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.
 

7.5
Your rating: None Average: 7.5 (6 votes)
Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 76
n/a

Comments

Suverans2's picture

Without a moral code no proper human society is possible. Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible. ~ Ayn Rand

Suverans2's picture

The "right to life" is the “just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy it[1]”.

Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his. ~ John Locke

The “right to life”, like the “right to liberty” and “justly acquired property”, is a “natural right”, which means that it is not created by positive laws enacted by a government.

Natural rights. Those which grow out of nature of man and depend upon his personality and are distinguished from those which are created by positive laws... In re Gogabashvele's Estate, 195 Cal. App2d 503, 16 Ca.Rptr. 77, 91. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991), page 1027

And, the only laws enacted by governments that truly have authority are those which derive said authority from the natural law of man.

The law of nature is superior in obligation to any other. It is binding in all countries and at all times. No human laws are valid if opposed to this, and all which are binding derive their authority either directly or indirectly from it. ~ Institutes of American Law by John Bouvier, 1851, Part I, Title II, No. 9

[1] Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991), page 1324

Paul's picture

I have come to the conclusion that some people are so submerged in their worldview, that it is literally impossible for them to understand and consider a concept outside of it. This is religion, plain and simple. If people believe in rights as axiomatic, then they will not understand this article, and will simply be incapable of questioning them or dealing rationally with any questions concerning them.

Suverans2's picture

It is not religion, Mr. Bonneau, it is common sense, "plain and simple", which explains why, to rational individuals, like Ayn Rand, Lysander Spooner, me, John Locke, James Otis, Thomas Jefferson, Frederic Bastiat, and too many others to list here, natural rights are self-evident.

Paul's picture

Define "right". I just want to know what you think the word means, in a general sense. Do try not to use the word "right" in the definition of "right".

You say, "The 'right to life' is the “just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy it"

"Legal claim" is of course, a notion dependent on the state. Thus you need the state (the most murderous agency in history) to have a right to life. Of course that is silly. In a stateless society, there would not be any such notion as "legal". You would just live. I "hold, use and enjoy" my life without recourse to any right, or a state to make that "legal". I do not need fanciful and state-sanctioned notions like "rights" to do it.

Suverans2's picture

Define "right". I just want to know what you think the word means, in a general sense. Do try not to use the word "right" in the definition of "right". You say, "The 'right to life' is the “just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy it" ~ Paul Bonneau

This has already been covered 1 week and 5 days ago, but once more, I have never used the word “right” in a definition of “right”, as you seem to infer. I post it again here to refresh your memory.

Suverans2 1 week 5 days ago
In reply to: What Is to Be Done With the Statists?
Page by: Paul Bonneau
Paul, that was not a definition! This was a definition. "...right, i.e. [that is to say] "Just claim; legal title; ownership; the legal power of exclusive possession..." to your life, liberty and justly acquired property..." ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language And this is another definition, and "please pay attention" to the bolded part of this definition. “Rights” are defined generally as “powers of free action.” And the primal rights pertaining to men are undoubtedly enjoyed by human beings purely as such, being grounded in personality, and existing antecedently to their recognition by positive law. ~ A Dictionary of Law (c.1891), page 1044

"Legal claim" is of course, a notion dependent on the state. Thus you need the state (the most murderous agency in history) to have a right to life. Of course that is silly. ~ Paul Bonneau

Of course it's silly, Mr. Bonneau, read what was written and emboldened, and what I politely asked you to “please pay attention” to in that last definition of “Rights”, 1 week and 5 days ago, existing ANTECEDENTLY to their recognition by positive law; one of their own law dictionaries admits that the “primal rights pertaining to men”, i.e. natural rights, existed BEFORE THEIR RECOGNITION BY POSITIVE LAW.

In a stateless society, there would not be any such notion as "legal". You would just live. I "hold, use and enjoy" my life without recourse to any right, or a state to make that "legal". I do not need fanciful and state-sanctioned notions like "rights" to do it. ~ Paul Bonneau

If you murder someone, i.e. take an innocent life, "in a stateless society", you will be deemed guilty of a crime by your neighbors, (if you can refrain from a knee-jerk-reaction to my use of that word), because you have violated that individual's natural right to life, his “just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy [his life]”. By violating that innocent individual's “right to life”, you have voluntarily forfeited your own “just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy [your life]”, notwithstanding that you may still try. What that loss of rights will really mean, in the last analysis, is that no rational individual(s) will aid you in the defense of your life.

