On What Basis Liberty? Part 2: Property Rights


After my previous meandering into a brief discussion of inalienable rights from a Christian perspective, I ended the previous post with the claim that libertarianism is based on two basic principles: 1) property rights and 2) the non-aggression principle.

In this post, I will discuss the first: property rights.

To reiterate something I said in the previous post: libertarianism is a political philosophy.

Now to throw an apparent contradiction into the discussion: libertarianism is both amoral and, at the same time, based in ethics, paradoxically.

Libertarianism is amoral in the sense that it does not argue for or against any particular set of moral principles. Anyone’s moral principles will be necessarily derived from a standard (or lack thereof) outside of the libertarian principles. As I made clear in my post, “Ethics on the Continuum,” my standard of ethics is rooted in the Bible.

At the same time, libertarianism is based entirely on ethics. I’ll leave you hanging a little bit with this one, but tie it all nicely together by the end of the next post.

Fundamentally, libertarianism is based in and on property rights, starting with self-ownership. For my Christian readers, regardless of where you fall in relation to the discussion in the previous post, people have a right to their own body. Again, to make sure I close the gap against the expected counter-argument, I believe this strictly in relation to other humans, not in relation to an all-powerful God. We might more readily call this a right to life. Nobody else has a right to harm or kill me. Nobody has a right to make me a slave, or force me into labor. That is what we mean by self-ownership.

And that is the basis of property rights.

All other property rights are an extension of self-ownership. What I make with my body is an extension of me, and accordingly, my property. And if I choose to sell what I make (or service I offer) to an employer by mutual consent, then the profit for that product or service becomes my property.

And the argument can proceed from there. If I am given something as a gift, it becomes my property. If I purchase something by mutual agreement or consent with income or a product that I have fairly earned, it becomes my property. I do not have a right to take anyone else’s property, and nobody else has a right to take my property.

It’s really that simple.

And the natural extension of this is the non-aggression principle. See you for the next post!

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