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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

rights don't exist.

What do people mean when they say there's no such thing as rights?
I don't mean anything when I say it. I'm just quoting other people.
I was working on this a while ago. I haven't had the time to finish it, but I have wanted to get it posted here and I have a lot on my plate. So, I'll just paste it here as is. I don't even think I'll proof read it. I do want to get back to this later.

I'll see if I can track down the cites. I started this a long time ago, so it might take a while.

Here it is.

I've been reading about and discussing the view that rights are not inherent in the nature of humans. This point of view has been expressed by a few of the people I know who, if labels express anything, would be libertarians or voluntaryists. I have also been examining the rigor of my understanding of rights mostly with my brother David who would most likely be, if labels express anything, a liberal of the left wing type, not classical liberal.

[Column by new Root Striker Dabooda.

I question the usefulness of the idea that people have natural, god-given, inalienable human rights. It's been given a fair trial over the last several centuries, and it doesn't work.

...

"Rights" do not exist. The power of choice does. Men are free to act with respect for the individual liberties of others, or to act without respect. There is no such force as a natural right that will reward virtuous action, or punish evil. There is only one force in human affairs. That is the force of individual will. Freedom is a choice, not a right.]

"Rights" defines a concept. "Rights" is not an object that exists in concrete form. And, yes, "rights" has no agency. "Rights" in and of itself was never meant to protect you.

Why is it any different in kind to say, "Men are free to act with respect for the rights of others, or to act without respect." than to say, "Men are free to act with respect for the individual liberties of others, or to act without respect"? "Rights" and "individual liberties" have the same root.

The way I see it "rights" defines a relationship between any 2 individual people. It's a reciprocal relationship. Basically, it could be defined as don't force yourself on the other person. Or respect other people's individual liberties. Including their liberties to make their own choices about their own stuff.

[Column by new Root Striker Dabooda.

The worst feature of the fable of "rights" is the belief that we are entitled to receive them --
...
Your "right" not to be mugged is of no use to you, in the face of any random thug who doesn't believe in such nonsense. (Which makes him smarter than you.) So if you prefer not to be mugged, it is not useful to count on your "rights;" better to examine your choices. Your choice to carry a gun or to avoid dark alleys will be of infinitely more use to you than your "right" not to be mugged.]

I wonder how it makes him smarter? Because you both know you could use force on the other to get his stuff, but you choose not to? It makes him a thug. Is it smarter to want to live in a society where you always have to watch your back?

Again, rights cannot act. You are not counting on rights to do anything to protect you. The choice you are making is to exercise your rights or protect your rights. You carry a gun and don't walk down dark alleys in order to protect your right not to be mugged.

[Column by new Root Striker Dabooda.

...
Make the choice to defend those freedoms you value. And if someone tries to stomp on your freedom, you will have to choose what to do about it. You can accept the stomping, and lose your freedom, by default. Or you can fight back. If you do so impulsively, stupidly, ineffectively, you can still lose and get stomped. But with planning, ingenuity and perseverance, you can win. Especially if you have help from like-minded friends and allies.
...]

What is the difference between defending the freedoms you value and defending your rights? Do most people understand "freedoms" better than they understand "rights"? They are each words that define certain concepts.

If you are asking your like-minded friends for help, what are you asking them to help you with? How do you justify it?

You certainly don't have to use the concept of rights, but neither do you have to discard it.

The problem isn't that the word has no utility, it is that people do not use more precision in the definition of their words. My choice is to try to get people to understand a more precise definition or use of the concept.

If you understand that the right to your property does not allow for a special class of people with a free pass to violate your property rights you will understand most of what you have to say above about your individual liberties. If you don't understand it, you won't understand all your efforts to say the same thing without using the word "rights".

One of the things I have discovered by discussing this with David is the rigor of my understanding of "rights". I took it for granted before he challenged me to ask the question that the concept of rights was self-evident.
Through thinking, which is no more than the art of finding and resolving contradictions by asking and answering questions, I discovered that "rights" are not self-evident.

Does that negate the value of "rights" as a concept?

