In order for a claim to be a right, it must be universal; all people must be able to practice it without contradicting the concept of self-ownership.
At the most fundamental level, you own your body. You express this constantly, through purposeful action and preference of outcome. This ownership is a right, because it is universal; it requires no obligation or duty from any other party and thus violates nobody else’s self-ownership. In manifestation, this right presents itself as the ability to use your body how you see fit and exclude others from the use of your body. In granting or denying consent to someone who seeks to use your body, you are exercising sole dominion and jurisdiction over it. The objective rule you have over your body has been present since birth, partly because you were the first to use your body, and also because you are constantly using it. The case for self-ownership is therefore logically consistent, and can be argued for without contradicting one’s self.
Private property ethics aim to establish norms that extend from self-ownership, and also allow a just appropriation of resources. This appropriation can happen one of two ways: first use, and consensual exchange. First use is an expression in reference to Lockean homesteading; the first person to discover a scarce, rivalrous resource and use their labor to improve or develop it has the right to own it as property. Owning this property gives the proprietor exclusion rights, as we discussed before, and these exclusion rights include the inherent right to transfer ownership to who you see fit, for the compensation you see fit. Thus, the extension of the concept of self-ownership to these resources is also logically consistent, universal, and can be made without contradicting one’s self.
Your Liberty on My Property Ends at Your Skin
Your right to use your body as you see fit does not trump my right to exclusion of use of my property. Simply put, you can’t steal resources I’ve gathered through just appropriation, nor can you violate my right to exclude you from using my body or homesteaded land. This is because such claims of liberty cannot be universalized, and contradict self-ownership; you aren’t respecting my rights to myself and property if you are denying my right to exclude use.
In expansion of this, your claim rights to free speech, free movement, and access to resources or services only extends as far as until you are excluded from use of someone else’s body or property. Your ability to say what you want does not trump my right to exclude you from saying it on my property. Your capacity to move, or “immigrate,” where you please does not get priority over my right to prevent you from doing so across/onto my land. Your access to clean water or food I own relies on the consent only I can give you. You cannot compel or force me to provide a service to you, because I would be using my body. To assert otherwise would be a denial of my exclusion rights. Doing so would be to engage in a performative contradiction; you are claiming you have a right to own what you claim I have no right to own, while expressing no objective link to the resources in question.
It is important to express that my right to dominion over my property does not give me the authorization to violate your right to self-ownership. So long as you respect and acknowledge the ownership of my property, I have no just cause to violate your self-ownership. In essence, I would be at risk of stopping myself from invoking my right of exclusion if I violated yours by means of, for example, compulsive service or imprisonment.
Claim Rights That Can’t Be Universalized Are Marketing Techniques Used by Territorial Monopolists
Supplementing the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights declares that all alleged US citizens have claim rights in addition to the property rights it attempts to reify (through double dipping by extending judiciary/legal benefits like the 4th, 5th and 8th Amendments). This reification of your rights to exclusion is an attempt by the State to express to you that such rights would not exist without their territorial monopoly. In consideration of the claim rights expressed in the 1st Amendment, for example, it is evident that the State does not aim to prevent the erosion of your property rights. Rather, the State aims to compromise and blur them as means to attract prospective citizens, who the State would wish to treat as “tax cattle.”
By expressing that all citizens have the right to free speech, the State is saying that it will not exercise exclusion rights on public property to prevent speech, nor will the State prosecute you for your speech in a public forum. The state is expressing that it is acting on behalf of the dominion over property that all people of the Republic collectively own; hence the term deriving its root from the phrase res publica. The issue here is that one entity has assumed authority that cannot be delegated; the authority the US government has over the land within its alleged jurisdiction is not consensual. Absent the unanimous consensus of all alleged citizens and property owners within the alleged jurisdiction, US public property is nothing more than land prevented from being homesteaded, on “behalf” of those prevented from doing the homesteading. Excluding or granting use to public property on your behalf presupposes you had the authority to ever do so.
In application of this, one can logically and consistently assert that free movement is not a libertarian principle, and by extension, nor are open borders. Absent public property, all borders would be private property lines. Contending that you have the inherent right to move about or use the property of another prevents you from invoking your right to self-ownership; you have stopped yourself from claiming dominion over your body by denying the extension of the same right to one’s property.
The only universal and logically consistent rights are self-ownership and the right to extend those principles to property. Any other claim right is either a reflection of property rights (using and excluding property as you see fit), in spite of property rights (as a means of granting privileges to potential citizens), or simply a privilege granted by the sole entity with authority to exclude use of the property in question. It shouldn’t have to be said that giving a territorial monopolist sole authority to provoke and judge property disputes opens the door for erosion of the universal right to property, in expense of granting claim rights to citizens as universal privileges.
* Jordan Claspell is an Austro-libertarian and the founder of DeAuthnow.org, a website and forum dedicated to discussing and advocating the decentralization of authority, primarily via secession.