Without a moral code no proper human society is possible. Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible. ~ Ayn Rand

Suverans2's picture

I do hope you are enjoying this discussion as much as I am.

B.R. Merrick's picture

Suverans2 seems to define "right" differently than Bonneau. To him, it appears that "right" is a word being used in a discussion amongst individuals as to what is logical, correct, and natural, not legal.

I think Bonneau is trying to emphasize that rights are normally perceived by others as something for government to protect, which is why they always act appalled when a certain politician or policeman violates some perceived legal right. Therefore, they can look at what happened at Waco and say that it was "unconstitutional," as if that's what makes mass murder "bad." I see it now as a death-oriented activity (for more than one reason) and anti-individual, both of which I can defend rationally, using fact. Therefore, I submit that my conclusion about that atrocity is factual (although my use of the word "atrocity" is opinion). In other words, I put myself in the place of one of the victims and say to myself, "I don't want that to happen to me." I am more inclined to agree with Bonneau here, especially this part of the article:

"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."

On the other hand, Suverans2 says the following:

"And, the only laws enacted by governments that truly have authority are those which derive said authority from the natural law of man." (Suverans2, I am assuming that because this was not surrounded by quotes in the original, that these are your written words?)

Part of the problem with this statement is that for a government to base its laws solely on "natural rights," it would have to cease to exist, because the government initiates coercion against individuals with "natural rights" by claiming authority without consent.

Suverans2 bases his belief in rights on "natural law." Of course, the phrase "natural law" is used to describe natural phenomena like gravity, erosion, the speed of light, the tides, orbits, plant growth, etc. We call these phenomena "laws" because the discovery of these phenomena and the continued study of them reveals certain predictable outcomes: erosion by water and air formed the Grand Canyon (thank God, if any) and always will, the moon orbits around the earth in predictable cycles forming the tides and always will, etc. We call it "law" because that is what man-made laws are designed to do: make our behavior as predictable as natural phenomena.

Suverans2 appears to be arguing from this standpoint: Because there are universal "laws," there are natural "rights."

But can these natural phenomena truly be called "laws"? I guess I need to know for certain what the definition of "law" is.

Suverans2 also says:

"If you murder someone, i.e. take an innocent life, 'in a stateless society', you will be deemed guilty of a crime by your neighbors... because you have violated that individual's natural right to life."

But there is also the natural phenomenon of "empathy," which is the individual's ability to take in information with the five senses, subject it to abstract, rational thought in the brain, and draw a conclusion based on that reasoning, further affecting that individual's emotional response. I empathize with people who are murdered, because as an individual, I do not want that to happen to me, nor do I want it to happen to anyone whose company I enjoy. I see it as destructive to my own volition. I do not need recognition of a "natural law" or a "right" to wish for it to end. I think "justice" grows out of empathy as well, as we observe continually how much we depend on one another for greater comfort and longer life.

...Much like I depend on this fascinating discussion for further edification.

Paul's picture

"...natural rights, existed BEFORE THEIR RECOGNITION BY POSITIVE LAW."

The way this looks to me now, is that this concept of rights came from ordinary people (NOT the ruling class) trying to establish and claim their "power of free action." They bundled up all those ideas and referred to them as "rights". And back then, it was a useful concept.

But the ruling class has obviously co-opted the term, and twisted it to their use. No surprises there. Thus Obama et. al. can get a lot of mileage out of the notion that we have a "right" to free health care. Just as Hayek put it in "The Road to Serfdom", "Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional associations which still adhere to them." Talking about a "right" to free health care obviously tramples the kinds of rights the folks who coined the term "right" were originally talking about. "Right", as used generally, denotes both a thing, and it's opposite!

It must be asked whether the word "right" has outlived its usefulness. Why, after all, use the phrase "right to life" when it cements the state's advertised role in protecting life? It certainly doesn't help much when libertarians go around saying things like, "the only legitimate role of government is protecting our rights". What people hear when that is said, is that government should give us health care! They also hear that government is legitimate. Quite the wrong messages to get across...

