On 7 March 2005, we presented Part 1 of this two part article
. This is the concluding part.
The importance of untangling this confusing mess of the concept of "rights" cannot be overstressed. Most people think nowadays that rights are some sort of entitlements, some things
dispensed by the government, rather like largess. People who should know better fan the flames of this confusion because it creates pressure groups within populations demanding to the get their "fair share."
The truth is, if something called a "right" is a thing, a concrete, something created by someone such as money or products, then the thing called a "right" is not a right at all. Rights cannot be given by anyone to you, and they cannot be taken away by anyone. Even you cannot give away your own rights. Why? They are "unalienable
," as the Declaration of Independence says.
Rights may be violated, abrogated, or be unprotected by one's government. Your neighbors may take your property, even your life or freedom, but you never lose your rights. And, if governments take your money and property to give to others without your consent, your rights have been violated by your government. And what the recipients of your productivity have is not satisfaction of their rights, but mooching of that looted from you.
If none of this is important to you or anyone else, you most surely will have your rights stiffled, one way or another.
DO NOT SUPPORT THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
(Part II of Two)
Suppose, however, that one or more individuals decide that their lives will be advanced by taking the belongings of a neighbor or neighbors. We know that is wrong, but why is it wrong, in terms of rights?
Someone once said, “Your rights stop at my skin.” I.e., you are properly able to take any actions which do not violate the rights held by others. Rights apply evenly to all persons.
Remember, rights are freedoms of action in a social context, and as long as those actions do not violate the rights of others, this means ANY AND ALL ACTIONS, even those which others may not approve of at all, or those others may think unwise. However, if these others’ rights are not being violated, their approval is irrelevant. Someone’s actions, within the scope of rights, might result from poor choices, but, in a free society, those who engage in poor judgment are the only ones to suffer as long as they do not violate the rights of others. Many people have grave difficulty understanding this. Thus, many people advocate all sorts of governmental restrictions and laws against all sorts of actions they consider repugnant or immoral but which do not harm them directly. Once you finally grasp the concept of rights, you no longer have this hang-up.
It is only around other people that violation of rights even becomes an issue. A castaway on an uninhabited island faces no questions about his or her rights, even though he or she has them. There’s no one there to interfere with the castaway’s rights. However, let even one other person join the castaway, and the question comes up over and over. Alone, the castaway experiences no violation of his right to life if, for example, he fails to find sufficient food or shelter. His failure is not a result of some other person’s blocking his attempts to find food or shelter. The new arrival, however, introduces the possibility of force being initiated against the castaway. For example, if the new arrival steals the castaway’s food and shelter or tries to break his arms and legs whenever the castaway tries to hunt, fish, plant, or harvest, then the castaway’s rights to life, liberty, and property have been violated, along with his right to pursue his own happiness.
What if the new arrival just intimidates, or even makes verbal threats, to the castaway, but takes no physical action? If he does not follow through by initiating physical force, he is unpleasant, but he does not violate the rights of the castaway. Do you remember this expression from your early years? “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Thus it is with rights. Only the initiation of physical force can violate rights, and understanding this is crucial to understanding rights.
As obnoxious as the new arrival’s “psy-ops” may be, they cannot physically impede the castaway’s right to life. However, when the new arrival acts to stop the castaway from supporting himself, then the castaway’s rights have been violated.
It is important to differentiate the two types of physical force. To violate rights, someone must start—i.e., initiate—physical force against someone else in order to block that person’s freedoms of action. Until that physical force starts, no rights are violated.
The other type of physical force is retaliatory; if someone injures you or steals from you, you have the right to respond in order to restore your rights, as an application of justice. You obviously have the right to defense as well, to minimize or prevent violation of your rights.
Criminals may also use the intellectual equivalent of physical force: deceit and fraud. Both physical force and deceit-fraud prevent you from acting on your own behalf. If the castaway and the new arrival agreed to search for water, for example, and the new arrival found it but lied to the castaway, that would violate the latter’s rights. Enron is a larger and very well known example of deceit-fraud.
There is a pertinent statement in our Declaration of Independence, “…for these reasons [the protection of individual rights], governments are instituted among men…” Citizens delegate the use of physical force to a governing institution in exchange for freedom from that duty, so they can pursue their lives without that distraction.
Rogues and criminals exist in all societies, and they pose threats to the rights of citizens. However, their threat cannot compare either in quality or quantity to that posed by the actions of a rogue government. For example, just because there is a law does not mean that it is morally valid. When that government passes laws and regulations authorizing it to violate individual rights, it changes the moral use of force which has been delegated to it by its citizens into a legal one that is immoral, and then uses it. It may thus imprison, confiscate, tax, force into labor, kill, maim, starve, and enslave citizens in violation of their rights. A government like that of Saddam Hussein violates rights in egregiously obvious ways. Societies somewhere between being fully free (capitalism) and fully unfree (totalitarian) violate rights through a progressive mix of controls and legal distortions until the government ultimately acquires enough power to act openly against its citizens and without regard for the rights of those citizens.
