Saturday, December 01, 2007

"Property Rights" Versus "Human Rights"

A discussion with Francois Tremblay resulted from yesterday's post on "Limited Rights". He asserts that rights are limited. The basis for his argument is that property rights can be limited, bought, and sold. I agree with this assessment, but feel that property rights are in a slightly different category from other human rights. You can follow the discussion on the comments on that post. I will explain my thoughts here.

All rights are essentially "property rights" but not all property rights are "human rights". You "own" your body and your life; they are your property. These are your human rights that are absolute and non-negotiable. The other property rights, to your time and possessions, and to a lesser extent- your actions, can be bartered away, as we all do on a daily basis. Therefore, to my way of thinking, the "non-human-rights" property rights are different because they can be bought, sold, or traded.

"Actions" are not the same thing as "rights". In taking a job you are selling some of your time and the actions you will perform during that time in exchange for something else (money). You are agreeing to do certain things in exchange for money. You are not (or, at least shouldn't be) selling your body, but only renting it for a limited duration or job. If I rent something from you, you still retain limited property rights to that thing. My rental agreement does not allow me to destroy that which I rent. With your person, you can give up some property rights to your time and actions for a set amount of time, but you can not sell off your basic human rights. You do not give up your right to not be attacked or defrauded. You do not give up your right to defend yourself against these things. If your boss demands that you give up those rights you have no obligation to abide by his wishes as they violate your basic human rights and are null and void.

During the time which a particular "property right" to specific possessions belongs to you, I would still say it is absolute, but it is within your personal rights to sell off that particular possession and thereby lose any attached property rights.

In a situation where you are "selling yourself into slavery", you would no longer have any rights over that which you sold: your life. Any such attempt to sell your human rights would not hold any legitimacy in my eyes. It is similar to the problem I have accepting the nanny-state embracers and their abdication of responsibility and their acceptance of cradle-to-the-grave "care". Abdicating a right is tantamount to refusing to accept a responsibility that belongs only to you.