Yes, we struggle to make the distinction between "positive" and "negative" rights (great choice of terms, that), but it of course goes over almost everyone's head.

I say, stop using a term that advances the agenda of the state. Rather than saying, "I have a right to life," say instead, "I will live!"

Suverans2 comments, 'If you murder someone, i.e. take an innocent life, "in a stateless society", you will be deemed guilty of a crime by your neighbors... because you have violated that individual's natural right to life...'

I have to dispute that. No one goes around thinking we must have retribution against murderers because they violated the victim's "right to life". They think retribution is needed because they valued the victim or empathized with her (because she was innocent), and because they don't want to live in a society where people can be killed willy-nilly. If I killed someone who was robbing me, they would say instead, "Good riddance to bad rubbish." Even though such a person had as much a right to life as some innocent victim had.

Nope, "rights" have had their day. Time to move on. BTW, while I'm thinking "rights" is a term that has outlived its usefulness, I still think the terms "anarchy" and "anarchism" are useful. But that's another argument...

Thanks for joining the discussion, Merrick. It's good to have a 3rd party in this, to help clarify things.

Suverans2's picture

Good to see someone else weigh in, B.R. Merrick.

You wrote: Suverans2 seems to define "right" differently than Bonneau. To him, it appears that "right" is a word being used in a discussion amongst individuals as to what is logical, correct, and natural, not legal.

And I respond: I agree with all that have stated, in those two sentences. Voltaire is reported to have said, "Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...”

With that in mind let us begin with something I found on Wikipedia.

"Some philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between natural rights and legal rights.
Legal rights (sometimes also called civil rights or statutory rights) are rights conveyed by a particular polity, codified into legal statutes by some form of legislature (or unenumerated but implied from enumerated rights), and as such are contingent upon local laws, customs, or beliefs.
In contrast, natural rights (also called moral rights or inalienable rights) are rights which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity. Natural rights are thus necessarily universal, whereas legal rights are culturally and politically relative."

If we can agree “to”, (not necessarily “with”), these differentiations, we can move forward. But, as Mr. Bonneau wrote, “some people are so submerged in their worldview, that it is literally impossible for them to understand and consider a concept outside of it,” and, as a consequence of this submersion, they will refuse to even consider that there are rights that do not emanate from the Almighty STATE, so it may not be possible.

I must say, I find it impossible to fathom that any rational individual could honestly disagree with Ayn Rand's statement, “Without a moral code no proper human society is possible. Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible.

Suverans2's picture

B.R. Merrick, do you feel that all animals have a "natural right" to try to defend their life, in other words is it "justifiable"? Or, to word it conversely, do you feel it is “inexcusable” for an animal to try to defend his life? And, please, let's not bring “the PETA folks” into a supposedly “rational” discussion.

B.R. Merrick's picture

I agree with Ayn Rand on many things, as I agree with you, Suverans2, and with Bonneau, on a great many points, but first of all, I think some of Rand's premises were false and others questionable. In the statement above, before I could say that I agree, I need to know what is “moral” before I can even begin to grasp a “moral code.” If you peruse my earlier articles, you will see a clear evolution of thought, because I obviously started writing articles when I believed in God, who I believed had a moral code.

At this point, I am far more concerned with my premises than my opinions. The latter may be based on factual information, or just emotional response, but opinions themselves are never factual. I want my premises to be based on irrefutable fact. (For instance, my premise that “government is death.”)

Is there anything factual about morality? A sizeable chunk of people on this land mass (and some others) are currently evolving their beliefs about homosexuals. In ancient days, there were some groups of people who apparently decided that it was acceptable to execute homosexuals. Currently in this world, depending on where the woman finds herself located, she can cry, “Rape!” and have the guns of the state rush to her aid, or be taken out into the desert and stoned to death for someone else’s actions. In each instance above, “morality” plays a part. Are people defining morality, a separate, knowable fact, incorrectly? Rand herself apparently thought of homosexuality as “disgusting,” and from my reading of Atlas Shrugged, she codified heterosexual sex quite narrowly. But how did she arrive at her conclusions about Dagny Taggart loving three men in succession to whom she was not married, yet those of us who do not wish to have heterosexual relations are “disgusting,” and I suppose “immoral”? Did she check her premise, as she urged others to do?

