ownership of themselves do not have the capacity to be owned external in that way. It is not simply the case that they happen not to be owned in that way.
I realize that this debate may be a bit tricky for voters who are not familiar with libertarian jargon, so I have tried to explain along as best I could. I hope it will be possible for everyone to learn from this.
Spelling and Grammar: Pro repeatedly misspells words, including 'contradiction.' We both have some typos. My writing is very good. Vote on this at your discretion, but you cannot justifiably vote Pro.
Conduct: Pro misses part of a round and has to post in the comments, inconveniencing everyone. I graciously allow this. Vote Con on conduct.
Arguments: I have two independent solutions that resolve the contradiction and address the issue on a much deeper level than Pro. Vote Con on arguments.
Sources: We both use few sources. Pro has a few from the dictionary. I cite and use The Ethics of Liberty, and actual book. Use your discretion, but you cannot justifiably vote Pro.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: "we do not create people in a genuine sense because human development is wholly separate from our will " - there are severe problems with this, but OreEle only addressed them weakly with the vitamin argument and allowed completely arbitrary arguments such as the biochemical comment. Excellent presentation from Grape, this felt like it could have been closer if OreEle put more effort into it. 5:2
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