Conservatives, more than others, are quick to tag “rights” with corresponding “responsibilities.” THE ONLY RESPONSIBILITY—ONLY—ENTAILED BY “RIGHTS” IS FOR EACH PERSON TO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS AND NOT VIOLATE THEM. There are NO social, religious, group, state, or collective “responsibilities.” How do I know? I know because I know the source and meaning of “rights,” i.e., that they derive from reality and pertain to the nature of human beings, not groups or states, or others.
THE RIGHTS TEST
There is a simple test which differentiates counterfeit “rights” from authentic, fundamental rights. The test is based on the fact that rights are freedoms of action in a social context. As Ayn Rand defines rights,
"Rights" are a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual's actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context.
The “test question is: “Who provides these?” If the answer is “you,” meaning that you take the actions for you, then you are dealing with a right. If the answer is “someone else” or “others,” meaning that the money, property, or effort of other people are required to provide you with money or other property, then you are dealing with bogus rights. Your rights refer to your freedoms of action, not to the products of the actions of others.
THE U.N.’s COUNTERFEIT RIGHTS
Let’s apply the test question. We can use the bogus rights upheld by the United Nations in the UDHR as arch-typical examples. In briefest summary, the UDHR cites these “rights”:
· Social security
· Guaranteed employment and protection against unemployment
· Guaranteed social protections
· Periodic holidays with pay
· Guaranteed standard of living, food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services, and security against unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, and any circumstances beyond one’s control
· Free education
About each item and each sub-item in the foregoing list, let us ask the question, “Who provides?” Each time we get the same answer. Someone else, other than the recipient, must provide. It is always those who “have” who must provide to those who, be definition, “have not.”
No one whose thinking comes up with or approves such lists ever asks whether those who “have” if they want to subsidize those who “have not.” Ayn Rand said it perfectly:
Jobs, food, clothing, recreation (!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values—goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?
If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.
Any alleged "right" of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.
No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave."
A right does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one's own effort.
Implementation of these “U.N. rights” means taking the property and labor of some by force to give to others. To accomplish these ends, governments must initiate physical force against their citizens to get their property, labor, and even their lives to be able to “redistribute” to others. The fact that the providers might be willing to donate the fruits of his labor without the use of force in no way excuses the potential for the use of force.
Humanity always has groups of pseudo-moralists who use guilt to soften up the “haves” with moral pabulum so they will not resist the confiscations. This is never more than partially successful. Most people see the hypocrisy.
Inevitably, the power-lusting control-freaks turn bogus rights into legal (but not moral) entitlements that completely invert morality. The act of earning something through terms that are mutually and voluntarily agreed upon is an authentic right. Earning becomes a tangible value in the form of money; money certifies that something of value has been accomplished. The government, which takes this earned money to give it to someone else who did not earn it but who is given claim to it by the use of force on the part of the government, literally loots and steals, then “redistributes” this “stolen property” as a bogus “right,” justified by fiat.
Non-free nations engage in looting behavior as a matter of policy. Stealing is as much a way of life as breathing. Corruption dominates life. In such societies, citizens are free to do only what they are permitted to do because the state and its wards have legal but not morally valid claims to the lives, labors, and property of the citizens. People in Islamia have no recognition of their rights whatsoever; everyone lives by permission, following commands from the dispensers of force.
When relatively free countries engage in the manufacture of counterfeit rights, they become less and less free. Entitlements grow. Bogus rights replace authentic rights. Down the slippery slope such countries go; where they stop, WE KNOW. If they do not stop, the logical conclusion is to become an unfree society in which all individuals’ rights have been abrogated.
The morphing of the legitimate “Rights of Man” into the illegitimate “economic rights” (or any other set of bogus rights) establishes a fatal principle: The life and property of its citizens belong to the state, not to the individual. Totalitarian states fully implement this principle.
“NEEDS” VERSUS “RIGHTS”
Another source of confusion surfaces here. It always takes the form of asking, “What do those in need do in a free society? Who takes care of them, and how?”
Helping those in need is very important to most people. This benevolence contributes mightily to civilizing life among free peoples (it is scarce among non-free peoples). Americans, as the freest people on earth, are by far the most caring, helpful, and generous, both among themselves and toward others.
Is it a measure of generosity, though, if money and property are forcibly seized from those who have something to “redistribute”? Many people are ill at ease with such seizures, because they are fundamentally unfair. Yet, there are people who are still in need.
How do we resolve this problem? The answer, happily, is “easily.”