Therefore, I have serious questions that are not yet resolved concerning “morality.” As I see it, I cannot base any of my beliefs at this time any longer on any “moral code” (and I had one hell of a strict moral code for decades when I was a believer), because I do not see anything factual or truthful about morality.

Rand’s first sentence is quite provocative, and makes at least two massive assumptions. First of all, define “morality” and prove it with factual information. Secondly, why is “human society” not possible without it?

Her second sentence, although tied directly to the first, makes a bit more sense with my understanding of individuality, because my calling the events in Waco in 1993 an atrocity is based on factual information about individuality, even though “atrocity” is a relative term. I wonder if Rand’s second statement would be more truthful if she had said:

“Without the recognition of individual rights my moral code is not possible.”

That statement would be much closer to how I see things now, excepting the use of the word “rights,” which at this point, is conditional on whether “rights” is the correct word for the natural phenomena in question, and whether or not “rights” are conditional on the existence of “natural law.”

You wrote: “[D]o you feel that all animals have a ‘natural right’ to try to defend their life, in other words is it ‘justifiable’?”

I don’t see anyone’s defense of his life as “justifiable,” except when I consider what I believe about individuality. I see it as logical, and I empathize with those who are put into such a difficult situation. Likewise, I see animals defending themselves as logical, and if the kitty cat in question is particularly cute, he can count on my empathy and assistance in the endeavor.

“And, please, let's not bring ‘the PETA folks’ into a supposedly ‘rational’ discussion.” Agreed. I see the PETA organization as one more group of individuals clutching at The Ring. No thanks.

Bonneau also said something that I think I may disagree with, to an extent. We are roughly in agreement over the use of the word “rights” in that I do not see evidence of anything that needs to be called such, as the natural phenomena in question do not seem to need this terminology. However, if I am ever convinced that the word “rights” is the correct or most useful term to describe these particular phenomena, I would say that just like the word “anarchy,” or perhaps even the word “liberal,” it is worth saving if its original definition has been perverted. I don’t think death-oriented individuals should be in charge of anything, certainly not semantic arguments. (I may change my mind and agree with Bonneau if I ever get enough evidence of the inevitable evolution of language.)

Paul's picture

"With that in mind let us begin with something I found on Wikipedia."

The Wikipedia entry on "rights" proves my point. It is a hopeless mishmash that can mean anything. People claim a right to anything they want; a right to a free education for example.

Again, your distinction about natural rights is irrelevant. Go out and ask the average Joe and Jill what they have a right to. You will find the distinction does not exist for them. The meaning of a word depends on its general usage, not how you wish to use it.

The issue of animals again proves my point. If you talk about natural rights, you have to admit animal rights. Where does that lead you? To PETA. To being a vegan. Sorry, I'm not going there. Animals do not have rights. They merely have a will to live. Likewise, we have no rights, but do have a will to live. "Rights" is just a meme in our head that has lost its utility.

Your comment about not talking about PETA makes no sense. We can't use the existence of a group to prove a point? It is irrational to exclude them.

"Rights" is a meme. Surely you agree? The only question here, is whether it is a useful meme. Whether it helps us or hurts us. I admit it was initially useful, but for the many reasons I have outlined before, it no longer is. It now aids the state more than it aids us.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

"If you talk about natural rights, you have to admit animal rights. Where does that lead you? To PETA. To being a vegan."

Not necessarily (again, I'm **totally** late to this argument, yo).

It may lead you to a recognition that you have to accept your status as a rights-violator, and find some justification for that (e.g., a taxonomy of worth that places you/humans as "Protos Metaxi Eukaryotes", or whatever). [Disclosure: I am a vegetarian, except when I cheat. I try to minimise my involvement in ALL death of innocents]

As I mentioned elsewhere: you seem to be of the view that if one is unable to prevent (or remedy) violations of one's rights, then they may as well not exist. That's a really unhelpful way to go about things, in my view, as it ignores the ability of technology to meaningfully add to our ability to defend our rights.

