OR THEIR BODIES
According to the labor theory of property everyone is
entitled to the fruit of
'er labor. (As to the double meaning
of labor: the question is precisely whether this includes the
'labor' of giving birth, unless the traditional his is indeed
to mean his.) This proposition must be understood as a
corollary of the proposition that everyone has a property in 'er
own body. If the former is taken as an independent proposition
besides the latter, it leads to the conclusion that parents
would have property rights in their children, or that they would
not always have such rights in the fruits of their labor.
Whatever their age, children would, even as people, not have the
same right in their bodies, if labor is used as the fundamental
criterion. However, if the right in a person's labor is only
derivative, the consequence of the proposition that a person has
such a right should not be incompatible with the original
premise in which the right to one's own body is granted to
everyone, supposedly irrespective of age and regardless of the
fact that one's parent(s) may still be alive. If it is
incompatible, the argument does indeed need modification, given
that children are not just to be their parents' chattels.
The idea that children (up to adolescence, adulthood or any
age) would or could be mere objects possessed by their parents
may sound repugnant to us, it is a belief entertained even by
some latter-day philosophers famous among men and other human
beings of the same, or a similar, ideological persuasion.
Moreover, the theories of these bourgeois males were equally
applicable to women (the wives of husbands) and to servants or
On the basis of the musings of the most quoted one of them, it had to be
concluded that there was even nothing against killing so-called
'illegitimate' children (of whatever age?) simply because a 'child born
outside marriage is also outside the protection of the law'.
In the doctrine of this man (who set himself up as the leader of
'critical' thought) the lord's possession of his wife, children and
servants is a type of corporeal-personal right, and the persons thus
possessed can be used as objects, as means to the lord's ends, but
'without interfering with their personality'.
Furthermore, he taught that children (of whatever age?) and servants do
not have 'an own will limited by law to determine their actions'.
Instead, they are like slaves subjected to the will of the father or
gentleman-in-command; not just subjected, but 'like members of
his own body'.
(Woe to him who creeps
thru these usufructuary
serpent-windings of a theory on the nonuse of persons as means.)
Husbands have wives, parents have children, and people with
servants have servants, but a human being must have orthodox
monotheist or other ideological reasons to infer from this that
husbands possess or own wives, that parents possess or own
children, and that people possess or own their servants, or
would hold them in usufruct, without the inverse being true as
well. (Note that in the theorist referred to above, possession
is not a purely empirical but a moral and legal notion. Note
also that in the same theorist a child is possessed as an object
if the legal relation exists and may be killed if the legal
relation does not exist.)
It is one thing to say that A possesses B, but that B also possesses A,
and quite a different thing to produce the sentence that A possesses B,
but that B does not possess A.
This is the case with the children and the servants of the theorist we
are presently dealing with. But what about his wives? Why do they
not possess their husbands as their husbands possess them? Well,
the male, adult, nonserving searcher of wisdom in question does
affirm that the relationship between married people is a
'relation of equality of possession', a relation of 'people who
mutually possess each other'. But what is the case ? The man's
right to command, and the fact that she belongs to him, derives
from the 'natural superiority of the man's capacity over the
female where it concerns the common interest of the household'.
(Incidentally, this was extended to the whole organization of
the state in which wives, children and servants were to remain
passive citizens. And incidentally, this confirmed the monotheist
commandment that wives ought to honor and obey their
husbands.) It is the duty of sexual equality with respect to the
end of naturalness which underlies the husband's right to
command his wife, and not vice versa. (Woe to him who creeps
thru these kinky serpent-windings of a theory on the equality of
men and women.)
We now have an impression of some of the ideas of a prominent
anti-utilitarian (an exponent of both deontology and a teleology
of naturalness), but the worst ideas of some utilitarians on the
interests of women, children and the poor were hardly better.
(Touch their goods and chattels and the adversaries are as thick
All the consideration the founder of utilitarianism showed for the
interests of wives, children and apprentices was that controls on those
who possessed them should only in the first instance be absent.
'e —or should we say "he"
again?— was an opponent of slavery, 'er reason was not that this was
a violation of the rights of those sold or born into slavery; 'er reason
was that the workers would be more productive, if they were free than if
they were held as property.
It is typical of this utilitarian view that justice is merely a
contingent matter. Yet, we should not lump all history's
utilitarians together in an aggregative fashion; certainly not
when they call themselves "utilitarians", but when they appear
to embrace a pluralistic doctrine instead of a monistic eudaimonism.
One of the early 'utilitarians' already insisted that
there ought not to exist any proprietary right in human beings
at all; that they were rights of property in abuses.
The objection to this view is the same as that of the extreme
anti-property position which does not recognize a person's property in
'er own body either.
When asking ourselves whether, in a certain community or society, there
are people, or bodies of people, which are owned or possessed by other
people, we should not stop when it turns out that formally no-one or
nobody is possessed by someone else.
There is a classical distinction between 'dominium', or
the rule over things by the individual, and 'imperium', or the
rule over all individuals by the state.
Since the rights of property entail the right to exclude nonowners, with
the exception (on a
first-order doctrinal level) of
certain kinds of
intrinsic rights, we must not
overlook the actual fact —as has been pointed out— that such
dominium over nonpersonal things is usually also imperium over other
people or their bodies.