Lysander Spooner spells out his theory of “mine and thine”, or the science of natural law and justice, which alone can ensure that mankind lives in peace (1882)

Lysander Spooner

The American radical individualist legal theorist and abolitionist Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) argued in his pamphlet on Natural Law (1882) that:

The science of mine and thine — the science of justice — is the science of all human rights; of all a man’s rights of person and property; of all his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the science which alone can tell any man what he can, and cannot, do; what he can, and cannot, have; what he can, and cannot, say, without infringing the rights of any other person. It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other.

Spooner’s distinction between natural law and legislation brings to mind two other theorists. Before Spooner began writing there was Thomas Hodgskin (1787-1869) who made the distinction between “natural and artificial rights”, the latter being created by government usually to favour special interests. After Spooner there was Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), the Nobel Prize winning Austrian economist, who distinguished between “law” and “legislation” - the former with some approval, the latter with distain and warnings.