Ignorance of rights is no excuse (and nor is refusal to accept the existence of rights). Lions are almost certainly unaware that they violate a gazelle's right not to be eaten, and for the most part gazelles find it pretty hard to prevent the violation, except by fleeing as quickly as possible.

That does NOT mean that the gazelle doesn't have the right not to be eaten: it simply means that given its present state of technology, the gazelle is incapable of preventing its right from being violated by the lion.

If gazelles developed lion-detection glands and the ability to shoot lasers out of their eyes, they would almost certainly deploy those in defence and thereby prevent the violation. The lion would have to find other prey (it does NOT have a 'right' to kill simply in order to survive: it may claim in mitigation that because it cannot [yet] make tofu it has no choice but to get its protein on the hoof).

I'm being deliebrately puckish, but what I'm getting at is that ALL individuals have rights and will protect them if it is at all possible for them to do so (and I include "animals" here, since as far as I can tell I AM one... being as I'm hairy and smelly and have teeth and such).

The 'average Joe and Jill' are, in their relation to the State, as gazelles before an entire pride of lions. They do not have the wherewithal to adequately discern the extent to which they are being eaten, let alone how to extricate themselves from the tentacles of the giant State parasite.

Actually, that's made me think of a good example of where 'animals' (non-humans) DO attempt to reject would-be rights violators: have you ever seen a dog or cat eat grass - either as an emetic or for other reasons? As I understand it, some grasses contain natural wormicides: the dog (or cat) is trying to repel a parasitic aggressor who is seeking to live at the dog's expense. Likewise, dogs'/cats' rudmentary efforts to rid themselves of skin parasites like fleas (they have the same technology - and about the same success rate, sadly - as European peasants did against typhus-bearing lice in the middle of last century).

I'm not sure why you think that calling something a 'meme' means that it can be disposed of without giving it the consideration that it is due.

Going back to Joe and Jill Average - they are both so busy and tired and scared (and indoctrinated) that they do not have the mental energy to devote to properly evaluating what 'rights' mean. (They probably do not have the analytical toolkit to do so either - not to disparage average folks, but they are not where one turns for decisive adjudication on matters of philosophy).

So when you ask them "What are your rights, and where do they come from?" they will simply regurgitate whatever they have been told by their overlords: rights include what's in the Bill of Rights... and "come from" [government/Jeebus/a genocidal Sky Wizard who loves foreskin and blood and burning offal].

As an aside, the US bill of Rights is a good example of why people should NEVER allow their rights to be codified by the parasite classes: a specifically non-exclusive non-exhaustive list of the very most important things against which gov may not aggress, is now THE list of things that .gov "grants" and observes (to the extent that their paid robed geriatrics cannot parse them away).

If we end where we ought to have started - that a "right" is simply a "just claim" - the problem really should disappear. Claims that are enforced by aggressive violence or fraud are not "just": it is possible to state with certainty that such actions are non-Pareto-optimal, even without cardinal interpersonally-comparable utility. If an action makes the victim 'worse off' it is ipso facto a 'bad' from the point of view of the victim, and a 'bad' to any disinterested observer. It is hard to conceive of a coherent conceptual framework in which such actions can be defended.

Suverans2's picture

B.R. Merrick wrote: Suverans2 appears to be arguing from this standpoint: Because there are universal "laws," there are natural "rights."

And I respond: You have put the cart before the horse.

Without a moral code no proper human society is possible. Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible.

I (and Ayn Rand) argue that it is only because there are “individual rights”, that a moral code (just laws) is possible.

Suverans2's picture

Paul Bonneau wrote: The Wikipedia entry on "rights" proves my point. It is a hopeless mishmash that can mean anything. People claim a right to anything they want; a right to a free education for example.

I respond: Free education is not a natural right, it is an "entitlement", which is defined in Black's 6th as a "right to benefits". You are "entitled" to this "benefit" if you consent to be a member of our political group, i.e. a citizen, it is just another carrot on the end of the stick!!

Aside from that "free education" is an oxymoron, all education, even self-education, comes at a price.

