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Feb 11, 2009

Self Ownership In Nepalese Society

When looked upon from the vantage point of freedom, Nepalese society seems to be in infant stage. A mature society implies respect for the right of an individual to enjoy maximum freedom as to what to do with his life, actions and property and hence live a life he chooses while respecting similar rights of others. This viewpoint of a mature society arises from the concept of self-ownership which may seem bizarre to a society like ours. Despite gaining political and civil liberties to some extent as a result of various political movements and revolutions and the impact of globalization, Nepalese society hasn’t yet embraced the concept of respect for the rule of law and social and economic freedom.

What is self-ownership?

The concept of self-ownership can be traced back to John Locke who said the individual "has a right to decide what would become of him and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did." To put it simply, the concept of self ownership means that every person owns himself and is responsible for all his actions, which means that you have the highest claim to your life. No other person or groups of person own your life nor do you own the life of others. If anyone else would have a higher claim to your life than you do then it would imply that you are a slave, not a free person. Every person is equal and therefore they also have the highest claim to their life. So, what person “A” does with his life or his body shouldn’t be of any concern to “B” until and unless A doesn’t breach B’s rights of self ownership. No individual has the right to initiate force to take away other person’s life or liberty. The right to own oneself is hence, "self-evident."

Another facet of self-ownership is that the state is merely a body representing individuals for the sole purpose of safe-guarding the natural rights of its people. Government officials don’t enjoy any rights more then we civilians do. Officials don’t have the right to take away someone else’s life, liberty or property without their voluntary consent. Since we don’t have these rights, naturally our representatives can’t have that right. One cannot give what one doesn’t have is a universal truth. Rights to life, liberty and property don’t come from the state they are with us from birth. State is there to safeguard our rights.

Self-Ownership and Personal freedom

A society with respect for self-ownership rights gives maximum freedom of choice to individuals; making them responsible for their own actions which in turn drives the society towards progression through better decisions, competition and innovations. Only in such societies is a person free to choose the course of his life, his religious values, his culture and traditions and live a dignified life.

Self-Ownership and Private Property

The concept of self-ownership and private property are interdependent. Self-ownership states that property is something a person acquires by using his labor and liberty. Property is part of the nature which individual turns to valuable use or something he/she acquires through voluntary exchange. A person has the highest claim over his justly acquired property. No one has the right to exert forceful aggression against anyone else’s property. A person is free to choose what to do with his property. He can choose to destroy it, lend it, throw it, utilize it, underutilize it and whatnots until and unless there isn’t any aggression on somebody else’s property.

Why is it necessary for a prosperous society?

As we can see that in a society where self-ownership rights of the individuals are respected, every person has to be responsible for himself. He/She cannot think of prospering on someone else’s expenses. Every decision she makes and every action she performs is of utmost importance to her as the consequences are to be borne by him/her. When a person feels responsible for herself, she starts acting for her own best interests seriously. When every one feels responsible for their life and starts working to improve their life sincerely, society moves towards progression.

The property right of a person acts as an incentive for him to work more and be prosperous. The people who put more efforts in their life get more whereas people unwilling to work for themselves won’t prosper or survive because they can’t forcefully take someone else’s property. Property right motivates people to work more, innovate new things, use their resources more efficiently and productively which contributes in the economy of a society.

What is the present condition in Nepalese Society?

Self –ownership is a new concept for our society. There are many instances where our culture and practices prevent people from becoming self-responsible. Let take the example of the practice of inheritance. According to our culture and our law, a person inherits the wealth of his parents. A person regardless of his wishes, has to give his property to his wife and children. The children who receive huge wealth from their parents without having to work for it take it for granted. There is no incentive for them to work hard and make a fortune for themselves. If someone’s father is earning well, then the son doesn’t think it necessary to work for his living as he is sooner or later going to inherit the wealth.

Another example can be the tendency of Nepalese people living with their parents even after attaining adulthood. The free scholarship and free lodging –fooding we receive from our parents is making us less responsible in our studies and life. Most of our youngsters today complain more and take less responsibility for their life.

On a higher level, if we look at our society, even a small problem in the neighborhood awaits the government’s action. A strict government is the panacea to all the problems. “The government should take more action…”, “Our government should provide us this and that …..”, “That’s not my job, the government should do it…” are one of the most common phrases we hear everyday. Our expectations from government ranges from free education, free health services to employment. Our expectations from the government are not only too many but ridiculous as well. Letting government be responsible for many aspects of our life, we have increased the government’s control on our lives. There are very few aspects of our life which are free from government control. Letting government take decisions for us, every child born in Nepal has an increasing debt of more than Rs.13000 on his head.

Lack of respect for self-ownership rights appear time and again in our news. Husbands killing their wives for dowry issues and feeling no regret, labour unions shutting down industries, various women groups attacking the beauty pageants and refusing to let the participants make their decision on whether the pageants are using them as commodities or not, security personnel killing civilians, ruling party seizing the property of civilian and refusing to return them are some very common news in our media.


The society with respect for self-ownership rights is the most practical, ethical and prosperous society. It’s the society where its members learn to be responsible for their lives and enjoy maximum freedom to shape up and live their lives as they choose. Due to responsible citizens, the resource in such societies are utilized most efficiently and productively. A free and responsible society is the ultimate stage of any civilization. Sadly, our society lags far behind in this regard. While we are talking about a new prosperous Nepal, every Nepalese should realize that the pathway to our goals is a free and responsible society and works towards the attainment of the same.

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