Britney Spears, Self-Ownership, and Economic Liberty
The #FreeBritney movement has become a pop culture phenomenon, highlighting the abusive nature of so-called “conservatorships,” a legal tool that limits an individual’s right to self-ownership and economic liberty.
In 2008, the public grew concerned for Britney’s livelihood after she shaved off all her hair and attacked a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella. This led her father, Jamie Spears, to petition the court for control over his daughter’s estate, her career, and her personal life, resulting in Britney being placed under a legal conservatorship.
Under U.S. law, a conservatorship allows a judge to appoint a guardian, who acts as the sole manager of a person’s financial affairs if they can prove that the individual in question is mentally, physically, or financially incapable of caring for themselves.
It also gives the guardian control over the person’s daily life; controlling what they do, who they see, and where they go.
Once a conservatorship is granted, it can be difficult to reverse the court’s decision.
Most often, conservatorships are applied to the elderly who have lost the ability to care for themselves. But unlike many elderly people, who can no longer financially support themselves,
Britney has proven herself more than capable of working and earning a substantial living.
She has continued to release albums, tour, and even earned herself a residency in Las Vegas all while being deemed unfit to control her own finances.
Worse still, she has been forced to forfeit a substantial portion of her income to her father.
In an impassioned plea before the judge, Britney made a comment that should resonate with everyone who supports economic liberty, “All I want is to own my money.”
The right to earn a living is one of the most basic precepts of self-ownership. But the state of California continues to take these rights away from Britney.
Adding insult to injury, according to Britney’s recent testimony she has been forced to work against her will, demonstrating a complete disregard for her personal wishes.
As she explained:
“I worked seven days a week, no days off, which in California, the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking. Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away — credit card, cash, phone, passport — and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them.”
“To recap: I was on tour in 2018. I was forced to do… My management said if I don’t do this tour, I will have to find an attorney, and by contract my own management could sue me if I didn’t follow through with the tour. He handed me a sheet of paper as I got off the stage in Vegas and said I had to sign it. It was very threatening and scary. And with the conservatorship, I couldn’t even get my own attorney. So out of fear, I went ahead and I did the tour.”
If Britney can keep up with a hectic tour schedule, which includes grueling rehearsals and choreographing her own videos and performances, one might wonder why the state can take away her economic sovereignty when she has more than demonstrated her competency.
As she rightfully pointed out: “I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people — it makes no sense. The laws need to change.”
She continued: “What state allows people to own another person’s money and account and threaten them and saying, ‘You can’t spend your money unless you do what we want you to do.’ And I’m paying them.”
Not only has Britney been adding millions of dollars to her estate, but she has also been creating jobs for countless others.
As she told the court:
“It makes no sense whatsoever for the state of California to sit back and literally watch me with their own two eyes, make a living for so many people, and pay so many people, trucks and buses on the road with me and be told, I’m not good enough. But I’m great at what I do.”
Since her father is legally entitled to a large chunk of her earnings, she has been, in essence, paying for her own incarceration.
“I don’t owe these people anything — especially me, the one that has roofed and fed tons of people on tour on the road. It’s embarrassing and demoralizing what I’ve been through.”
Not only is her economic fate in someone else’s hands, but Britney has lost the right to make even the most basic choices for herself. She can’t visit friends unless they are approved by her father. She also isn’t allowed to have children without permission from her father. All decision rights over her own life have been completely stripped from her.
The right to make your own choices, especially when it comes to earning a living free from unreasonable government interference, is a basic element of a free society, one that should be taken very seriously.
Our country’s founding principles were influenced heavily by philosopher John Locke. In his Second Treatise on Government, he writes of the importance of individuals owning their own labor and the “fruits” it yields.
“Every Man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature placed it, it hath by his labor something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men. For this labor being the unquestionable property of the laborer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.”
The moral principle of self-ownership that was so eloquently stated by Locke is something every liberty-minded person should value.
Every single person deserves the right to control their own life and their earnings and to do so without the government standing in our way.
Unfortunately, Britney’s situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied Britney’s request to remove her father from the conservatorship. For the time being, Britney will have to endure this egregious loss of self-ownership.