Monday, May 11, 2009

Do rights exist, and what are they?

Albuquerque Libertarian Examiner: Do rights exist, and what are they?

Recent commentary has drifted into the region where the nature and existence of rights comes into question. I have read many compelling assertions that rights, as I and others speak of them, do not really exist.

I agree that insisting that others, especially the state, respect your rights will not get you far. After all, "The Law" has downgraded "rights" into something that can be granted, limited, or taken away: what the more intelligent among us would call "privileges".

But do rights have no existence? I guess it depends upon how you think of it. To my way of thinking, rights exist, but not as a physical object like a stone; not as a measurable force such as gravity. They are a construct of the mind that has evolved along with humans and the human moral sense. But that in itself is a type of existence. Your actions give rights "substance".

I also think that rights are "negative" by nature; they are best described by what you have no right to do. You have no right to initiate force against an unwilling human being. You have no right to take (or control) property that belongs to someone else. Everything is within your rights as long as you don't infringe upon someone else's equal rights to control his own property and self-determination. The list is too long to think of every possibility. This is why almost all "laws" are counterfeit; they try to control non-coercive behavior that is within every person's legitimate rights to engage in.

The "positive rights" that socialists "see" everywhere are exemplified by the imaginary "right to health care", the "right to a 'free' education" and other false "rights" that actually violate other people's rights to not be obligated to take care of you. These "positive rights" always necessitate some form of theft, either of property or of self-determination.