Today in our country we share many components of freedom, liberty, equality, as well as conceptions of justice. This democratic way of life has brought many people feelings of pride, self worth, and prosperity. Although, according to libertarian John Hospers our democratic government, as well as many other governments across the world are unjust and are violating some of our most basic rights of freedom. Socialist, Kai Neilson on the other hand feels as though all societies including are own limits people’s rights to liberty and to act freely. Neilson’s proposal to rectify societies and make people’s lives more autonomous is much less likely to be successful as well as favored by many Americans today. Although, Hosper’s proposal seems to be much more feasible than Neilson’s, both propositions come with threats that are just not worth the risk.
Hospers feels as though the only way to prevent these infringements on our personal freedoms is to practice the philosophy of libertarianism. Within a libertarian government a doctrine would state, “that every person is the owner of his own life, and that no one is the owner of anyone else’s life, and that consequently every human being has the right to act in accordance with his own choices, unless those actions infringe on the equal liberty of other human beings to act in accordance with their choices”.
In short, Hospers states three main guidelines from which to follow, the first states that, “No one is anyone else’s master, and no one is anyone else’s slave” . This basic standard explains that no one has the power to enslave anyone no matter who they are. Another important guideline is that, “Other men’s lives are not yours to dispose of” . The significance of this guideline is that a person cannot take what does not belong to him from another man. A well-known example of this would be the opinion of the opera-lover. Many opera-lovers feel as though the state should subsidize opera so that everyone can see it. What they are saying is to come up with the money through legalized force. Money would be taken out of every workers paycheck in order to pay for the productions of opera because the opera-lover feels as though everyone should see it, despite the opinion of the non opera-lover. This example shows how the government is able to seize people’s earnings despite their agreement with it. Another way would be free medical care, whether or not a person wanted to work the extra time every week so that money could be taken from his check to go towards taxes, which would help fund free medical care, he has no choice, and therefore his life is being disposed of.
If a person has no interest in a particular topic they should have the choice of whether or not they want to donate their hard-earned funds to the cause. The last guideline which, Hospers states is that “No human being should be a nonvoluntary mortgage on the life of another” . This meaning that no one can claim someone else’s life, work, or products of efforts as their own. “The wealth that some men have produced should not be fair game for looting by government, to be used for whatever purposes its representatives determine, no matter what their motives in so doing may be”. Under this guideline Hospers also states that every man has the right to property and any attempt by others to take it away from him violates this right, through the use of coercion against him.
All in all Hospers ideal libertarian utopia would consist of strict empowerment of his three main guidelines. The government’s main and most important objective would be to protect all citizens against any kind of aggression by other individuals. The government would see to it that one person’s freedom would end rite where the next person’s begins. This tends to relate with Mill’s harm principle, which in his opinion should be the only justifiable liberty limiting principle. The government would also have to see to it that there are no laws compromising in any ways freedom of speech, the press, and of peaceable assembly. Also there would be no censorship of ideas, books, films, or of anything else by the government. In this libertarian society there would also be “the right to property: libertarians support legislation that protects the property rights of individuals against confiscation, nationalization, eminent domain, robbery, trespass, fraud and misrepresentation, patent and copyright, libel and slander” .
Despite the fact that Nielsen somewhat agrees with Hospers on the level that many societies are violating or limiting peoples rights to liberty and freedom he would have much to criticize about Hospers libertarian society. Neilson’s main argument is that all governments should allow their citizens the freedom to have utmost control over every possible aspect of their lives. Neilson feels as though a person’s autonomy, which is their actual ability to be self-governing over their choices, is a freedom which should not be interfered with by anyone, especially the government. Autonomy should not in anyway be prevented to any single person, especially if it is violated due to the way a particular society is run. When the government allows and encourages people to express their autonomy it makes it possible for people to form their choices freely, making it easier for people to act on the rights they have.
Nielson would come to completely disagree with Hospers on his proposal of property rights. Neilson feels as though people’s autonomy is restricted when there are private ownerships of production property in existence, in his opinion this is private ownership of the means of life. In a society like this there will be the few that have domination over the majority of the people. This two-class society will be run by the demands of the owners “…determining whether workers (taken now as individuals) can work, how they work, on what they work, the conditions under which they work and what is done with what they produce (where they are producers) and what use is made of their skills and the like”. The only way to prevent this domination is to create a classless society.
In order for people to become more autonomous any means of private ownership must be abolished. In Neilson’s ideal society the means of production would be owned and controlled by every and any able-bodied citizen in the society who would also become a worker or already has worked. Here there would be no division between class lines. This destroys any private preserve of an individual owner allowing all citizens of the society an equal ownership. This now allows each person to have an equal right to the means of life.
With out a doubt Hospers would most likely respect Neilsen’s proposal to autonomies people’s lives, although he would not be able to disagree more with his socialist ways. Hospers would powerfully oppose Nielsen’s idea to abolish private ownership; this would be in violation of Hospers’ right to property. Hospers would argue that what one man works so hard and diligently for should not be fair game for another man to come along and claim it as his own. The idea of no private ownership also goes against Hospers right to liberty which allows no censorship of ideas. There are many creative people in the world who come up with amazing ideas for new companies, restaurants, businesses, etc… In a socialist society these new aspiring ideas could not be expressed because of the limitation of private ownerships. If you have an idea it should be your right to create and achieve it, as well as profit from it.
After careful evaluation of Nielsen’s socialist society it came to me again and again that his idea of a classless society and abolishment of public ownership would not allow people to become more autonomous in the least bit. If anything, in a socialist society, citizens would have fewer rights of liberty as well as autonomy. I will agree that the people of my country today who have worked low-paying jobs of no prestige, whom have no hope of acquiring any sort of decent job may benefit from a society where there is no division between classes. Their feelings of worth and esteem may go up, but who is to say they deserve what everyone else has. Who are these people of low-paying wages anyway, certainly not the people who have worked hard in their schooling to achieve scholarships to continue their educations and work hard. They are not people with aspiring new ideas of inventions, businesses, etc., so why should they be in the same class as a person who has worked hard through high school, college, and medical school? Although, if in a socialist society, these people would probably feel more autonomous than they ever would in a democratic society like our own, which is what Nielsen would like to achieve, but what about everyone else?
If there is public ownership in society how could hard working people act autonomously, they unquestionably cannot set their own ends for themselves, no doubt could they even think about achieving these ends, how would this be possible in a society which allows no private ownership?
What about all those aspiring young entrepreneurs with incredible ideas of all the sorts. Their autonomy is completely cut-off by the government restricting any ideas of private ownership, whether it is a beauty salon, Italian cuisine restaurant, or architecture company. All these wonderful ideas which would be expressed through companies and privately owned businesses would never get across to anyone. This undoubtedly leading to a dim, dull, scary world. Neilsen would rebuttal my argument by claiming that once his society was underway and running things would appear to be much better. He would probably defend the objection I made of people’s creative ideas not getting across to people by claiming that these ideas may still be expressed and created, but when put into operation they would be publicly run.
Although Hospers’ idea of libertarianism is much more appealing then a socialist society I feel as though the bottom line is that neither society would successfully be able to replace the democratic government which we live in today. In a libertarian society there would be too much of a risk of horrible poverty due to no taxes. In a socialist society there would be too much of a risk of an uprising due to the limitation of people’s freedom and censorships of ideas. In conclusion I feel as though a libertarian government is much better suited to allow the citizens of the society to express their rights and liberty to the fullest. Although a socialist society would prevent any sort of poverty that one group would experience due to a libertarian government because of its lack of classes.