The Virtue of Personal Responsibility

People will always look for a reason to misbehave. We know the difference between right and wrong, so when we find an opportunity to skirt around the edges, we take it. We know that drinking until passing out is wrong, however, it is excused so often for college students that some people will go to college specifically for the purpose of testing their liver. We know that smoking weed is a bad idea, however, when at a rock concert, it can be excused. So, we light up a doobie. It is evident that we know these actions are wrong simply by the time and place in which we choose to indulge. It is not OK for a 40 year old practicing attorney to show up black out drunk when defending a client, which is why no one does that outside of college unless they are an alcoholic. The same is true for smoking dope. We even use the rhetorical question, “Are you high?” to indicate our displeasure with someone’s choices. Our unwillingness to take personal responsibility within our culture is an epidemic worse than any amount of drunkards or potheads could inflict upon our culture. We are so incapable of taking personal responsibility for our actions, that now we no longer take personal responsibility for our feelings.

The idea of the special snowflake is one designed to describe the condition in which a person finds themselves to be so unique that any action by another person that is different from what they themselves would accept or undertake, is considered to be offensive and it is the actor that must apologize, regardless of whether or not any harm was done. Your speech must be limited because your words and ideas offend me. This is the new cry of our activist youth. While some go to college to test their livers, others go to test their outrage. Keg stands used to be cool. Now, organizing protests and getting teachers and administrators fired is the new cool thing. Notches on your belt used to be about your sexual conquests. Now, they are about how many lives you can ruin by making false rape allegations. Neither scenario is good. I am merely illustrating a point.

I feel the need here to explain that I am not a rape apologist or a victim blamer. I have never drank nor smoked weed. I am probably very much a prude by most people’s standards, and I cannot count the number of times I have been told I need to lighten up and relax. It is a testament to the depravity of our intellectual culture that I need to justify my personal character in order that my words not be dismissed on account of my personal choices. It used to be that we valued the content of the argument over the quality of the person presenting it. Now, it no longer matters what you say, only the groups with which you identify as you are saying it. Pedophiles and child sex traffickers go free as long as they endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, while lifelong devout Christians get thrown under the bus for suggesting that fathers are equally as important as mothers when raising children. We live in a sincerely bizarre time currently, however, the pendulum is coming back. If we want to survive and have some influence on where it lands, we must take a stand. Determining where that stand should be is hard. Good thing for you is, I have a solution.

Personal responsibility.

When we do not take responsibility for our actions, we weaken our character and cheapen our self-worth. One excused poor choice leads to another, and the spiral of self-degradation lands us in a pit of our own self-hatred and worthlessness. When we excuse ourselves from the consequences of eating too much cake because it’s someone’s birthday, we start eating desert every night, even though we know it will lead to poor health. When we get blackout drunk because we’re in college, it makes us more likely to be heavy drinkers later in life, which of course leads to poor health. Lifestyle related diseases are the number one killer in the West, and they arise due to a lack of personal responsibility.

I know why it happens. Taking personal responsibility is hard. Turning down cake at the next employee’s lunch birthday party will make you look like the bad guy. Sure, you might be looking out for your own health, but you are also pointing out to everyone else there how indulgent and irresponsible their choices are. What’s worse is you are showing them how weak they are in the face of temptation when you so easily say no to what they are so clearly enjoying. Their brain is receiving dopamine from all of that sweet, sweet sugar. Their subconscious is telling them, you really shouldn’t eat this because it’s bad for your health. Their conscious is telling their subconscious, shut-up it’s Steve’s birthday and I don’t get cake all that often. And by telling them no thank you on the cake, you are saying, choosing my own long term health and wellbeing is more important than my immediate indulgence and denying that indulgence really isn’t that hard. This makes them feel like crap, so they make you feel guilty by saying you don’t like Steve, and they guilt you into eating the cake all because they don’t want to take personal responsibility for their own crappy choices.

