Why Do We Own Ourselves?

—–Original Message—–
From: N
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 4:43 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Children’s rights vs. property rights

Dear Professor Block,

As I was listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in the car while running errands, I was reminded how much I owe my intellectual development regarding political philosophy and economics to you. Having absorbed hours of your teaching via youtube, as well as interviews and written commentary, I believe I even qualify as a “Blockhead”. As such I’ve taken your cue and made a contribution to the Mises Institute. And I hope to do it again!

…Given your willingness to confront controversial and even distasteful concepts head on, I pose the following: If under strict libertarian theory we own our bodies, AND we own the product of our labor, why would we not own our children?

I believe you have addressed this already (likely abundantly), so I thank you in advance for any citations regarding this problem.

Best regards, N

P.S. If you happen to run this question on the LRC blog will you kindly redact my name and email?

Dear N: Thanks for your exceedingly kind comment. Anything by Bach is magnificent, and his Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 almost makes me, a confirmed atheist, believe in God. Thanks for donating money to the Mises Institute. Were it not for them, you and I would not be having this conversation. Were it not for their Herculean efforts, liberty, and good (Austrian!) economics would be far less encouraged, studied, promoted and defended than at present. I run all interesting letters such as yours on the LRC blog anonymously.

You pose one of the most difficult challenges to libertarianism I have ever faced. Not to put too fine a point on it, I really don’t have an answer to this intractable question of yours. This is not for lack of trying, see below. There, I list the only three articles that have attempted to wrestle with this issue that I know of. If anyone knows of any other publications on this matter, please share them with me. Here goes:

Block, 2016; Kinsella, 2006; Steiner, 1994, pp. 242-248

Block, Walter E. 2016. “How we come to own ourselves.” Polish Academich Journal – Societas et Ius Version; Issue 5; http://apcz.umk.pl/czasopisma/index.php/SeI/issue/view/1107/showToc; http://apcz.umk.pl/czasopisma/index.php/SeI/article/view/SEI.2016.001;

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 2006. “How We Come to Own Ourselves.” September 7; http://www.mises.org/story/2291

Steiner, Hillel. 1994. An Essay on Rights. Oxford: Blackwell; https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2mi4-xFgT7NNWhEQWNhbXB6enc/view


8:20 pm on April 24, 2018