Suverans2's picture

I wrote: Voltaire is reported to have said, "Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...”

With that in mind let us begin with something I found on Wikipedia.

"Some philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between natural rights and legal rights.
Legal rights (sometimes also called civil rights or statutory rights) are rights conveyed by a particular polity, codified into legal statutes by some form of legislature (or unenumerated but implied from enumerated rights), and as such are contingent upon local laws, customs, or beliefs.
In contrast, natural rights (also called moral rights or inalienable rights) are rights which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity. Natural rights are thus necessarily universal, whereas legal rights are culturally and politically relative."

If we can agree “to”, (not necessarily “with”), these differentiations, we can move forward.

If we cannot agree "to" these differentiations, we cannot move forward, we can only spin our wheels, (i.e. argue semantics), which as we all know is a total waste of time. I will continue, however, to put out brush fires (as in my last few posts) and to promote an understanding of individual natural rights in a polite manner.

Suverans2's picture

Paul Bonneau wrote: The meaning of a word depends on its general usage, not how you wish to use it.

I respond: The meaning of my words, because they are "my words", are what I say they are, Mr. Bonneau. Which of course is why Voltaire reportedly wrote, "Define your terms...or we shall never understand one another...”

And your government, (unless you have formally withdrawn your consent to be a member (seceded) and refuse to accept any member-only benefits), works in exactly that same manner.

Suverans2's picture

I have a few of questions for both of you gentlemen.

(1) Who (or what) do you suppose is the greatest enemy of man's individual natural rights? If you get that answer right, and I suspect that at least one of you will...

(2) Do you know what the first step is in a "democratic" government's modus operandi to destroy any thing (or any one), and...

(3) Are you an unknowing accomplice in that "first step"? And lastly...

(4) Whose side are you going to be on in the battle to defend your individual natural rights?

Suverans2's picture

B.R. Merrick wrote: In ancient days, there were some groups of people who apparently decided that it was acceptable to execute homosexuals. Currently in this world, depending on where the woman finds herself located, she can cry, “Rape!” and have the guns of the state rush to her aid, or be taken out into the desert and stoned to death for someone else’s actions. In each instance above, “morality” plays a part.

I respond: No sir, what plays the part in both of those is "the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity," which I'm sure you will agree may or may not have anything at all to do with right and wrong, i.e. morality. My thoughtful friend, try to imagine a world where there is no right and wrong. And, just because we humans have made mistakes, and will undoubtedly continue to make mistakes, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

B.R. Merrick's picture

Before I can answer any of your four questions, Suverans2, I need to change "natural rights" to a term that I can accept as fact. I am going to endeavor to answer them as they are written, and replace in my mind the questionable term with "individuality." Here are my replies:

1. Death
2. Its existence, as a "democratic" government, like any other, cannot exist without first initiating coercion, which leads directly and immediately to death.
3. I have been, in the past, an unknowing accomplice to death. I continue to do so, because I am unwilling to make myself a martyr to an essentially death-oriented society. But I still have peaceful choices I can make where I am not being forced, and changes that can be made right now.
4. I am on the side of any individual that does not initiate coercion.

Paul's picture

"I respond: The meaning of my words, because they are "my words", are what I say they are, Mr. Bonneau."

I didn't realize I was debating with Humpty Dumpty:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

The problem with "rights" is that everyone has his own definition about what they are. No wonder the term has become meaningless.

I am not arguing about what you call rights. I am arguing about the general usage, and the fact such usage aids the state.

Suverans2's picture

I will not waste my time communicating with anyone who resorts to ridicule and name-calling, and unlike you, Mr. Bonneau, I mean it when I say it.

Paul's picture

Geez, lighten up, man. Can't you take a joke?

I guess religious people are not going to have a sense of humor about their religion. Anyway as usual you ignored my point, that what matters where words are concerned, is how people generally use them, not how we wish they'd use them. Another way of saying this is, "Try to deal with reality."

"Rights" is now a concept twisted to serve the needs of the state, not us. Your quotations of past authors, attempting to refute this, are irrelevant. They were writing about the state of affairs a long time ago, when "rights" still retained some utility for us. They were not writing in 2010.

