Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):37-57 (2015)
Susan Moller Okin's critique of libertarianism in Justice, Gender, and the Family has received only slight attention in the libertarian literature. I find this neglect of Okin's argument surprising: The argument is straightforward and, if sound, it establishes a devastating conflict between the core libertarian notions of self-ownership and the acquisition of property through labour. In this paper, I first present a reconstruction of Okin's argument. In brief, she points out that mothers make children through their labour; thus it would seem that mothers own their children; but this implies that the children are not self-owners. I then examine the two most common objections to this argument in the literature: mothers do not make children, and acquisition by labour includes an exception for persons. I give several replies to each objection, including an extension of Okin's argument that I call Okin's dilemma. This dilemma argues that the libertarian can avoid Okin's conclusion only by requiring an..
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References found in this work BETA
Justice, Gender, and the Family.Susan Moller Okin - 1991 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (1):77-97.
Debate: Evading the Paradox of Universal Self-Ownership.Katherine Curchin - 2007 - Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (4):484–494.
Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay.Barbara H. Fried - 2004 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (1):66-92.
Why Left-Libertarianism Is Not Incoherent, Indeterminate, or Irrelevant: A Reply to Fried.Vallentyne Peter, Steiner Hillel & Otsuka Michael - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (2):201-215.
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Terence Rajivan Edward
University of Manchester
I have noticed a small literature on Okin's objection to libertarianism. But I question whether this should be discussed under the heading of "Okin's objection". A very similar objection has been around for centuries by Robert Filmer, which the author briefly mentions but does not present. Filmer's objection is now discussed under the heading of the paradox of self-ownership.
It says that, given common knowledge, we cannot endorse both these propositions, which are essential to (standard?) libertarianism:
(1) Each person owns themselves.
(2) Each person owns the products of their labour.
According to Filmer, a person is the product of their parents' labour so they do not own themselves by (2).
Okin's version says that a person is the product of their mother's labour so they do not own themselves. (It seems she does not give a male parent even 0.000001% labour contribution.)
If the focus is mainly on whether a libertarian can say that individuals are self-owners, I feel it is unfair to discus ... (read more)