Over the past few days, I’ve been reading some of the work of Peter Vallentyne , a Professor of Philosophy at University of Missouri-Columbia. One particularly interesting piece is On Original Appropriation , in which he analyses the basis of property rights. He concludes that self-ownership doesn’t imply any system of property rights, beyond the requirement that one person doesn’t violate the self-ownership of others by forcibly taking from them items which they have in their physical possession.
Of course, that isn’t to say that systems of absentee ownership of items, concepts, etc. are not morally justifiable; many of them are promoted on the grounds of utilitarianism, contractarianism (the approach I tend to take) or a belief that it is morally right to give people exclusive rights over the fruits of their labour. What Peter Vallentyne’s work shows is that any attempt to derive other property rights from the right of self-ownership is bound to fail, as they are two independent concepts.