If, however, people took personal responsibility for their choices, denying themselves cake wouldn’t be so hard. We are a strange species. We are pre-programed with a set of natural drives that help us live. In every other species, those drives are called instincts, and in our natural environment, those instincts would serve us well. We are programmed to seek out and indulge in sugar because in our natural environment that sugar is found in fruit, which is incredibly healthy for us. Our number one indicator for longevity is fruit consumption, and the more fruit you eat the longer you are likely to live. However, we do not live in our natural environment. We live in a world of our own making because we have that capacity. Now sugar comes in almost every man made food on the store shelf, so we must be diligent in our consumption of it, lest we succumb to illness. Denying cake should be easy, if we would recognize our own power.

In Christianity, it is a moral virtue to resist temptation. According to Aristotle, finding the middle between indulgence and abstinence is the good. In our current society, blaming others for the way their actions and words make you feel is the good, and becoming the biggest victim is the highest moral virtue. Personal responsibility is the antithesis of our current creed of oppression Olympics, and it is also the cure to it.

Each one of us is responsible for the choices we make, and for the consequences of those choices. I am responsible for the words on this page, however, you are responsible for the way they make you feel. I have chosen to write, you have chosen to react. The action of writing is my choice, your reaction is your choice. We are each responsible for our own choices, and no one else’s. However, if we are to live in a civilized society, we must hold each other accountable for the consequences of their actions. If my words were libelous, I would be responsible for libel. If your eating habits lead to heart disease or diabetes, you are responsible for your related medical expenses and shortened life. It is unfair to burden your neighbors with your mortgage payment when you forgot to earn the money for the bill.

There is great freedom to be gained from personal responsibility because it grants everyone that wields this strength great power. When you take responsibility for your actions, you do not require laws, governments, or police because you will police your own actions, govern your own emotions, and write your own code for acceptable human behavior. We know the difference between right and wrong, justice and equity, and good and evil. We must shoulder the burden of living by the code of personal responsibility ourselves, and then we can start to hold others accountable.

This is not an easy path to walk, but it is at the core of anarchy. A world without coercion, one in which everyone lives by the non-aggression principle, can only be achieved if enough people take personal responsibility. Stop looking to others for direction on how to live, what choices to make, what clothes to wear, and what food to eat at Steve’s office birthday party. You are better than that. You are greater than needing someone else to tell you how to live. You are a strong, self-determining, personally responsible, empowered individual, and you are capable of greatness. Go find it.

The Three Justifications for Morality

Morality, defined here as conformity to how one ought to act, has three different foundations throughout history. They are God imposed, State imposed, and self-imposed. All three of these theories are also theories of ownership because it is only through ownership that proper action can be dictated. Ownership is defined here as the ability to execute exclusive control on an object. This includes your body. So, who owns you? Our perceptions about ownership have defined our lives in the past and our legal structures that subsequently evolved. It is through our understanding of this history of ownership that we can seek to liberate ourselves and achieve true freedom and flourishing.

The first ideas of morality come to us from religion. These ideas are God imposed, most notably in the Western European world as the Ten Commandments, and they have been implemented and followed throughout our legal systems to a large extent. My concern here is less with the history of the legal systems and more with the ideology that governs our recognition of authority when it comes to dictating morally correct action. In the God imposed theory of morality, we are all owned by God. Jesus is our shepherd and we are but lambs, and language of the like. The very mentality of the religious believer is that the individual is incapable of knowing right from wrong; only God can know such things. So, in order to be virtuous, I must do what I am told by God. God controls my fate, and it is only by his grace that I shall make it into heaven, lest I be cast into hell. God has the power to dictate how you ought to live, and this can only be established through the recognition and acceptance of God’s ownership over your body.

Of course, it may also be argued that God has given us freewill, and we have the capacity to choose our actions. This may be technically true, but God still dictates which choices are correct and incorrect. We lack judgement over our own actions, a fundamental necessity of ownership. In the religious view, we are no different from a cow owned by a farmer. We may choose when to eat grass and where, but our choices are limited by the fence around the field. Yes, the fence may offer us protection from predators, but it also prevents us from eating whatever grass we may desire, and it has also deprived us of the choice to erect our own fence should we choose to have one. We are not autonomous creatures that own ourselves.

