Self-ownership

In Laurence Becker & Charlotte Becker (eds.), Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd edition. Garland Publishing (2001)
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Abstract

John Locke (1690), libertarians, and others have held that agents are self-owners in the sense that they have private property rights over themselves in the same way that people can have private property rights over inanimate objects. This private ownership is typically taken to include (1) control rights over (power to grant and deny permission for) the use of their persons (e.g., what things are done to them), (2) rights to transfer the rights they have to others (by sale, rental, gift, or loan), and (3) tax immunities for the possession and exercise of these rights (so that, unlike renters, for example, they owe no payment for these rights). The property rights in question are moral rights, and need not be legally recognized. Thus, a country that allows involuntary slavery fails to recognize the (moral) self-ownership of the slaves.

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Peter Vallentyne
University of Missouri, Columbia

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