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Self-Ownership, Abortion, and the Rights of Children: Toward a More Conservative Libertarianism

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07/30/2014Edward Feser

For many libertarians, the thesis of self-ownership is the foundation of their political philosophy. Natural rights to life, liberty, and property—the protection of which is, according to the libertarian, government's sole legitimate function—derive from self-ownership, in particular one's ownership of his body and its parts, of his capacities and labor, and, by extension, of whatever he can acquire by his non-coercive exercise of them. One famous implication of this is that redistributive taxation of earnings from labor, of the sort advocated by socialist and liberal egalitarians for the purposes of equalizing the outcomes of free market competition and enforcing some allegedly more "fair" pattern of income distribution, is unjustifiable and, indeed, positively unjust. Another well-known implication of this view is that government cannot legitimately interfere with an individual's use of his body, abilities, etc., where that use does not involve the infringement of the rights of others, even when that individual's use is otherwise immoral. Even if, for example, one decides to use narcotics or to drink oneself into a stupor night after night, the state has no right to stop him from doing so.

Volume 18, Number 3 (2004)

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Feser, Edward. "Self-Ownership, Abortion, and the Rights of Children: Toward a More Conservative Libertarianism." Journal of Libertarian Studies 18, No. 3 (2004): 91–114.