In part one of this post I talked about how rights as we know them are not as concrete as we imagine they are. In addition, that our rights are safer when they are being protected by the individual and the people around them. You can’t truly protect the rights of the people by creating an organization with the power to violate those rights. It’s like telling the hens in the hen house to vote for which fox they want to protect them from the other foxes. Then giving that fox the keys to the house. I’ll tell you what, under that system our rights over time approach zero.
With this in mind, it might be time to evolve past our current system of rights and consider adopting a new philosophy to build society on. Don’t get me wrong, the Bill of Rights is amazing, but the problems I just talked about in part one weigh it down too much and render it meaningless overtime. I propose we adopt the concept of self ownership as the national philosophical bedrock. We can call it the “right to self ownership” if that makes it more palatable. It’s simple, consistent and can be easily applied to nearly any situation or social issue. The most important feature is that it would apply to any government body as well. It consists of one rule and one caveat: You are free to do with your body and your property as you see fit; so long as you do not infringe on another person’s ability to do the same.
The implication of enacting a philosophy like this is massive. In order to allow society to organize around this idea most, if not all, of the power structures we have built need to be dismantled or compliance with them made voluntary. After all, if the underlying rule in society is that no person, group of people, or government may encroach on another person or their property, then all interaction would have to be voluntary. Welcome to the philosophy of volunteerism! I understand that an idea like this is very startling. It was to me as well, but imagine the things we could accomplish with the complete freedom to cooperate and trade with each other. Every regulation that we live with now chokes off economic productivity and encroaches on the individual’s self-ownership. It prevents people from easily exchanging ideas and bringing them to fruition.
The biggest concern I think some people have when hearing this for the first time is that if the government’s power is greatly diminished as well as it’s role in enforcing a list of rights, then how is the individual’s freedom going to be protected? That’s a great question. My answer to this would be that for the fast majority of people those around them want them to be free and treated well because they want to be free and treated well. The subject of how a purely voluntary society will protect those living in it is massive. It has been debated endlessly by much smarter people than myself. To avoid exploding the size of this post I’ll just list a few ideas that I have picked up from different places.
The first is the monetary incentive. Some might think that businesses will run wild on the public. I do not believe that would be the case. Economically it is much easier and more profitable to provide the public a product or service that it values than it is to treat the customer poorly. Especially when a completely free economic environment allows for other businesses to quickly enter an industry and take away customers that are unhappy.
The second is private security organizations. The protection of the individual’s person and property is very important and there is no reason why a company can’t provide that service. We already have private security companies and unlike the police departments we have now, they have a much greater vested interest in preventing crime and serving the public. The funding police departments get now is not linked to their performance. In reality, if crime rises in their area they are more likely get a larger budget. That’s a very perverse intensive indeed. A private company would have to perform well or risk losing customers. There would also be a huge intensive for officers to treat the public well because if they don’t then the company will lose money and the company won’t tolerate that for long.
The third is society’s power to ostracize. If a person, organization, or business has been misbehaving then the rest of society has the choice to no longer associate with them. It could mean customers boycotting a company. It could mean a company refusing to sell to individuals that have been identified as shoplifters. It could mean one company refusing to do business with another company because they are in the habit of braking contracts. We all desperately need one another. No one person or company is an island. The best way to ensure that others will work and trade with you is to respect their property and their freedom.
Like I said before, this is a massive subject and predicting how a future voluntaristic society would work is all but impossible. All we can do is identify what is right and moral and follow that to its logical conclusion.
Do we have unlimited rights or no rights? As it stands we live in a society where it is becoming clearer that we have no rights. I think we all have unlimited rights to our bodies and our property. The problem is that we have built a system that has smashed the individual’s ability to secure those rights for themselves and their neighbors. Knowing this fact is the first step to asserting our unlimited right to self-ownership and gaining a society that reduces coercion as much as possible.