– Hooks, Feminism is For Everybody
– Hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism
– Walby, Theorizing Patriarchy
History of Women
– Freedman, No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women
- Simonton, A History of European Women’s Work: 1700 to the present
– Simonton, Women In Europe since 1700
– Leyser, Medieval Women: Social History of Women in England 450-1500
History of Women’s thought
– Broad & Green, A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400-1700
– Green, A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1700-1800
- Waithe, volumes 1-4 of A History of Women Philosophers
– Watts, Women in Science: A Social and Cultural History
In Principles of Political Economy Part II, chapter VII: On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes, Mill writes about co-ops.
He argues that, “The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected in the end to predominate, is not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and work people without a voice in the management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers elected and removable by themselves.”
He writes later that, “The other mode in which co-operation tends, still more efficaciously, to increase the productiveness of labour, consists in the vast stimulus given to productive energies, by placing the labourers, as a mass, in a relation to their work which would make it their principle and their interest—at present it is neither—to do the utmost, instead of the least possible, in exchange for their remuneration. It is scarcely possible to rate too highly this material benefit, which yet is as nothing compared with the moral revolution in society that would accompany it: the healing of the standing feud between capital and labour; the transformation of human life, from a conflict of classes struggling for opposite interests, to a friendly rivalry in the pursuit of a good common to all; the elevation of the dignity of labour; a new sense of security and independence in the labouring class; and the conversion of each human being’s daily occupation into a school of the social sympathies and the practical intelligence.”
He believes that labour and capital will be able to and should co-exist, “Under the most favourable supposition, it will be desirable, and perhaps for a considerable length of time, that individual capitalists, associating their work-people in the profits, should coexist with even those co-operative societies which are faithful to the co-operative principle.” This is because “Even in ordinary business, the competition of capable persons who in the event of failure are to have all the loss, and in case of success the greater part of the gain, will be very useful in keeping the managers of co-operative societies up to the due pitch of activity and vigilance.”
But he thinks, “When, however, co-operative societies shall have sufficiently multiplied, it is not probable that any but the least valuable work-people will any longer consent to work all their lives for wages merely; both private capitalists and associations will gradually find it necessary to make the entire body of labourers participants in profits. Eventually, and in perhaps a less remote future than may be supposed, we may, through the co-operative principle, see our way tooi a change in society, which would combine the freedom and independence of the individual, with the moral, intellectual, and economical advantages of aggregate production; and which, without violence or spoliation, or even any sudden disturbance of existing habits and expectations, would realize, at least in the industrial department, the best aspirations of the democratic spirit, by putting an end to the division of society into the industrious and the idle, and effacing all social distinctions but those fairly earned by personal services and exertions. Associations like those which we have described, by the very process of their success, are a course of education in those moral and active qualities by which alone success can be either deserved or attained. As associations multiplied, they would tend more and more to absorb all work-people, except those who have too little understanding, or too little virtue, to be capable of learning to act on any other system than that of narrow selfishness . As this change proceeded, owners of capital would gradually find it to their advantage, instead of maintaining the struggle of the old system with work-people of only the worst description, to lend their capital to the associations; to do this at a diminishing rate of interest, and at last, perhaps, even to exchange their capital for terminable annuities. In this or some such mode, the existing accumulations of capital might honestly, and by a kind of spontaneous process, become in the end the joint property of all who participate in their productive employment: a transformation which, thus effected, (and assuming of course that both sexes participate equally in the rights and in the government of the association)* would be the nearest approach to social justice, and the most beneficial ordering of industrial affairs for the universal good, which it is possible at present to foresee.”
Nor does Mill ignores how the state apparatus will be used to attack co-ops or that co-ops will have to resist crisis, as he writes “The vitality of these associations must indeed be great, to have enabled about twenty of them to survive not only the anti-socialist reaction, which for the time discredited all attempts to enable workpeople to be their own employers—not only the tracasseries of the police, and the hostile policy of the government since the usurpation—but in addition to these obstacles, all the difficulties arising from the trying condition of financial and commercial affairs from 1854 to 1858. Of the prosperity attained by some of them even while passing through this difficult period, I have given examples which must be conclusive to all minds as to the brilliant future reserved for the principle of co-operation”
Mill’s error seems to be in thinking that the state can be altered by parliamentary action such that it no longer is used to repress co-ops and that this anti socialist repression is because of the sort of government it is rather than because the state serves the interests of the capitalist class. Thus if we combine Mill’s liberal values with a revolutionary socialist analysis of the state, I don’t see how one can deny that socialism is the inheritor of classical liberalism.
