"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
Life Without Rights
By Paul Bonneau
Exclusive to STR
What if you woke up one morning, no longer believing you had a "right to life" - whatever you mean by that? How would your life change?
Some have contended that one would immediately commit suicide! Or they somehow imagine that people would no longer defend their lives from killers, passively awaiting their fate. Of course neither of these stand up to a second's examination; humans, like any animals, fought for survival long before they got the notion into their heads that there is any such thing as a "right to life." The desire to live is programmed into us about as deeply as any tendency can be.
I have seen someone contend that this will to live is itself the "right to life." Of course, since all animals have the same drive, then they all must have a "right to life," just like the PETA folks claim. I wonder if the people who make this claim are all vegans? Anyway, conflating the "right to life" with the will to live serves no purpose. We might as well just call it a will to live, which is less confusing to observers, if nothing else. Saying the "right to life" is the same as the will to live is saying there is no point in talking about any such "right."
Some might think that if the "right to life" goes away, then the "right to bear arms" (which depends on it) also disappears, and that we will be disarmed immediately. That is legalistic, statist reasoning. We can only ever be disarmed if we agree to be. It's not for the state to decide.
If you woke up one morning no longer believing the "right to life" meme, your life would not change at all in the broad strokes, as an artist might say, or in the first approximation, as a physicist might say. You'd still go about your business as before. Nope, no suicide.
However, around the edges, things might well change.
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. Or if you have a gun already, you might practice with it more, and ensure your family members know how to use their guns as well. You might be a little more careful about the people with whom you associate (since most murder victims know their murderers); or live in a safer part of town. You might try to be nicer to those with whom you do choose to associate, to reduce their possible anger with you--polite society might make a comeback. You might stay away from things like drug deals, which in our Prohibition era have a higher likelihood of going bad and resulting in murder. You might take more effort to get the hell out of a country that is turning on you (e.g. Jews in Nazi Germany).
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 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?
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."
Now, I can understand there might be some fear that, if people generally gave up the meme of a "right to life," that life might become cheap, and murders much more frequent. We can examine that possibility and see.
Assume for a moment that the per-capita murder rate is described by an equation something like this:
M = m / (p + q + r + s + ...)
where "M" is the murder rate in society, "m" the murder rate in a "state of nature," and all the other factors are the things that restrain murder. They include such factors as social disapproval of murderers, an inculcated or acculturated rejection of murder, a worry that if one murders then one might be caught by the state or by another gang, a worry one might be murdered back by the victim's family, worry that the victim may defend himself and kill the murderer, and so forth. All the possible factors that might restrain murder. Among them is a general belief that people have a "right to life."
We don't know the exact equation, but it should resemble this one. So, removal of this meme of a "right to life" would seem to increase the murder rate some.
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. 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? It was the Jews' belief in a "right to life" that got them killed in Nazi Germany, as much as anything, because they worked under the delusion they were protected when they really weren't. They would not have permitted themselves to be disarmed, absent this belief; and not being disarmed, would not have been victimized to near the extent they were. (To expand this point, they would not have registered their guns in the first place, thus allowing easy subsequent disarmament.)
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?
The real reason to stop believing, is that "there is no there, there" (as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland). There is nothing protecting you. It is a phantasm, just a meme in our heads--not a very useful one at that--which the state violates with astounding regularity. Stop believing in this statist propaganda, folks. If you want protection, then protect yourself, or join with others in a voluntary association to do it. If you want property, have enough that can be protected with your gun, or by your friends with guns.
That's not to say that you can't ever use the state to help you in this protection, but keep in mind that doing so is exactly like employing the Mafia to protect you. Yeah, sometimes it will come out your way, but the cost will be high. And they are not the most reliable folks to depend on, and will turn on you when it suits them. Oh, and never forget that protection implies submission.