I now have three grandchildren. The latest, the young son and my own son and his wife, was born just a few days ago. The other two, my oldest child’s, also boys, are now two and three years old.
I am reluctant to bring them into my political quarrels but it is impossible for me to divorce their lives from the ideas about individual rights that have occupied me for decades. It is especially difficult to suppress my outrage at the fact that some of my colleagues in political philosophy hold views that literally consign my grandchildren into involuntary servitude without paying any heed to their own choices in the matter.
That is what the likes of Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, James Sterba, et al, have been arguing in philosophy books and journals for decades. Just for being born, my grandchildren are supposed to owe others at least a substantial part of their lives -- their labor, their talents, their good fortune, etc. may legally be conscripted, or so these political thinkers at very prestigious universities argue.
Just consider that for having been born in a given country, the state -- the politicians and bureaucrats in the land -- embark upon confiscating and conscripting their lives, never mind whether they have agreed to this. These erudite people, who teach at Harvard University, McGill, Notre Dame and elsewhere, contend that my grand kids do not have the full right to their life and liberty, not to mention property but must relinquish it so they and their preferred politicians and bureaucrats may use them as they judge fit. This they do mainly by some sophistical argumentative tricks, such as the notion that being born ipso facto assigns part of one’s life to other people, never mind who they may be, whether they deserve it, whether permission was given to do such a thing.
If this isn’t the same as slavery I don’t know what is. No one asked the slave’s permission to be coerced to labor as told by the masters. No one asked the slave whether his or her life is here for others to use and dispose of as the masters choose.
Granted, this practice or enslaving non-consenting fellow human beings has gone on for ages, nearly everywhere on the face of the earth, but that cuts no ice as far as truth and justice are concerned. Hundreds of vile practices have been carried out throughout human history and none of them could be given any rational, moral justification. Nor can this vile notion that everyone belongs to the state or society or favored other people!
Isn’t it time to call the practice of involuntary servitude by its correct name? And to abolish it like slavery has been abolished in most civilized societies?
We are delighted to present Lessons in Freedom, essays by Dr. Tibor Machan, for your pleasure.
Dr. Machan holds the R. C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at Chapman University's Argyros School of B&E.