One of the first things many anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians say when they come across people who claim not to own themselves is to ask questions like ‘do you control your body?’ In doing so they seem to believe that if you answer yes then you believe in self-ownership and that if you answer no then you do not believe in self-ownership and so believe that people should be free to do whatever they want to others, such as murdering or raping. The idea being that any sensible person will accept self-ownership since they don’t want their beliefs to entail that immoral actions are permissible. Both of these claims are false.
Before I explain why I must first define self-ownership. Rothbard defines self-ownership most clearly as “the absolute right of each man, by virtue of his (or her) being a human being, to “own” his or her own body; that is, to control that body free of coercive interference.” For Rothbard “man has rights because they are natural rights.” A natural right is a right that an individual possesses irrespective of the right being enforced, recognised or there even being any mechanism of right enforcement. Thus to say that a person owns themselves is to say that they possess a natural right to exclusively control and hence own their body as property and in virtue of this ownership have a right to be free from coercion.
I shall now explain why both claims are false. The first claim is false because control and just ownership are distinct things. For example, the fact that a thief controls a bicycle does not negate the fact that someone else owns the bike. This is because ownership is not determined exclusively by control but also by individuals having the normative right to control. In the case of the thief, she cannot claim to own the bike not because she does not control the bike but because she lacks the normative right to do so. It is therefore not sufficient in an argument for ownership to merely point to the fact that a particular individual controls their body. One must offer arguments for why people ought to control their body and specifically for advocates of self-ownership, why people possess the natural right to control their body. Another reason why it does not follow from the fact that people do control their bodies that they ought to control their bodies is that to make this claim is to invalidly infer an ought from an is. Thus, one can quite consistently claim that one controls their body while nonetheless believing that they don’t possess a right to exclusively use and control it.
From this it follows that if by self-ownership we mean being able to control one’s body then self-ownership can no longer be used to argue for anarcho-capitalism and right-libertarianism. This is because a conservative could easily concede that people control their bodies while nonetheless insisting that the state ought to prevent people from engaging in homosexual acts, or a social democratic could concede that people control their bodies while arguing that private companies ought to be regulated by the state. It is because of this that anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians must make sure to not conflate the ‘is’ of bodily control with the ‘ought’ of self-ownership.
The second claim is false for two reasons. The first reason is that it does not follow from the fact that people do not possess free will that people are morally insignificant and that there are no reasons not to interfere with other people. I shall demonstrate this with an analogy. It is arguable the case that sheep do not possess free will, but it does not follow from this alone that there are no reasons why people ought not to harm sheep. Since even though the sheep does not possess free will it can still suffer and this fact gives us reason to believe that sheep are morally significant in a way that a non living object such as a sock isn’t. Likewise, humans remain morally significant even if they do not possess free will, as they can still suffer and have their preferences violated. Given the moral significance of people, one could argue that people ought not to be interfered with, providing that they do not coerce others, because this has good consequences, such as people not suffering as a result of being coerced. The second reason is that that there is no contradiction between rejecting free will and accepting a very similar claim to self-ownership. One can argue that while it is true that people do not control their bodies people nonetheless possess a natural right to not be coerced because such a natural right does not rest on the truth of free will. Therefore, one can argue from a natural rights perspective and from a consequentialist perspective that people ought not to interfere with one another even if it is not the case that they freely control their bodies.
In summary, asking the question ‘do you control your body?’ is not an effective means of arguing for self-ownership because the answer yes entails control not self-ownership and the answer no does not entail that people should be free to do whatever they want.
In this essay I shall begin by outlining self-ownership and then Rothbard’s version of self-ownership specifically. I shall proceed to assess whether or not Rothbard’s arguments for the natural right to self-ownership are convincing and conclude that they are not. I do not intend to show in this essay that i) self-ownership is a false position and that ii) Rothbard’s arguments for the natural right to self-ownership cannot be used to show that self-ownership as a legal right ought to be enforced. I shall consider these points in the future.
The term self-ownership tends to be used in three distinct ways yet for some reason they are often conflated as the same thing, when they are not.
1) Bodily Control : x controls their body
2) Non-Propertarian Self-Ownership: x has the moral right to exclusively use and control their body
3) Propertarian Self-Ownership: x has the moral right to exclusively use and control their body in virtue of the fact that they own their body as property.