Suverans2's picture

But, for anyone interested in learning more about "man's rights" here is Ayn Rand's excellent treatise on that very subject. And, to entice you to read it, here is an excerpt from that treatise that seems to fit the situation we now find ourselves in.

"The concept of individual rights is so new in human history that most men have not grasped it fully to this day. In accordance with the two theories of ethics, the mystical or the social, some men assert that rights are a gift of God—others, that rights are a gift of society. But, in fact, the source of rights is man’s nature."

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_man_rights

Suverans2's picture

G'day B.R. Merrick. Though you are certainly entitled to your opinion, here is Ayn Rand's answer to question number one, (taken, not coincidentally, from the above treatise. ;-) )

"There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government."

Of these two, "a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights". (Ibid.)

Suverans2's picture

And history teaches us that the answer to question #2, "what [is] the first step...in a "democratic" government's modus operandi to destroy any thing (or any one)", discredit that which it intends to destroy, (generally with MSM as its more than willing accomplice). Why? Because (1) sometimes that is all that is needed to destroy or dis-empower an opponent and, (2) if physical destruction does become necessary, public outcry (vehement protest), if there is any, will be manageable.

Suverans2's picture

Re: #3 We are unwitting accomplices when we blindly buy into, and especially when we ignorantly promote, the discrediting of any thing, individual or group the government is seeking to destroy, in this case our "natural rights (also called moral rights or inalienable rights)...rights which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity", "rights which can never be abridged because they are so fundamental".

The only rights the state wants you to believe in are "Legal rights (sometimes also called civil rights or statutory rights)...rights conveyed by a particular polity, codified into legal statutes by some form of legislature (or unenumerated but implied from enumerated rights), and as such are contingent upon local laws, customs, or beliefs".

Once more, for anyone interested in learning more about "man's rights", here is Ayn Rand's excellent treatise on that very subject. http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_man_rights

And, to entice you to read it, here is another excerpt from that treatise.

"The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights," [which is the only way an individual can voluntarily lose any of his own natural rights].

"If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows." ~ Ayn Rand

Suverans2's picture

Whose side are you going to be on in the battle to defend your individual natural rights?

"That men should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery..." ~ Thomas Paine

"Authoritarian utilitarians started by trying to transform the meaning of “good”, and they have continued to try, with some success, to change the meaning of words so as to make it impossible to express thoughts that question the legitimacy and authority of the state. They have partially succeeded with “law”, they are having some success with the word “right”. Thus in America civil rights now means almost the opposite of natural right.

The utilitarians have constructed an artificial language in which it is impossible to express such concepts [as] “natural rights”, or any idea or fact that would reject the limitless, absolute, lawless and capricious power of the state, and they seek to impose that language on the world.

Utilitarians usually argue in the same way that Marxists and behaviorists argue. They translate any statement you make into utilitarian speak, and then state their translation: “What you are really saying is...”. Since utilitarian speak is incapable of expressing any statement that would contradict the limitless and absolute power of the state, your statements are turned into nonsense, and they then contemptuously point out that what you are saying is nonsense.

During the coming crisis we must keep our eyes fixed on the simple ancient truths of natural rights and natural law. We must discriminate between those who use force lawfully and those who use force unlawfully, and must act accordingly, we must discriminate between those who deal honorably and those who deal dishonorably, and must act accordingly. If we do that then we will have a functioning civil society." ~ James A. Donald http://jim.com/rights.html

Suverans2's picture

Natural Law and Natural Rights
An explanation of natural law and natural rights. Most of the old literature on natural law and natural rights, notably the writings of John Locke, has become incomprehensible because we no longer have the background knowledge of natural law that those writers assumed.
This article makes the concept of natural law intelligible to modern people.

Read it here: http://jim.com/rights.html

Suverans2's picture

Natural. Untouched by man or by influences of civilization; wild; untutored, and is the opposite of the word "artificial". Department of Public Works and Bldgs. for and in Behalf of People v. Keller, 22 Ill.App.3d 54, 316 N.E.2d 794, 796. The juristic meaning of this term does not differ from the vernacular, except in the cases where it is used in opposition to the term "legal;" and then it means proceeding from or determined by physical causes or conditions, as distinguished from positive enactments of law, or attributable to the nature of man rather than to the commands of law, or based upon moral [lawful] rather than legal considerations or sanctions. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991), page 1026 [Bracketed information added]

Rational minds can readily perceive why statists hate virtually any mention of natural rights, natural law, natural liberty, et al.