The second idea of morality comes from government. Sometimes called rights, the government dictates to us what actions we can take, and which ones we cannot. The punishment and reward systems are not as prolific as those in religion, namely freedom from jail is heaven and jail is hell, however, they do still exist. Instead of listing commandments, the government grants rights. Governments take a more positivistic approach; they tell you what you are allowed to do, and if it isn’t listed, you cannot do it. In some legal traditions, most notably common law, it was understood that if the law didn’t explicitly forbid it, you were allowed to do it. This interpretation has since given way to the more explicitly positivistic approach in which the government allows you certain freedoms through rights. An example of this is with the U.S. constitution. When the first amendment was written, James Madison marveled at its relevance. He argued that the right was superfluous because nowhere in the constitution did the government have the capacity to regulate speech. This interpretation has since been turned on its head and every free speech battle has been about what the first amendment allows the citizens to do and not what power is given to the government by the constitution.

Governments steal from their citizens through taxation and asset forfeiture, they limit services we can provide or receive, they decide who can provide what services and how through licensing, they mandate how we can receive medical care, they dictate what constitutes money, and they regulate what we are allowed to put into our bodies. Again, it could be argued that we have the freedom to decide these things because we have the freedom to vote, but this is even less reassuring than freewill. At least with freewill we can make choices on a daily basis. With voting, we get a choice maybe once every two, four, or six years. And even then, politicians rarely keep their campaign promises. We are owned by a schizophrenic, sociopathic master, with no regard for our wellbeing, and every incentive to sell us out as chattel to the highest bidder. We are not just cows in a fenced in field anymore; we are in the back of a semi-truck on our way to the slaughterhouse and all we get to decide is who is driving the truck.

Finally, we come to our final theory of ownership, and thus basis for morality; self-ownership. I am the only being capable of moving my fingers to type this article. I am the only being capable of blinking my eyes, turning my head, or walking a mile on my legs. You can put a gun to my head and force me to do these things, but you cannot control my body as I can. No being on the planet is capable of exclusively controlling the body of another living creature. I cannot will a rabbit to eat grass, a gazelle to run from a lion, or a person to read this article. I can use force or the threat of force to compel action. I can use compelling speech or coercive deception to compel action. However, I have no capacity to will action from another being. This is because self-ownership is self-evident, it is a priori, and it is a condition of reality. Once we recognize this, no other basis for morality is possible save our own self-imposed one.

I am not arguing for moral relativism, i.e. the idea that every individual has their own morality and thus can to whatever they feel is right at the given moment. No, I am arguing for a morality that acts in accordance with our observed reality, the one that demonstrates that every living being owns his, her, or its body, and to try to compel action from another necessarily requires force or coercion, which violates the self-ownership of the being actively being compelled into action. You are the only person that can decide to use your eyes and your brain to read and interpret this article. If I put a gun to your head and force you to do it, I am violating your ownership over yourself. Your exclusive control over your body is being violated by my threat of complete destruction lest you choose to comply with my dictates. My actions would be immoral because they do not comport with reality. Indeed, they violate the evidence of reality.

Self-imposed morality, or a morality based upon self-ownership, dictates that in order to be moral, we must act in accordance with reality. Reality very evidently shows that you own your body and I own mine. For anyone to attempt to violate that ownership, they must aggress against us, and thus their actions are immoral. This is where the concept of the non-aggression principle is derived. It states that the initiation of the use of force is morally wrong. This is a valid moral principle because the initiation of the use of force always results in a violation of someone’s self-ownership.

Self-imposed morality also gives us the freedom to decide for ourselves how we ought to act. We are limited only by the immorality of aggressing against other living beings. We are free to decide what relationships we value, what labors to pursue, what virtues to embody, and how happiness is best experienced. Religion is unnecessary, however, you are free to follow one as long as you or your congregation are not violating the non-aggression principle. Governments are also not necessary, however, should you and your neighbors choose to form a voluntary coalition with common goals, you are free to do so as long as you do not aggress against anyone. You are free to make or earn your bread as you so choose. You are even free to characterize this state of existence as anarchy, and I encourage you to do just that.

Is Social Media Engineered Distraction?

Humans are social beings by nature and by evolution. As an individual, humans are not particularly well suited to survive. We don’t have sharp claws, massive amounts of strength, and we aren’t particularly fast. What we have is a cognitive frontal lobe that allows us to problem solve and create abstractions to better understand our environment. This alone, though, does not give us any advantage over a predator unless we can plan in advance a way to defeat the predator. What do we have then?