I only consider propertarian self-ownership to in fact be a form of self-ownership. I do not consider bodily control to be a form of self-ownership because self-ownership is used in right-libertarian theory as a normative claim about what rights individuals have to do or not do certain things, it is not a descriptive claim about the fact that it is the case that people control their bodies. People controlling their bodies may be a premise in a sound argument for self-ownership and so be a necessary condition of self-ownership but it is not itself a form of self-ownership. To avoid complications in this essay I shall assume that people do consciously control their bodies. While I do not consider non-propertarian self-ownership to in fact be a form of self-ownership because ‘self-ownership’ contains the word ‘ownership’ and so implies a property relation and since it is non-propertarian it contains no such relation and so cannot be properly called a form of self-ownership. I shall instead call this bodily sovereignty. The fact that many anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians use self-ownership to refer to both bodily control and bodily sovereignty only shows either their lack of reading on the subject or their inability to understand what they are reading. Having restricted self-ownership to the position that ‘ x has the moral right to exclusively use and control their body in virtue of the fact that they own their body as property’ I shall now outline Rothbard’s particular version of this position.
Rothbard’s Definition of Self-Ownership
Rothbard defines self-ownership most clearly as “the absolute right of each man, by virtue of his (or her) being a human being, to “own” his or her own body; that is, to control that body free of coercive interference.”  Therefore, for Rothbard to own something is to control it. This interpretation is supported by Rothbard’s statements elsewhere, such as his claim that when an individual man “discovers the natural fact of his mind’s command over his body and its actions” he discovers “his natural ownership over his self.”  While the right-libertarian scholar David Gordon writes that by “ownership Rothbard means control” . It would however be an error to infer from this that Rothbard is not an advocate of propertarian self-ownership but instead merely believes in bodily sovereignty. This is because in Chapter 1 of ‘The Ethics of Liberty’, he writes “[w]e shall be speaking throughout this work of “rights,” in particular the rights of individuals to property in their persons and in material objects.” 
But what exactly does Rothbard mean by a ‘right’? ‘In the ‘Ethics of Liberty’ Rothbard uses the definition of a right by James Sadowsky:
“When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. We do not mean that any use a man makes of his property within the limits set forth is necessarily a moral use” 
Moreover, Rothbard is an advocate of natural rights. ‘In the Ethics of Liberty’ he writes, “man has rights because they are natural rights.”  The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy defines a natural right as “[r]ights which belong to us simply because of our humanity and not because of any special legal, political, or social institutions.”  A natural right is therefore a right that an individual possesses irrespective of the right being enforced, recognised or there even being any mechanism of right enforcement.
To summarise Rothbard’s views, to say that a person owns themselves is to say that they possess a natural right to exclusively control and hence own their body as property and in virtue of this ownership have a right to be free from coercion.
Rothbard’s Arguments For Self-Ownership
I shall begin with Rothbards argument for self-ownership in chapter 2 of the ‘Ethics of Liberty’. His starting point is Crusoe alone on an Island with amnesia. Rothbard uses this scenario as a tool with which to explore what inescapable natural facts confront people as they begin to experience the world. After discerning certain basic inescapable natural facts, Crusoe introspects about his own consciousness and discovers his free will, that is to say “his freedom to choose, his freedom to use or not use his reason about any given subject”. He then also discovers “the natural fact of his mind’s command over his body and its actions: that is, of his natural ownership over his self.” Here Rothbard appears to be arguing that in exercising control over his body Crusoe establishes his ownership of his body. This interpretation is supported by the fact that later Rothbard argues that if Crusoe mixes his labour with unclaimed land he transforms the land, that is to say he exercises control over the land, and thereby owns the land. Thus for Rothbard control of unclaimed objects entails ownership of said objects.
The error of Rothbard’s argument is that he asserts the truth of bodily control as if it were an argument for the right to self-ownership. The mere fact that a person does exercise control over something does not establish the normative proposition that they ought to exercise control over it let alone that they possess a natural right to own it. For example, the fact that a thief controls a bicycle does not negate the fact that someone else owns the bike. This is because ownership is not determined exclusively by control but also by individuals having the normative right to control. In the case of the thief, she cannot claim to own the bike not because she does not control the bike but because she lacks the normative right to do so. It is therefore not sufficient in an argument for ownership to merely point to the fact that a particular individual controls their body or exercises control over a piece of land. Rather, one must argue that either, said individual ought to possess the legal or customary right to own their body or the piece of land, or that they possess the natural right to do so. Rothbard has failed to do this, therefore his defence of self-ownership in chapter 2 of ‘The Ethics of Liberty’ is unconvincing.
