Rajiv Shah writes at the Social Rationalist:
I first read Rothbard (For a New Liberty and The Ethics of Liberty) sometime in 2008. I was quickly persuaded by the gist of the arguments offered. At the core was the idea of Self-Ownership (SO), which I found very persuasive and from which I gained considerable intellectual confidence. I knew I could deal with whatever issues of public policy (e.g. drug prohibition) by invoking SO. Of course people could deny SO but such a position appeared to me to be quite implausible.
I have since abandoned those views. I actually stopped believing in SO over a year ago but it has taken me quite some time to articulate why. What follows is my attempt at doing so.
I have three main arguments against SO. The first one is a claim that the concept itself is incoherent. Secondly, libertarian (by that I mean Rothbardian) conclusions do not follow from SO itself, at least two further controversial claims have to be shown. Finally, the main argument in favour of SO is unpersuasive.
The essay is not arranged so as to have the three arguments following each other. I apologise for that. This is because various different discussions make their way into more than one arguments. In the conclusion I draw all the different threads together.
I suggest reading this essay along with a previous essay of mine “The Problem with Property Rights”. Together they form the basis for my rejection of Lockean Natural Rights libertarianism.
II. Referential aspect
A conceptual difficulty with SO is the self referential aspect of it. If I say that I own a slave then the the owner and the object of ownership is different. This is the case for every ownership claim.
However, with SO it seems that there is a self referential aspect. This makes SO at worst incoherent and at best unlike the other ownership claims (and if it is different then why should it not be treated differently).
This can be overcome by appealing to a dualist conception of the self. This would amount to saying that one has a soul which is the owner of the body (and the two are separate).
Now this is a controversial philosophical claim. I do not intend to argue against it here but advocates of SO should be aware of what they are implicitly claiming.
If contrary to what I claim the self referential aspect does not make the concept of SO incoherent then those issues of personal identity can lead to results different than libertarians expect.
Read more here.