Humans are excellent at cooperating with each other. Together we can build traps and walls to keep out predators, cultivate land for a consistent food supply, and build houses and structures to protect us from nature. Effectively, we built civilization out of cooperating with each other. This cooperation requires us to be informed about the other members of our community as well as our own standing within that community. We have to know who is reliable and who is going to not shirk their responsibilities. We must also know how others perceive us; are we liked, do others find us dependable and trustworthy or are they going to kick us out of the group? Out of the necessity to be informed about the other members of the group and our standing within it, we have developed a hypersensitivity to social life.

In today’s world, we have the internet and social media; effectively social life on steroids. Not only can we keep up on the lives of everyone we went to high school with but on the lives of celebrities, politicians, and complete strangers. We are socially so well connected that our capacity to process and function in life is inundated at times. How much of your life have you wasted scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed? While it can provide necessary distraction from time to time, largely it distracts us from more productive activities. We could be improving our relationships with our friends, family, or significant other; we could be improving our knowledge base; we could be discovering virtue within our own lives and impacting the world. Instead, we are all consumed with what Suzie did on her last vacation, or if Terry from high school is doing as well as we are in social standing. The negative impacts of this on our life are evident, but I want to know if this detriment is intentional.

What if Facebook was designed to distract us from a failing economy, worsening race relations, international conflict, a European migrant crisis, potential currency collapse, chronic unemployment, and an international cabal of governments and corporations intent on constructing a supranational governmental body that supersedes national sovereignty and therefore individual sovereignty? I don’t think the original intent of any social media platform was to do just this. I think they were designed as a way to improve communication and provide a form of entertainment for internet users. I do, however, believe that the various platforms have been coopted for just the purpose of distraction and obfuscation of the truth.

When you see Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube actively policing posts or content providers for reasons that are clearly intended to silence their voices, and Google limits search results, the question of motives comes into play. When you have the owners of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple all encouraging and supporting the United Nations, a supranational governmental body not beholden to any sovereign people, taking over the internet, you must ask why. Are these people technocrats that honestly believe they can use technology to reshape the thinking of humans? Do they believe they can control you if they limit the information to which you are exposed?

Yes they do. These people are no different from any other authoritarian in the past that has believed humans are flawed and must be reshaped into something better. Socialists, Communists, and Marxists all believed this. Proponents of the public education system believe this as indoctrination is the sole purpose of public education. If the government can control the information you are taught for twelve years, they can control how you approach any topic or idea for the rest of your life. Unfortunately for them, the human spirit desires to be free. Fortunately for humanity, those of us that desire freedom above all else are endeavoring to use every means necessary to fight back.

Social media is useful at distracting and controlling the sheeple, but it is also incredibly useful in waking them up. The phenomena of “Red Pilling” is something that was made famous in the movie The Matrix, and it has been overwhelmingly adopted across the internet thanks to freedom fighters and their use of social media platforms. People are waking up every day thanks to the internet and the moral virtue of individual freedom. Freedom is good and it is the best virtue to fight for. That is why it will win. The entirety of the world’s armies cannot adequately oppose men with morality on their side. Moral conviction is the strongest motivator within human action, so I ask you to take up the cause of freedom with me. Let us stand together as we wage the war for freedom all across the internet. No longer shall we let Suzie’s vacation pictures or Terry’s new car distract us. Let us be the content providers for how the future should be. Let us fill everyone else’s feeds the ideas of freedom, liberty, and anarchy. Let us espouse moral virtue as our guiding light so that others may find it and join us on this journey.  Together, we will achieve anarchy, we will achieve freedom!

Why We Want to Universalize Principles

Often at work I get flack for how hard I work and how dedicated I am to performing tasks to the best of my ability. I work in food service, so what I do is not changing the world, however, I still take the work seriously and I apply myself. There are two reasons for this. One, I believe everything we do is training for everything else we do in life, so if I do not apply myself for eight hours a day five days a week, I will be conditioned to not applying myself and I will do that in other parts of my life. The second reason is that I believe in universalizing principles. The principle in question here is applying yourself to the best of your ability at work is a good thing. If this is to be a principle, it must be universalized and applied to all people, which includes me. If I want other people to work hard, I must work hard myself.

