The Individual as Property
In 2011 a woman named Sharrie Gavan beat a man with a baseball bat. Now, this is not all that unusual, as domestic disputes, home invasions, and overheated arguments sometimes end with an act of assault, but this particular case is different. In this instance the woman took a baseball bat to the drug pusher who was gleefully destroying her 20-year-old son with heroin. Mrs. Gavan was recently convicted of the assault and faces up to a year in prison.
This story seems destined to die a dull death, although there are locals in the St. Louis area who have cheered the actions of this woman. But when looked at in a larger context this story speaks volumes about the fundamental changes that have occurred in our culture and in our thinking.
What is the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the State? America was founded on principles found in the Bible and in the writings of 17th century philosophers such as John Locke.
John Locke pointed out in his First Treatise on Government:
Though the Earth... be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.
So, all men have first and foremost the right to own themselves.
This is of critical importance because it is this most fundamental principle that the modern Left and Right part company over. Liberals do not believe this basic assertion, preferring to believe that we as a collective own each other. This distinction is absolutely critical, because it informs our beliefs in terms of actions.
The English Philosophers Hobbes and Hume argued that property was a creation of the State, and were not held in high regard by the Founders of the United States. If property is a creation of the State, then one can argue that the State has sovereignty over the individual.
And of course later philosophers came to dismiss the view of self-ownership as illusory. Rousseau believed individuals enter voluntarily into a social contract which creates a "sovereign", a sort of group entity, a collective. Rousseau was extraordinarily influential on later leftist thinking, as was Karl Marx who disdained the concept of personal sovereignty, as did Benito Mussolini. As in communism and fascism, the entire undercurrent of modern liberalism is anti-individualism. Even the Anarchists, though they may seem to be radical individualists, ultimately seek the collectivization of property as a means to grant themselves the individualism they seem to believe in -- making them as statist as any other leftist branch. Without property rights one cannot have individual rights.
It is no surprise that the general degradation of property rights should coincide with the rise of statism and the devaluing of the individual. Either we own property -- including ourselves - or we do not.
From such a belief system comes abortion; the right to life is subject to the granting of permission by the collective.
Gun control is another example; the Left hates guns because they empower the individual over the collective. A man with a gun does not need the protection of the State but can deal with violations of his rights by himself. The man with a gun can, if need be, do without the collective. This chafes at liberal sensibilities, as they are absolute in their determination to make us all not just our brother's keeper but his master. There can be no right to self-defense in a world where one does not own even himself. The State is master and it is a usurpation, an act of rebellion, to defend yourself. It is even more an act of treason to defend yourself against the State. This is why there is such anger in the Progressive community against "bitter clingers" holding onto their guns; what right does any individual have to take the power of the State?
It affects religion, too. The Judeo-Christian religions believe in the duty of the individual to govern himself first and foremost. The Progressive thinking is that nobody has a right to govern himself, so Christianity and Judaism are rebels, antithetical to the cause of community and the idea that "it takes a village".