Re: Who owns you?

Hagbard Celine (
Wed, 09 Jul 1997 03:46:07 -0400

Eric Watt Forste wrote:
> Hagbard Celine writes:
> > And unfortunately, once you sign the contract, you no longer own
> > yourself entirely.
> To make a promise is to voluntarily restrict one's future actions. But
> there's nothing about making promises that violates one's own self-
> ownership.

Any voluntary restriction on your future actions is a donation of your
freedom. Donate a portion of your freedom and you no longer "own"
yourself entirely. "Own" in this sense is no more than a term of art for

> (Heck, one could even posit that a defining characteristic
> of self-ownership is the ability to make promises, because those who
> do not own themselves simply cannot make promises... they might be able
> to mouth them, but they cannot make them.)

Seems true, until you've made so many promises that you are no longer
free. For example, I promise Joe (for some return benefit) that I will
not do X. I correspondingly promise Jan (for some return benefit) that I
will do Y. I then promise Jack (for another return benefit) that I will
not do Z but I will do Q.

Et cetera.

Eventually, it seems clear that at some point I will have restricted my
actions to such an extent that everything not prohibited by contract is
compulsory by contract. How can I then say that I own myself? I've sold
my freedom to act for a certain consideration. My point, as you have
quoted above, is that with the very first promise I make, I no longer
own myself entirely. Again, ownership being a term-of-art for autonomy.

> > ...other than a social contract. People disagree as to the scope and
> > extent of this contract, but I'm the only one that seems to think
> > that this is government any way you slice it.
> So have you gotten around to reading Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom,
> Benson's The Enterprise of Law, or Tom Morrow's essay presented at Extro-1
> (now available on the web) yet? The existence of these works is the primary
> reason why no one on the list has yet bothered to explain to you in
> intricate detail why they disagree with you about this.

I'm familiar with the Friedman model (from DDF's website) and I agree
that his is a practical, and workable system. I've never disputed this.
But, I'm not sure how it supports the contention that a social contract
can result in anything but a form of government. First, are you familiar
with Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau? If so, maybe I should start by asking
how, in your estimation, a social contract may avoid the label