Natural liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men. Buriamaqui, c. 3, § 15; 1 Bl. Comm. 125 ~ A Dictionary of the Law (Black’s 1st c. 1891), pg. 716

Suverans2's picture

"Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...” ~ Voltaire

To demonstrate, for everyone, just how critical that sage advice is, here is a portion of "A Final Word of Caution" found in the PREFACE of Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1991).

"The language of the law is ever-changing as the courts, Congress, state legislatures, and administrative agencies continue to define, redefine and expand legal words and terms. Furthermore, many legal terms are subject to variations from state to state and again can differ under federal laws. Also the type of legal issue, dispute, or transaction involved can affect a given definition usage..."

If you don't define your words, the PTB will "define, redefine and expand", them for you, and you best believe, it will almost(?) never be to your benefit.

And, when its agents are talking to you, you should never, never, never ass-u-me that you know what they are saying, because you don't!

legalese n. the conventional language of legal forms, documents, etc., involving special vocabulary and formulations, often thought of as abstruse and incomprehensible to the layman ~ Webster's 1988 New World Dictionary of American English, Third College Edition, page 771

After reading “A Final Word of Caution” you now know the reason that it is often thought of as “abstruse”, i.e. “hard to understand”, and “incomprehensible”.

Found these on About.com under the heading “Political Humor”, but it is only humorous to the ignorant.

"It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." –Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair

"It depends on how you define alone…" –Bill Clinton, in his grand jury testimony

"Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...”

Suverans2's picture

"...one of the most revealing things about the lawyers’ trade is the unanimous inability or unwillingness, or both, on the part of the lawyers to explain their brand of professional pig Latin to men who are not lawyers." ~ Woe Unto You Lawyers by Fred Rodell, Professor of Law, Yale University (Written in 1939)

Thank you, yet again, Counter Thespianage!

GeoffreyTransom's picture

To me, the most bizarre thing about the Law is that very few people have the balls to point out that for any decent advocate, going to the Bench is a HUGE step backward in earning power. As such, the Bench is by and large populated by middle-rung journeymen advocates who spend the last 5 years of their life as advocates triangulating for their run at the Bench.

I was at a dinner a week ago, to celebrate the induction of a new crop of Baby Barristers. The dinner speaker was a man of 33 years at the Bar, who has argued more cases before the High Court than any other advocate in Australian legal history (and quite possibly more than all current barristers, combined).

When talking about the need for barristers to make sure they maintain proper accounts and such... he got onto the fact that if you're no good as an advocate, and find yourself 10 years from retirement with no savings to speak of, your only option left is to go to the Bench - and that many of the 'also-rans' in the profession have the option of enjoying the "100-percent-of-salary" pension that judges get after as little as 5 years' tenure. (I'm paraphrasing)

Gasps of indrawn breath ensued... upon which the speaker hastily added "Your Honours present excepted, of course". (There were about 4 judges at the dinner).

TL;DR: Judges are the 'Team B' of the legal profession, with very VERY few exceptions (Lord Denning being the most famous: Hailsham too... but since their day, the Bench is to the Bar, as being a schoolteacher is to getting a BA).

To be a judge also requires a psychotype that values being able to exercise power: hold people in contempt; chastise Senior Counsel (who may well be fellows who wiped the floor with you when you appeared against one another); tell juries what they are allowed to believe; and so on.

And of course it's these "also-rans" who always babble one about the majesty and profundity and gravity and solemnity of jurisprudence, as they collect their tax-funded (welfare) salary for overseeing theatrical set-pieces. Bullshit artists, in other words.

Suverans2's picture

Nice summation, GeoffreyTransom; "Bullshit artists, in other words." I am reminded of an old saying, "If you can't impress them with intelligence, baffle them with bullshit." Note: My seven year old grandson is not allowed to use foul language, so he says, "Bullspit". lol