David claims they have no validity because they have no agency. So, I asked him to coin a word that has all the attributes of "rights" except the attribute of agency. I don't think agency is a valid attribute of "rights". Rights do not act. They would only require agency if they were to act. "Rights" defines a concept. The concept can be true or false. But it does not cease to exist because it cannot protect the bearer of the right from alienation. It does not cease to exist because it is violated. Because your property is taken from you does not negate the right to your property. If it did, what would that mean? As soon as it is taken, you cannot legitimately go get it back and ask for assistance in getting it back, because you lost your right to it when it was taken. Your right to it defines WHY you can legitimately go get it back, ask for help getting it back and protect it from being taken in the first place.

========
[From a reply to MamaLiberty posting the above by
Jefferson Scott Davis
...
Well, that's the problem and this article highlights that point. According to the values that I adhere to, I have no right to make people believe anything and I have no right to force people to do the "right" thing. However, even voluntaryists seem to fall victim to the compulsion to fix the world and make it "better." Well, according to whose standards?
...]

Exactly. And you used the word "right" in that statement. And people knew pretty close to what you meant when you used it in "no right to...", didn't they? "Rights" has to do with not using force. So, no, you don't have a right to force your beliefs on others. Neither does anyone else. But you can't exercise the right to your property because there are people with a veneer of a free pass to violate your rights without repercussion.
Why?
There is no wiggle room for that in the definition of "rights". Those people have no more a claim to violate your rights than do the people they claim they are protecting you from. How do they resolve that contradiction? What answer to questions about that contradiction are they able to state that does not lead to another contradiction?

[From a reply to MamaLiberty posting the above by
Jefferson Scott Davis
...The notion of rights is all a part of statist hegemony.]

I don't see why it is necessarily a part of statist hegemony. If so, it is like any other tool being misused. If one understands that a part of "rights" is its reciprocity they would know that they don't have a right to health care or the definition of "rights" would involve a contradiction. How does the concept "right to health care" not involve a contradiction to the word "right"? Who provides the health care? Does he have no rights to decide what to do with his time and talent? If so, there is a contradiction. What questions might be asked to resolve it? What statements made? What changes to the definition of rights?


[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
For example, no longer believing this phantasm "right to life" is out there somehow protecting you, you might take a little more responsibility to defend your life on your own. You might actually go out and buy that gun, rather than just thinking about it.
...]

Here again we see the fallacy that rights somehow are able to act. Why is it that even libertarians have this misunderstanding about "rights"?
What is the purpose of the concept of "right to life"?
How do people reach the conclusion that "right to life" should somehow embody invulnerability and if it doesn't it is not a valid word?
Your right to life is WHY you go out and buy the gun, if you do. Your right to life only defines a reciprocal relationship between you and any other human being. You don't take his life, he doesn't take yours. That is your right to life. You buy the gun because you know there are some who won't respect your right to life. If you defend yourself from another person and take his life in the process, if you don't have a right to life then you don't have a valid defense for why you took his life. If you don't have a right to life and another person takes your life it's tuff noogies. Big deal. Life goes on for others.

[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
If you examine the previous list, it looks like these effects, by and large, are positive things. Thus, giving up on the "right to life" meme has a positive result on one's life!
...]

The effects mentioned were all related to taking responsibility for one's self and one's actions, especially in the area of defending one's right to life. There is quite a bit at the article. How does giving up on the meme have anything to do with the effects?

[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
The less credit people give to this notion of rights, the less credibility there will be for memes that mimic the supposed "real" rights (negative rights)--the positive ones. That is, if the expression of a "right to life" draws guffaws, then how far will other people get expressing a "right to health care" or a "right to free schooling"? Positive rights are clearly supported by the notion of rights in general. Withdraw that support, and they fall also. How wonderful could our world be if the majority of people doubted there was any right at all to rob their neighbor for some supposed social good? If it was considered robbery, plain and simple, with no justification?
...]

Again, it seems to me that the problem lies not with the use of the concept of rights but with the lack of a precise definition.
Why would you want to draw guffaws at the expression of a "right to life"?
How could that help you in understanding whether or not a "right to health care" or a "right to free schooling" was a valid claim?
If you don't have a right to life and by extension a right to your property, how do you deny others the right to health care at your expense? Why shouldn't they have it? How do you define robbery plain and simple if you don't have a right to life and property?
No one has a "right to health care" nor a "right to free schooling" by definition of the word right. If someone does, then "right" has no meaning and you can't claim they have no claim on you to fund their schooling.