Rothbard’s second argument is that humans possess the natural right to self-ownership because it ensures that individuals are free to perform specifically human actions. In ‘For A New Liberty’ Rothbard begins this argument by writing that,
“the nature of man is such that each individual person must, in order to act, choose his own ends and employ his own means in order to attain them. Possessing no automatic instincts, each man must learn about himself and the world, use his mind to select values, learn about cause and effect, and act purposively to maintain himself and advance his life. Since men can think, feel, evaluate, and act only as individuals, it becomes vitally necessary for each man’s survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowledge and values. This is the necessary path of human nature; to interfere with and cripple this process by using violence goes profoundly against what is necessary by man’s nature for his life and prosperity. Violent interference with a man’s learning and choices is therefore profoundly “antihuman”; it violates the natural law of man’s needs.” 
He writes shortly later that,
“[s]ince each individual must think, learn, value, and choose his or her ends and means in order to survive and flourish, the right to self-ownership gives man the right to perform these vital activities without being hampered and restricted by coercive molestation.” 
The problem with this argument is that Rothbard is not here arguing for the natural right to self-ownership. All his argument claims is that were humans to have the natural right to self-ownership then they would be free to perform certain actions and that this is a good thing because to stop people from performing these actions is ‘antihuman’. But this argument is not sufficient to demonstrate the natural right to self-ownership because it does not follow from the fact that the natural right to self-ownership is a means to certain desired ends that people do in fact possess this natural right. Just as it does not follow that people possess super human strength from the fact that were people to possess super human strength they would be free to perform new actions, such as lifting airplanes with their hands, and that being free to do so would be good. Moreover, one need not hold that the possession of a natural right is the only means to these desired ends. One could argue that people ought to have the legal right to self-ownership because were people to have this legal right they would be free in certain respects, and this freedom would have good consequences, while people lacking this freedom would have bad consequences. Thus, Rothbard’s argument at best demonstrates that the right to self-ownership ought to be enforced because its social enforcement is a prerequisite to people having “the right to perform these vital activities without being “hampered and restricted by coercive molestation”. But it in no way shows that people do in fact possess the natural right to self-ownership.
Rothbard’s third argument is that out of the logically possible forms of ownership, self-ownership is the most persuasive . He claims that either people fully own themselves or they do not. If they do not fully own themselves then there are only two other logical alternatives; either everybody owns each other or some group or person owns themselves and everybody else. The possible positions to take on the issue of self-ownership are therefore:
(i) libertarian self-ownership: each person is a full self-owner of their body.
(ii) Communist ownership: no person is a full self-owner of their body and each person has an equal part of the ownership of everyone’s body. Concretely this means that “an equal part of the ownership of A’s body should be vested in B, C . . ., and the same should hold true for each of the others”.
(iii) Class Rule Ownership: “one person or group of persons are entitled to own not only themselves but also the remainder of society”.
Rothbard rejects (iii) because it is not a universal ethical rule that applies to all humans because it requires that those who are owned are “subhuman beings who do not have a right to participate as full humans in the rights of self-ownership enjoyed by” their owners. He rejects (ii) because it is “physically impossible for everyone to keep continual tabs on everyone else, and thereby to exercise his equal share of partial ownership over every other man.” Even if it were not impossible it is “absurd to hold that no man is entitled to own himself, and yet to hold that each of these very men is entitled to own a part of all other men! “. He argues that a society organised on this principle would perish because people would not be free to act and so survive and that it would not be a desirable society because people would not wish to live in a society where they were not free “to take any action whatsoever without prior approval by everyone else in society”. Given that (ii) and (iii) have been rejected, and the only other logical alternative on the question of self-ownership is (1), (1) must be true.
