Autonomism also centers around the idea of autonomous and horizontal self-organization. Meaning that it is not imposed from the top-down like political systems or decrees from a government. Rather, it is built from the bottom-up by individuals who adhere to autonomist ideas. This does not mean that there is no force (see the sections below entitled Defense and Accountability), but that peaceful and voluntary solutions are always sought first, and that no use of force is considered justifiable except in response to some infringement.
Since there are a few other ideas and movements which have used the name Autonomism, such as Marxist Autonomism, this particular sort could be specified as Natural Law Autonomism when it is necessary to avoid confusion.
Autonomism is based on three premises and a conclusion, which serve as its first principles.
Premise 1 – Every sentient, sapient individual is a person. A person experiences their world phenomenally and qualitatively and expresses their will arbitrarily back into the world as a function of that experience – therefore, they are sentient. Their sentient awareness approaches a limit of lucidity – awareness of their own selves, their own thoughts, and their own awareness including the capacity to analyze and scrutinize their own thinking – meaning they are sapient. And they cannot be subdivided into two or more smaller units which possess the same qualities in their own right – and therefore, they are individuals. This is the basic and inherent nature of a person – their essential self.
Premise 2 – For a person to express the nature of their essential self they must be empowered to do so. They require the necessary physical, intellectual, and psychological resources to sustain and act on that nature. Without adequate empowerment, the essential self is hampered, inhibited, or entirely destroyed.
Premise 3 – A person, given the nature of their essential self, is inherently autonomous, able to choose, and responsible for their actions and choices – all to the degree that they are empowered to be and to do so. This is part of the nature of their essential self. Without sufficient empowerment, their capacity for autonomy and responsibility may be inhibited or destroyed.
Therefore – If I should claim that the integrity of my own autonomous essential self should be acknowledged as legitimate, respected (in action), and upheld by others, then I must acknowledge as legitimate, respect (in action), and uphold the integrity of the autonomous essential selves of others to the degree that I am responsible and able to do so, since they are essentially the same apart from my perspective. If I fail to do this, then I undermine the legitimacy of any claim that my own essential self should be respected. If I do not claim that the integrity of my own essential self should be acknowledged, respected, or upheld by others, then I am free to not do so for others. But then, I also have no grounds on which to object if my own essential self is infringed upon, hampered, or destroyed.
From these first principles, other principles can be derived as natural consequences of the first principles – the first principles themselves being the natural consequences of basic observations about the nature of a person. If the first principles are true, then these derivative principles must necessarily be true. Therefore, I refer to this entire collection of first and derivative principles as Natural Law.
Some of these derivative principles include:
Natural Rights – If I acknowledge that the autonomous essential self of others is legitimate, must be respected, and must be upheld, then I must acknowledge the existence, expression, maintenance, and empowerment of the autonomous essential self as natural rights of that individual person, so long as it also does not infringe upon the autonomous essential self of another.
Liberty – Accordingly, natural rights include the liberty – to learn, to believe, and to retain information as I choose, as well as to create, transmit, and receive information – to occupy space, travel, move about freely – to act on my environment, to create, alter, and express my will through my actions – to associate with or disassociate from others, to assemble or disassemble, and to form consensual agreements and contracts – to exercise primary and exclusive control over my own body to do with it as I please – to engage in any peaceful activity which does not deny another their natural rights. These liberties are rights whenever they do not infringe on the natural rights or autonomous essential self of another.
Possession – As empowerment is necessary for the exercise of my autonomous essential self, my natural rights, and my liberties, it is, therefore, my right to appropriate, possess, use, alter, consume, and dispose of any physical object, mass or energy, which does not amount to an infringement on another. Also, as some of these uses may require limiting or revoking those same rights of others to the same object, it is also my right to initiate such a limitation so long as it does not infringe on their rights or direct interests.
Privacy – Likewise, as it is also necessary for empowerment, it is my right to appropriate and maintain space, time, and information storage for my own private use – both alone or with others – and to conceal myself, my activities, my personal information, and my personal possessions within that space and away from those who might disturb or compromise that privacy.
Natural Responsibilities – For every expression of my natural rights comes an equal individual responsibility, to the degree that I am empowered to exercise it, to maintain the integrity of the natural rights, autonomy, and essential selves of others. This includes the responsibility to not unsolicitedly infringe on their natural rights, either directly or indirectly, actively or passively. It also includes the responsibility to give reasonable assurance of non-aggression towards others, to be transparent in dealings with others, and to act against infringements or compromises in the natural rights, autonomy, and essential selves of others as the means and opportunity are reasonably available, to the degree that I am empowered to do so.
Accountability – As it is their right to defend themselves and one another against any unsolicited infringements by me on their natural rights or their autonomous essential selves, I am accountable to others for any such infringement or alleged infringement. I must acknowledge their right to examine and investigate any substantiated accusation or credible evidence of infringement on them by me, and their right to restoration and restitution from myself to them should an unsolicited infringement be proven. Likewise, if I should initiate such an inquiry, I must acknowledge the right of the suspected or accused to initiate their own inquiry into the matter, to seek counsel, to cross-examine any evidence or witnesses, and to present their defense of themselves. It is their right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty by evidence and sound reason, and no demand for restitution or restoration must be placed on them until guilt is proven.
Self-Determination – In light of these rights and responsibilities derived by natural law, I must acknowledge that it is the right of every individual to choose how they will live, whether individually or as a group, to come together with others to form or join a group or society as they please, to form it into the shape they please, to leave such a group or society freely as they please, and to alter or dissolve such a group as they please – all so long as they do not unsolicitedly violate the natural rights or autonomous essential self of any person in the process. They are free to enact any social, political, or economic form they choose within the space they have rightly appropriated to do so, with the possessions they have rightly appropriated, and among the people who have voluntarily assented to this order. They are also free to leave or disassociate with any such group or society, and to not be compelled to join any such group or society, or to pledge their rights, allegiance, or possessions to such a group.