[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
When you dig into this, you begin to realize that the meme of "rights" is much beloved by the state and its minions. That should give pause to anarchists, I would think. Fighting for rights is doing battle on the enemy's favored ground. Jeff Snyder has commented on this: "...to fight for the establishment of rights or for recognition of rights by one's government involves tacit subordination to the state."
...]

No, what one needs to do is clarify rights. Your rights define a relationship between you and other people. Governments have nothing to do with it. Governments do claim their legitimacy by claiming to protect people from those who intend to violate their rights. If governments truly recognized and respected individual rights they would be benign. But governments are a contradiction. They violate the very rights the protection of which they claim is their sole reason for existing in order to protect them.
You're not fighting for their establishment or recognition. You're simply stating a fact. In many less words than it takes to state it while trying to avoid using the word "rights" you could state it as "a right".

[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
But notice, these are not independent variables. I alluded to it earlier; if someone stops believing in a right to life, one naturally compensates by buying a gun. The removal of a "right to life" may in fact decrease the overall murder rate due to these other compensating factors.
...]

I skipped, from Paul's article, all the factoring of what impact the lack of a "right to life" would have on the murder rate. Why don't you just buy a gun to protect your right to life? What is it you are doing with the gun? What are you protecting yourself from if you don't have a right to life? How do you defend yourself from charges of murder if you kill someone who is trying to kill you? How many words do you use instead of "right to life" to say the same thing?

[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
What if the gun ownership rate doubled in this country, and everybody carried? Would not this make crime untenable? Would government, the most murderous agency in history, be even less inclined to impose on us or kill us?
...]

No, although they might be more inclined. The last thing they want is for people to realize they not only don't need them, but they are the primary rights violators. Why do they get a free pass to violate rights, anyway?
Why is it easier to ask that question using a lot more words, because you don't want to use the word rights?


[By Paul Bonneau

Exclusive to STR
...
I have to laugh at libertarians and anarchists depending on the murderous state to defend their life via the "right to life," and even more so depending on the "right to property" as they dutifully pay their taxes (surrender their property). I guess that means there is only a "right to a state-determined amount of property," eh?
...]

No, it means the state violates rights to property. They should not get a free pass. If there is no such thing as rights, why can't they take your stuff and push you around? Sure, you can push back, but what are you pushing for? you have no rights.

4 comments:

  1. My brain hurts...

    Say, I have an idea... let's use simple terms, well defined like this, and get on with it. :)

    Thanks, Matt.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is the Paul Bonneau article I referred to:
    http://www.strike-the-root.com/life-without-rights

    and the Dabooda article
    http://www.strike-the-root.com/rights-are-santa-claus

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll just answer the points you made about my article.

    "Here again we see the fallacy that rights somehow are able to act. Why is it that even libertarians have this misunderstanding about 'rights'?"

    Actually, I don't believe that. I think a lot of people do think that however. That is one problem with the notion of rights, that people believe protection exists when it does not.

    "Your right to life is WHY you go out and buy the gun..."

    Absolutely not. A "right to life" is, if anything, a deterrent to getting a gun, in exactly the same way that believing cops will protect you is a deterrent. When you don't believe in these fantasies, is when you take on the task yourself. Clearly, people armed themselves long before they had any such concept as rights. They did and still do so to prevent their injury, not because they imagine they have a "right".

    "Your right to life only defines a reciprocal relationship between you and any other human being."

    This is getting pretty close to what I believe, except that it is not a hard and fast relationship, but only a tendency. Most people, most of the time, have no interest in killing you. People noticed this tendency and (I believe) started using this terminology of "right" as a sort of shorthand to describe it. And I'd have no problem if that is as far as it went. But people tend to make it a lot more than just a tendency, and that is where they go wrong.

    "How could that help you in understanding whether or not a "right to health care" or a "right to free schooling" was a valid claim?"