Have you ever seen a coworker intentionally be lazy or disregard a task they should complete with the direct intention of leaving it for someone else? Have you then heard that same coworker bemoan the fact that no one else in the place works very hard? I see it every day, and I wonder, “How can you expect other people to meet standards you yourself are not willing to?” Of course, I complain when other people do not apply themselves, but I am justified in doing so.

I am justified in my complaints about the poor work ethic of my coworkers because I have a strong work ethic. I apply myself to the best of my abilities, so when other people do not do the same, they are not meeting the principle of applying yourself to the best of your ability at work is a good thing. If my coworkers believed in the principle, applying yourself to the best of your ability at work is a bad thing, then they are not justified in their complaints about other people not working very hard. As we would expect by now, universalization of principles has much greater implications.

Universalizing principles is fundamental for living in a civilized society. We know that theft is morally wrong. That is the one of our basic moral principles, and it is something that even the thief agrees is a valid principle. If theft was a good thing, the thief would have no incentive to steal because what he stole would be stolen from him immediately. However, if private property is recognized, then the thief is secure in knowing that no one else is going to steal what he wants to take from others, and no one will steal from him after he has stolen. Universalizing the non-aggression principle, the initiation of force is morally wrong, allows us to interact peacefully with others within our society as well as hold others to account when it is violated.

If murder was morally wrong only for those who believed it was wrong, all someone would have to do to get away with murder was to not believe it was wrong. Certainly, this belief would leave the murderer open to be murdered without any repercussions, so it would make sense that universalizing the principle that murder is a good thing would be something this person would disagree with. We find this across all violators of moral principles; the violators want the laws to apply to everyone but themselves so they can take advantage of all of those that hold themselves to the standards. Necessarily, this problem necessitates a legal system that adjudicates disputes, prosecutes offenders, and establishes some modicum of justice. What constitutes such a system and whether or not what we have is a moral system is outside the scope of this article.

Even criminals know that they are breaking the principle of universalization for moral standards. This is evidence not only of universalization itself, but it is evidence of the fact that agreeing upon moral standards is something we have already done. The necessity for a complex legislative system is an unnecessary one. Everyone knows that you should not hurt people or take their stuff and you should keep your word. So all we really need is a service provider that will defend us from those that want to hurt us or take our stuff, and another one that arbitrates the disputes that arise from someone trying to hurt us, take our stuff, or break their word. These are systems that can be voluntarily chosen in the free market.

Your car insurance has universal standards that must be met, and there are dozens of providers that will meet those standards in various different packages for various different prices. And, if you get into a collision with someone that has a different car insurance provider, your insurer is still able to resolve the dispute very peacefully. There is no need to worry that your arbitration company will not get along with another company. The principles that they apply to every one of their customers also apply to them.

The universalization of principles places the principles as the ideal standard above the influence of man or his legislative laws. Similar to the way religion places God above man, objective moral standards are above the influence of man, which allows for their universalization. Objective moral principles are as justifiable through reason as gravity is through observation, which clearly applies universally to everyone. Principles, like gravity, hold the world together, and like gravity, they establish a universal framework that facilitates human flourishing.

Freedom Isn’t Free

There are a number of misconceptions about anarchy, one of which is the idea that there are not consequences for your actions. This is false. Believing that government is the only arbiter of justice is an insult to the concept of justice. We have established that ethics can be derived rationally, so we can then rationally determine what constitutes a violation of those ethics and what might constitute a just resolution to the violation. As individuals capable of rational thought, we do not need one organization with a monopoly on force to tell us how to live or arbitrate disputes.

In our modern society, we are so conditioned to believe that the reasons people do not commit crime is because of the police that we lose our understanding of morality or our natural internalization of it. If police presence was really the reason for low crime, then in areas with the most police there would be the least crime. In fact the opposite is true. In white suburbia, there are maybe three cops that patrol localities of 30,000 plus people, and there is virtually no crime. There may be occasional property crime, but certainly no murders. However, if you look at inner city Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, there are hundreds, if not thousands of cops, and crime is rampant. Police presence is a symptom of criminality, not its remedy. So why then are the peaceful places peaceful and the violent places violent?

