Schlueter claims that the conditions for human flourishing to be supplied by the state include mitigating:
– harms to reputation (for example, defamatory speech, libel, and slander), harms to social order (such as open borders), and
– harms to moral culture (including pimps, prostitutes, drug pushers, panders).
Either such nonphysical harms exist, or they do not. If they do exist, they are a proper object of political authority. (112)
Consider now the “weapons” or sins of the lower 4 of the 6 human temperaments. Monsters sin with unjust violence; Barely Humans, with deception and fraud; Guardians, with false accusations; and Idealists, with sly temptations.
Libertarians, however, hold that only the first two ought to be outlawed; the third and fourth sins are merely vices and not crimes.
Therefore, a distinction exists between harms in general and unjust harms. I agree that “that reputation is a good that can be harmed by the false speech of others is too obvious to be argued for.” I disagree that false accusation (unless in a court of law) is an unjust harm that can properly be punished by the state. The reason is elaborated by Rothbard:
We have therefore affirmed the legitimacy (the right) of Smith’s either disseminating knowledge about Jones, keeping silent about the knowledge, or engaging in a contract with Jones to sell his silence. We have so far been assuming that Smith’s knowledge is correct.
Suppose, however, that the knowledge is false and Smith knows that it is false (the “worst” case). Does Smith have the right to disseminate false information about Jones? In short, should “libel” and “slander” be illegal in the free society?
And yet, once again, how can they be? Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a “thief” even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement.
The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is
– that every man has a “property right” in his own reputation,
– that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and
– that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal.
Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s “reputation” is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s “reputation” is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people.
But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people. …
We can, of course, readily concede the gross immorality of spreading false libels about another person. But we must, nevertheless, maintain the legal right of anyone to do so. (EoL, 126-7)
Schlueter goes on:
Conservatives believe that there is such a class of wrongful, non-coercive actions, including assisted suicide, prostitution, pornography, and the sale and consumption of addictive mind-altering drugs.
Such actions, they argue, directly harm basic goods that constitute human flourishing, such as life, conjugal union, and personal integrity. They also harm the moral character of the persons who engage in them, making it more difficult for them to recognize and embrace those basic goods.
If these actions are themselves wrong, then it is unjust to offer them to others. (114)
We have seen how properly to think about accusations. Regarding temptations, an even less serious infraction, our entire consumer culture revolves around them! Every commercial aims to kindle a desire for the product being advertised. Giving in to some temptations is a bad idea, but it’s something that each individual needs to handle personally by disciplining his own soul. What is a dangerous temptation to one man is a legitimate pleasure to another; a blanket prohibition of alcohol or even prostitution shows only a lamentable failure of our conservative to discriminate.
Regarding prostitution, for example, comedian George Carlin argued this way:
I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal? You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away? I can’t follow the logic on that one at all!
Of all the things you can do to a person, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people! In civilian life you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm!
Maybe I’m not supposed to understand it.
At the very most, prostitution is a local issue, where the cops might chase away hookers from public streets sporadically in order to keep a semblance of decency.
The only further move open to Schlueter is to deny self-ownership, which he promptly does on two grounds. First, he says, it’s bad metaphysics:
Kant regarded the notion of self-ownership as self-contradictory: Persons are subjects of ownership, whereas ownership is of things. Were persons to own themselves, they would be simultaneously persons and things, which is impossible…
The only way to avoid this self-contradiction, Kant suggested, is to divide the self partly into a person (such as the conscious, thinking part of the self) and partly into a thing (such as the body part). This entails an untenable body-self dualism.
As Robert George has written,
The dualistic view of the human person makes nonsense of the experience all of us have in our activities of being dynamically unified actors — of being, that is, embodied persons, and not persons who merely “inhabit” our bodies and direct them as extrinsic instruments under our control, like automobiles. (118-9)
Ray Kurzweil calls humans “spiritual machines.” As I point out in my book, however, this has things exactly backward: we are not spiritual machines but machine-like spirits, or spirits whose operation depends to an extent upon laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and the rest, even though, more fundamentally, the spirits have wills and intellects and control rather than are controlled by their bodies. This means that our bodies are essential aspects of ourselves; we are not angels in consumes.
Schlueter is right that the relation between soul and body is more intimate than ownership. It’s not so much that I own my body as that I am in part my body. But if my body is an aspect of me, then a fortiori, I can be said to own the body, as well. And the weaker relation of self-ownership turns out to be sufficient for all politico-philosophic concerns.
For example, if my friend Smith needs a kidney transplant in order to live, and I’m a suitable donor, who is to decide whether I shall donate my kidney? Is it Smith, the government, or me? Surely, I am the one to decide. If a socialist were to propose that kidneys or eyes be nationalized, and people with 2 eyes must be forced to give 1 eye to the blind, would we not consider this to be a grave injustice? But for what reason if not of self-ownership?
Further, the soul and body are distinguishable both in the intellect and even in reality, as upon physical death. Suppose Smith tells me that I am a weak, pathetic, and contemptible human being. “You’re a worthless loser,” he charges. I am distraught for having been judged so harshly. Again, let my girlfriend break up with me. I’m spiritually devastated, but no crime has been committed. Suppose now that Smith punches me in stomach. Now I feel physical pain. Everyone would agree that this is unjustified aggression. Hence, the “whole me,” soul and body, is not a completely inseparable psychosomatic unity.
To illustrate, consider Tom Jones’ famous song, Delilah:
I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window,
I saw the flickering shadow of love on her blind.
She was my woman;
As she deceived me I watched and went out of my mind.
At break of day when that man drove away I was waiting
I crossed the street to her house and she opened the door.
She stood there laughing;
I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.
The man’s sorrow for being betrayed is not unjustly inflicted according to law; but murdering Delilah in jealous rage is unjust. And the man recognizes is, concluding the song with “Forgive me Delilah, I just couldn’t take anymore.”
Hence the law prohibits inflicting bodily harm but not spiritual harm, thus easily distinguishing between soul and body, spiritual joy / sorrow and sensual pleasure / pain. You shall not stab Delilah for essentially the same reasons why you shall not slash her car’s tires: it’s an unjust violation of her property rights.
Second, Schlueter’s argues that self-ownership proves too much, in particular anarcho-capitalism, and even Wenzel generally rejects it in favor of minarchism.
But this is only because Rothbardian libertarianism assumes human nature to be pure and holy. If humans were fully uncorrupt and unfallen creatures, then the state would indeed be neither necessary nor desirable, as Rothbard relentlessly proves. Billiard balls and angels obey their laws without fail; not humans. The state, though conceived in injustice, is necessary to counteract the injustices of individual criminals. We allow the state because humans do unnatural things, in order to contain the damage thereof, but for no other reason. Coupled with this understanding, libertarianism stands defended.