Let’s develop an answer that resolves the “need problem” by clarifying the question of “needs” versus “rights.” This clarification shows how well the “needs problem” gets addressed and resolved in a society while fully protecting the fundamental rights of every one of its citizens.
One ground rule is that a “need” is not an authorization to abrogate the rights of someone else. People must be left free to seek solutions. People must be left free to give whatever they choose to help those who are in need. And, if they choose not to give, then they must be left free not to give, since that is their right as well.
People who have a vested interest in spreading bogus rights want to distort the concept of rights into becoming a give-away system which they use to acquire power and influence. They play upon confused persons’ emotions about “helping people.” They fog the issue to exploit the benevolence and common decency of the confused in order to harness them to the exploiters’ purposes. They would have you believe that few people have compassion for those who are not as well off, and so must be compelled to help out. But, in fact, compassion is one of our best human sentiments. Compassion exists in all societies, but only in free societies is the means for them to blossom as well as strongly developed desires to help.
A free, moral society is a society where rights are universally recognized, and has a government which exists to protect those rights.
The freer the society, the more of your property (including your money) you keep. You and others build up savings (“surplus funds”) quickly when government is restricted in what it can take from you.
This surplus money routinely plays into the benevolence toward others that an estimated 85% of us have: the more people keep of what they earn, the more they can give to charities. Conversely, the less “surplus” money people can keep, the less they are able to donate. Ask any charity how well their coffers are filled during the “highs” and “lows” of economic cycles.
[Perhaps it is unnecessary to state this, but just in case it is not, remember always that government produces NOTHING, including money. What government has, it must extract from its citizens.]
The surplus money in a free society always goes to work; it buys better standards of living, and, through investing in the creation of businesses, results in widespread employment. Thus, those at the low socio-economic end of life find many more opportunities to earn their sustenance and to meet their needs.
A very small core of those who have met with unmanageable misfortune for whatever reason, and truly cannot help themselves at all, will always remain. In a truly free society, though, the numbers of the helpless become fewer than in any other kind of society, and they are easier for the rest of us to help since they are small in number. A free society is an OPPORTUNITY SOCIETY, and includes almost endless opportunities to help others.
This is not idle, pie-in-the-sky, wish-fulfillment theorizing. History bears this out. A free society always has the fewest dependents because it is the best able to provide opportunity for people to support themselves at many levels, and more people have sufficient “surplus” available to help.
BE BLOODY CAREFUL WHAT YOU ENDORSE
The UNUDHR wobbles unfocused between the Rights of Man, derivative rights, and counterfeit rights. Furthermore, it never defines “rights.” This is a failure which allows it to corrupt freedom. Given how little people understand “rights,” the UNUDHR package deal gets sold and bought, with well-meaning advocates and supporters being none the wiser. Those trying to build an edifice of freedom, based to any extent on the UDHR, build on a fatally flawed foundation. You cannot replace some of your money with counterfeit money and expect enduring good results. Nor can you smuggle in bogus rights and expect to get away with it over the long range. Reality always wins in the end.
The bogus rights of the UDHR are so-called “economic rights.” They are the core of all forms of socialism: “democratic” socialism, fascism, and communism. Bogus rights inexorably pave the way to totalitarianism unless the bogus rights are thrown out and replaced with authentic rights.
Those who are rebelling from the utter totalitarianism that is Islam must not sabotage their truly noble goals and efforts. Islam is a horrible religion and a vicious philosophy. It abrogates the rights of all Muslims. It destroys the minds and lives of everyone it touches. Escaping from Islam and rejecting it are among the highest moral actions possible to any human being. Those who escape and oppose Islam are exceptionally courageous and admirable people. Those who fully reject Islam in favor of reality, reason, and rights will serve as role models to inspire others in their struggle for freedom, and their ultimate success.
The opposite, the antithesis, of Islam (and any incipient or fully developed totalitarian ideology) are the famed rights of man: Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The derivatives of these basic rights are also actions; they are decidedly not what the UNUDHR offers--social security, housing, health, groceries, income, education, and so on. These are not actions; they are products that must be provided by others. Other people must be forced to produce and provide the concretes the UN regards as “rights,” which means enslaving some to serve others.
What I am saying to ISIS and all others escaping Islam, I say also to the United States of America, which must pursue the same corrective policies.
But to those escaping Islam: Yes, run from Islam. And, run from the UN’s UDHR as well. Replace this document with a philosophically valid concept of “rights” that benefits all persons on earth. This will set you and all people on earth free.
 Peikoff, L.: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand; Meridian Books, NY, ISBN: 0-452-01101-9, 1991, page 353
 Rand, A: The Virtue of Selfishness; Signet Books, NY; ISBN:0-451-12931-8, 1964; page 93
 Ibid, page 94
 Peikoff, op. cit., page 350
 Rand, op. cit., page 92-93
 Ibid, page 96