The answer lies within the people that live in the respective areas. The individuals that live in the suburbs are more capable and thus more apt to internalize morality. Earning money requires deferral of gratification, whereas stealing it results in immediate gratification. Earning money guarantees a steadier stream of consistent and potentially increasing income, whereas theft guarantees nothing. Earning money requires cooperation and respect of your fellow individuals, whereas theft requires only that your fellow individuals do not know you are the thief. If you have the capacity to rationally understand this, then you are far more likely to live in the suburbs, or a community of respectively low criminality.

In order for anarchy to succeed we need to live in a world where a plurality of people understand the aforementioned concepts and are willing to respect them. Thankfully, we do live in such a world. The majority of people, at least in America, do not commit crimes because they know they are wrong. Despite what your initial thoughts might be about your fellow citizens, if you put them to task, they will not steal from you, murder you, or rape you. In fact, they will most likely be as opposed to those ideas as you are. This is a good thing. It means we do not need to convince people of morality; we simply need them to recognize that most other people agree with and share their outlook on the topic. Recognizing this, all of the systems necessary to arbitrate disputes will arise organically. We have the power to thrive in a state of anarchy, all we need to do is have the courage to recognize it. Only then can we flourish!

Why Anarchy Gets a Bad Rep

What if I told you the Constitution is a non-binding document that has done nothing to stop the growth and power of the government? What if I told you police are not required to defend your life or property? What if I told you that taxation is theft, war is murder, and mainstream media is propaganda, all legally authorized by the government? What if I told you the word government means “mind control?” What if everything you have been taught to believe is a lie? What if it is not just a lie, but an intricate system of obfuscation designed to completely control you and extort from you your productivity? What if you are nothing but a free range slave within the confines of your tax farm, with nothing more than the opportunity to vote for a different face to your tax farmer every few years?

What if patriotism is an intentional form of deception designed to gin up support for a system that seeks only to control you and dominate the world? What if “fighting for your freedom” actually means oppressing and killing innocent people in foreign countries? What if soldiers aren’t heroes? What if cops aren’t there to serve and protect, but to brutalize and exploit? What if they are the enforcement arm of a system of complete tyranny over the individual? What if the system is so terrible, and yet good at obfuscation that the officers enforcing the laws honestly believe they are doing good and you respect them for it? What if politicians running for office actually have good intentions when they start out, but it is the nature of the system to corrupt anyone that touches it? What if power is more addictive than crack cocaine, and once you have had a small taste of it, you want only more?

What if everything I just said is absolutely true and you refuse to believe it? What if you are so conditioned to believe you are free that when actual freedom is presented to you, you reject it because you think it is evil? What if you have the capacity to be responsible for your own choices and control over your own property? What if you are better than anyone else at allocating your time and money? What if you are capable of resolving disputes without violence? What if you can see a violent coercive monopoly on the use of force for what it is; an elaborate extortion, racketeering, and murder organization that you have been conditioned to not only accept, but worship?

What if there was a better way and you knew what it was? Would you not seek it out and want to share it with as many people as possible? Would you not see the beauty possible when individuals are allowed to determine for themselves how best to live their lives? Would you believe me if I told you this system is anarchy? Would you believe me if I told you a world of exclusively voluntary interactions would allow humanity to truly flourish? Would you help me spread this message so one day our children can inhabit such a glorious world? Will you join me in my love affair with human flourishing?

Rights, Do We Have Them?

Definitions are important in order to ensure proper understanding. If I say my favorite fruit is an orange because I love the crisp crunch and bitter sweet taste as I bite into its green flesh, you are going to look at me like I am strange. Clearly what I am describing as an orange is actually a granny smith apple, and the concept of orange is different between the two of us. This is why the analogy of comparing apples to oranges makes sense. In my example, I am literally confusing an apple with an orange. This makes for very poor conversation, so I will always try my best to present the best definition possible for ideas I am discussing. That being said, I will now address the question at hand; do we have rights?

A quick Google search of “What is a right?” will return the following definition that is most pertinent to our discussion: “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” When we think of rights, we think of the right to life, liberty, happiness, freedom of speech, to bear arms, and in more common dialogue, the right to healthcare or education. Let’s break this down a little bit. If we have a right to life, we are entitled to live, which means other people are obligated to not interfere with our life. This puts a claim on the actions of others. If I have a right to the freedom of speech, then others are obligated to let me speak in a public forum. If I have a right to healthcare, then doctors and nurses are obligated to treat me when I am ill or injured. A right, by definition, obligates others to affirm a claim I have as a living person. So, where do rights come from?