    I don't think my point here is that hard to understand. If people don't believe in a right to life, they sure are not going to believe in a right to health care.

    "No, what one needs to do is clarify rights. Your rights define a relationship between you and other people. "

    Not one you can depend on, which makes it pretty useless. The tendency still exists whether people believe this fantasy or not. That's all that matters.

    Normally I would not care if people believed in fairy tales, except this is one that the state uses to its own advantage. What might have been a useful concept 200 years ago has been made into something that serves the state. It's time libertarians and anarchists faced up to that fact.

    "Why don't you just buy a gun to protect your right to life?"

    Because I am not crazy. I don't buy a gun to protect some fantasy; I buy it to protect my life. That is something real. "Right" adds nothing useful to this concept.

    "What are you protecting yourself from if you don't have a right to life?"

    Sheesh, does an amoeba have a right to life? No, it just has a will to live. Same as me. No right is needed in this picture.

    "How do you defend yourself from charges of murder if you kill someone who is trying to kill you?"

    I say, "He was trying to kill me, so I killed him first." Again, "right" adds nothing to this picture. People so defended themselves long before they got that meme into their heads.

    "Why is it easier to ask that question using a lot more words, because you don't want to use the word rights?"

    I avoid using it because through common use and government corruption it has taken on connotations that deviate strongly from reality. It's a shame that has happened, but it's a done deal and you can't fix it. Now "rights" aid the state, not individuals.

    "If there is no such thing as rights, why can't they take your stuff and push you around?"

    But, they DO take your stuff and push you around. Your rights fantasy does not prevent it. Be sure to give me a holler when you succeed in stopping them doing that by asserting, "I have a right to property!"

    Here's another article I wrote about it:
    http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2009/tle507-20090222-03.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jefferson Scott DavisJune 28, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    The concept of "rights" is based upon the idea that someone has a claim upon another individual, his or her life, time, property, abilities, etc. You even suggest that above: "a part of "rights" is its reciprocity..." In other words, to you, the concept of rights are a mutual set of social obligations enforced by the police and military apparatus of the state.

    "If there is no such thing as rights, why can't they take your stuff and push you around? Sure, you can push back, but what are you pushing for? you have no rights."

    I don't need a right to resist being pushed around. I resist it because I do, even if the state doesn't grant me the "right" to do so. Colloquially, I might suggest that I have a right to my own life but the notion of a right to life that is implicitly accepted by the majority of people in society or written on old pieces of paper that people pay lip service to is not what gives me my life or guarantees its preservation. Whether I have that right or not, someone who wants to take my life can do so unless I personally take the steps necessary to stop them. That's the root of my rights: brute force delivered in response to brute force. That might sound harsh but your notion of rights enforced by the coercive police powers of the state are only different in the fact that you excuse yourself from the nasty business of taking care of your own problems.

    No, I can't defend myself from everyone who might wish to do me harm; but the notion of the social contract holds people ransom by their desire to live. If you look at Locke, people enter into a social contract not because they have a right to life but because they have a will to life, as Paul points out. The idea of the social contract, then, is meant to serve the end of preserving one's life through the creation of "rights" that place certain mutual obligations upon all those who, we are told, signed on to this contract. The assumption is that in the state of nature people will expose themselves to harm from random people who want to steal their things or whatever... So, in order to secure ourselves from the predations of those who wish to enslave us and steal our property, we submit to the slavery and theft of the state. The threats one faces in the state of nature are only potential and at best remote; the threats one faces living under the state are certain and inflicted upon us daily.

    What I found most interesting about the articles you criticize above is the idea that so many people rely upon this notion of rights to protect them, which is another way of simply saying that they rely upon the state to protect them from harm. That's why we have the state, right? To protect us from the bad guys? That may be all well and good... but who will protect us from the state? The social contract is what creates our rights and the social contract can easily take them away, as we've given it a monopoly on the use of force and have made ourselves dependent upon its "protection." That is how the concept of rights are part of a statist hegemony. The concept perpetuates the idea of a need for the state by taking advantage of that thing that exists outside rights: the will to survive and not be dominated by fear or threat of violence.

    ReplyDelete