THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 507, February 22, 2009
"Things are crazy and getting crazier all the time."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
Sometimes I think the whole human world is built on faith. It's not surprising really, since faith is a mechanism for making sense of a world that often makes little sense.
Libertarianssome of them anywaytend to sneer at faith, while being completely unaware that they are among the faithful themselves. Of course, many of these dogmata of the various faiths are pretty absurd on their face, and libertarians also have a few like that.
One that I have heard many libertarians express, is that the job of government is to protect rights. Not every right of course, but just the ones libertarians agree with (negative rights). Nothing could be more absurd. Stefan Molyneux has displayed a more realistic view of what government is all about; another such exposition is shown in Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto. Government is about domesticating cattle, parasitizing them, using them for sport (as in wars), and self-aggrandizement and the satisfaction of power lust for those in the ruling class.
Oh, a pretty famous document makes the same claim that governments are for protecting rights ("That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."), but this just proves that Jefferson held the same item of faith that so many libertarians do. I suppose many libertarians hold it, in fact, because of the Declaration of Independence, which they revere. That does not mean it is reality.
The prime and almost constant trampler of rights are governments, the very governments of the people whose rights are supposed to be protected by governments (not trampled by foreign governments, although that too happens on occasion). Come now, is it not so, that this item of faith is absurd?
Another dogmata of libertarians is that rights exist at all. Then libertarians go into great expositions why their particular favorite rights are the real ones, and all others are fake. Usually this division is called "negative" and "positive" rightsalthough if libertarians wanted to sell their ideas, they'd probably do better to pick somewhat more positive terms!
L.A. Rollins has written a little book that shows how nonsensical the idea of natural rights is. Jeff Snyder has also talked about this point.
Personally, I think people invented the term "rights" as a sort of shorthand. For example, the actual, correct "right to life" is this statement: "Most of the time, most people don't want to kill you." Notice, this is an exact description of reality. However it is a bit long and clumsy, so people (presumably) shortened it into a "right to life". But that shorthand then took on a life of its own, and morphed into some sort of thing such as "people cannot kill you". And strangely, many people held onto that religiously, even as they were walking into the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Thus the "right to life" is one of the main factors causing the loss of life, because people put faith in it to protect them, rather than understanding reality and taking more appropriate measures.
As far as I'm concerned, the only "rights" you really have, are the ones you are willing to kill for. Sure, you prefer less drastic measures, and will attempt to protect them on the government's chosen battleground, the courts; or work for them on another government-chosen battleground, elections; but to have faith in prevailing in such places is crazy. The deck is stacked against you.
Notice, this recognition of reality handily takes care of the problem of "positive rights". A fair number of people are willing to kill to stay alive; some smaller number are willing to kill in order to be able to say what they want to say (the so-called "right to free speech"), but almost no one is prepared to kill to make you subsidize their health care or their kids' "education".
I don't have too much worry my neighbor is going to stick a gun in my face so Johnny can go to school on my dime. Those most interested in so-called positive rights, are the kinds of people least likely to agress themselves, personallyalthough they are only too happy to hire government thugs to get such rights for them.
Those most interested in negative rights are the ones more likely to take up arms to secure them. But they are not really "rights". They are just things that people are unwilling to be pushed around for. They are that "line in the sand". Maybe we should call them "lines" rather than "rights". Then people wouldn't lose sight of reality so easily.