Self-Ownership, Labor, and Licensing

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1 Scopus citations


In this essay I examine restrictions on labor as takings of property: A liberty to work is property, and restrictions of that liberty are takings. I set property in one's labor within a unified framework for all forms of property, understood as a social institution for balancing two freedoms: Freedom to act even if it interferes with someone else, and freedom from interference. As such, property includes not only possession but also use and disposition. To restrict use or disposition is to alter those freedoms, which is a taking of property, including property in one's labor. I understand such takings to be justified insofar as they benefit the persons whose freedoms are altered, taking up the question of when restrictions on use and disposition of labor are to the benefit or the harm of excluded workers. Appreciating that labor is property, and that restrictions on labor are takings, reframes the justificatory burden that restrictions on labor must bear. And where that justification is lacking, this approach reframes the nature of the wrongs that unjustified restrictions perpetrate, especially against the most vulnerable workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-195
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Philosophy and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • freedom
  • labor
  • occupational licensing
  • property
  • reciprocity
  • self-ownership
  • takings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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