This main problem with this argument is that the three options he lists are not the only logical alternatives. Perhaps the most obvious alternative for those who reject self-ownership is that individuals do not own themselves or anybody else. Yet Rothbard did not consider or respond to this alternative in either ‘For A New Liberty’ or his essay ‘Justice and Property Rights’  where he repeats the above argument. Rothbard finally responded to the alternative nine years later in a footnote in ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. He writes, “since ownership signifies range of control, this would mean that no one would be able to do anything, and the human race would quickly vanish” . This argument is however not convincing. Rothbard makes the same error here that he does in chapter 2 of ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. He confuses control with ownership. Rothbard fails to realise during his discussion of self-ownership that while ownership implies control, control does not necessarily imply ownership. Thus, individuals may not own themselves but nonetheless control themselves. Given that this is the case, were people to not own themselves they would still have the capacity to control their body in the manner required for survival and so would not die out. One could even argue that people ought to be free to control themselves unless they perform certain freedom limiting actions, such as murdering another, because this has good consequences such as people not experiencing the suffering and preference violation that comes with one losing control over one’s body as a result of the actions of another. Rothbard has therefore failed to establish that libertarian self-ownership must be true as the other alternatives are not persuasive.
To conclude, none of Rothbard’s arguments for the natural right to self-ownership are convincing. The primary reasons being that Rothbard conflates control and just ownership and offers arguments for why the right to self-ownership ought to be enforced, not for why people do in fact possess the natural right to self-ownership.
 Rothbard ‘For A New Liberty’. p33-34
 Rothbard, ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. p31
 Gordon, ‘The Essential Rothbard’. p90
 Rothbard ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. p24
 Rothbard ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. p24.
 Rothbard ‘The Ethics of Liberty’. p155
 Bunnin & Yu ‘The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy’. p457
 Rothbard, ‘The Ethics of Liberty’, p31
 Rothbard, For A New Liberty. p33
 Rothbard, For A New Liberty, p34
 The argument is first made in Rothbard, ‘For A New Liberty’ p34-35, second in Rothbard, ‘Egalitarianism As A Revolt Against Nature’, p97-98, and lastly in Rothbard, ‘The Ethics of Liberty’, p45-46
 Rothbard, ‘Egalitarianism As A Revolt Against Nature’ p84
 Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, p45
The argument that self-ownership entails voluntary slavery is as follows. If individuals possess the right to exclusively control the use of their person, then they also possess the right to voluntarily transfer the right of exclusive control to another person. To transfer this right would be to transfer one’s ownership of one’s self. To be owned by another is to be a slave. Therefore self-ownership entails voluntary slavery.
In chapter 19 of ‘The Ethics of Liberty’, as part of a discussion of legitimate contracts, Rothbard gives the following argument against the possibility of voluntary slavery:
“Suppose that Smith makes the following agreement with the Jones Corporation: Smith, for the rest of his life, will obey all orders, under whatever conditions, that the Jones Corporation wishes to lay down. Now, in libertarian theory there is nothing to prevent Smith from making this agreement, and from serving the Jones Corporation and from obeying the latter’s orders indefinitely. The problem comes when, at some later date, Smith changes his mind and decides to leave. Shall he be held to his former voluntary promise? Our contention—and one that is fortunately upheld under present law—is that Smith’s promise was not a valid (i.e., not an enforceable) contract. There is no transfer of title in Smith’s agreement, because Smith’s control over his own body and will are inalienable. Since that control cannot be alienated, the agreement was not a valid contract, and therefore should not be enforceable. Smith’s agreement was a mere promise, which it might be held he is morally obligated to keep, but which should not be legally obligatory.”
In short, voluntary slavery cannot occur for two reasons. Firstly, an agent cannot alienate their free will and therefore their control over their own body to another agent. Secondly, given the first reason, another agent cannot control another agent’s free will and since control is a requirement for ownership, one agent cannot own another agent as property. Since the transfer of self-ownership cannot occur, voluntary slavery is not a legitimate contract but instead a promise to perform certain actions, and therefore ought not to be enforced by law.
The problem with this argument is that the debate over voluntary slavery is concerned with the transfer of the moral right to control permissible use, that is, the moral right to control which actions are or are not performed. Voluntary slavery is not concerned with the transfer of the psychological capacity to directly control a human body. Clearly one cannot transfer one’s free will to another and one person cannot own another person’s free will. However, these two truths in no way demonstrate that one individual cannot possess the moral right to exclusively control the body of another. In Rothbard’s example the Jones corporation does not own or control Smith’s psychological capacity to control his body, rather they possess the moral right to determine which actions Smith performs and Smith does not possess the moral right to determine which actions that he himself performs. Rothbard’s argument therefore misses the point and so fails.