Who Owns Me: Me Or My Mother? How To Escape Okin's Problem For Nozick's And Narveson's Theory Of Entitlement

Susan Okin read Robert Nozick as taking it to be fundamental to his Libertarianism that people own themselves, and that they can acquire entitlement to other things by making them. But she thinks that, since mothers make people, all people must then be owned by their mothers, a consequence Okin finds absurd. She sees no way for Nozick to make a principled exception to the idea that people own what they make when what they make is people, concluding that Nozick’s theory of entitlement must be false, and that entitlement must instead be rooted in people’s needs. I say Okin misreads Nozick’s Libertarianism. In fact, its fundamental principle is that, simply by being persons, people are entitled to the maximum negative liberty compatible with a like liberty for all persons. Further, Nozick, and Jan Narveson, who has taken on the advocacy of Libertarian ideas, analyze liberty as freedom to interact with things, and analyze being entitled to or having property in something, as freedom to interact with it, to determine what may be done with it. People therefore have such freedom to do what they want with themselves, and such freedom to do what they want with other things, as is compatible with all persons having similar freedom. The former is what self-ownership amounts to, the latter, ownership of other things. Libertarianism’s fundamental principle therefore both grounds and delimits entitlements in ways entailing that mothers don’t own persons by dint of making them. Otherwise, since it would then be the prerogative of mothers to determine what shall be done with the persons they made, the persons made would lack equal liberty, this violating the fundamental principle.
Keywords Jan Narveson  Robert Nozick  Libertarianism  Self-Ownership  Children  Rights  Entitlement  Okin  Negative Liberty
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Allan Gibbard (2011). Narveson on Liberty and Equality. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (2):249-258.
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