Self-ownership and non-culpable proviso violations

Preston J. Werner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Left and right libertarians alike are attracted to the thesis of self-ownership (SO) because, as Eric Mack says, they ‘believe that it best captures our common perception of the moral inviolability of persons’. Further, most libertarians, left and right, accept that some version of the Lockean Proviso (LP) restricts agents’ ability to acquire worldly resources. The inviolability of SO purports to make libertarianism more appealing than its (non-libertarian) egalitarian counterparts, since traditional egalitarian theories cannot straightforwardly explain why, e.g. forced organ donation and forced labor are serious wrongs even when they generate more equitable outcomes or benefit the greater good. I argue that, when SO is coupled with LP, this appeal is unfounded. SO, as usually construed, allows for the possibility of justified incursions of non-culpable agents up to and including forced organ donation. I conclude by considering a few possible responses on behalf of the libertarian, assessing each one’s plausibility.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 6 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2013.


  • Libertarianism
  • Lockean Proviso (LP)
  • Nozick
  • compensation
  • left-libertarianism
  • right-libertarianism
  • self-ownership (SO)


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