Natural Law would have you believe that your rights come from your humanity. You are a human being, so you are entitled to life, liberty, and property. This means other people are obligated to not interfere with your life or your freedom so long as you are respecting the rights of others, and to allow you to acquire property as long as you are not violating the rights of others. These are called negative claim rights as they do not require any positive action on the part of other people. However, these rights still place an obligation on other people. If you were on a tropical island with no other people, your need for rights would not exist as there would be no other people there. What about healthcare or education?

The United Nations has declared healthcare to be a basic human right. This means that other people are obligated to give you healthcare; doctors and nurses are obligated to give you care. Education is also often referred to as a human right. This means teachers are obligated to teach you. In fact, I would argue that if education is a human right, then anyone that knows more than anyone else is obligated to educate the less knowledgeable. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing this? I digress. These rights would be positive claim rights as they require positive actions on the part of other people. Doctors and teachers must intervene in your life and expend their time, energy, knowledge, and resources to give you something. This certainly does not seem just. Are we doomed then, to live an unjust life in an unjust world?!

That seems a bit hyperbolic, so let me put an end to this rhetoric of rights. Rights, as a physical entity, like say your shoes, do not exist. They are purely a construct of the human mind. Worse yet, they are a fabrication, and an elaborate one at that. Not only is the right to healthcare a farce, but so too is the right to life. There is no real difference between positive and negative claim rights as negative claim rights still place an obligation upon other people, even if that obligation is simply to do nothing but recognize that you are a person. At its worst, the right to life could be construed to mandate that all potential life has a right to life, meaning all eggs in a woman must be fertilized and granted life as a human. This would bind all living people to perpetually living for the not yet born, thus putting precedent on creating new life over living your own life. As rights to not exist, they are neither useful nor helpful in understanding our relationship with reality or each other. Instead of having a right to life, simply recognize that we exist, and any attempt to interfere with our existence from others violates the non-aggression principle. For more on that see my post, The Moral Framework. With all this talk of rights, who benefits?

Qui bono? That is the phrase we should always ask when unraveling a complex philosophical structure meant to deceive us. Who benefits from humans believing that we have rights and that they must be recognized and respected by other people? Why, those that enforce the rules for respecting those rights; governments and politicians. If I can convince you that you have an illness, and I am the only one with a cure, are you going to buy that cure from me? Of course you are! You get to feel better, and I get to take advantage of your ignorance. Governments have a direct incentive to grant the people as many rights as they can conceive of as those same governments will grow in size, scope, and revenue in order to preserve those rights. You have a right to life? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t killing you. You have a right to property? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t stealing from you. Oh, and we have to steal from you to pay for it, but we are going to call it taxation. What’s that? You want a right to healthcare? Of course! Here you go! You just have to wait six months before you see a doctor. You have a right to healthcare, but no one said you have a right to healthcare right now. Oh, and you definitely have a right to education. How else are we going to prevent you from thinking critically about any of our laws or your “rights” unless we indoctrinate, I mean educate you about them or how wonderful we are for providing them to you?

There is also the Positivist legal theory. This states that all rights are granted by the government. You can do only what the law allows you to do, and all power resides within the government to grant freedoms. You have the right to live because the government has given it to you. You have the right to speak as long as the government says it is OK. While this approach is more honest about the nature of rights, it is morally corrupt and logically inconsistent. To address the latter claim first, we know that ownership is defined as exclusive control over an object. In this case, we are referring to your body. If the government is the sole entity that can grant you the right to speak or move or live, then you are not the owner of your body. This is a contradiction of reality and it cannot stand. Governments understand this, which is why they use the threat of violence at the barrel of a gun to enforce their laws. This is also why this approach is morally corrupt. Enforcing the notion that the government has the authority to grant rights to people requires a violation of the non-aggression principle, and this is morally wrong. Positivism also fails to grant humans rights. So, what is the answer?

At this point, we can unequivocally say, “No, we do not have rights.”  Do you know the saying, “beware of strangers bearing gifts?” The government is one big entity of strangers, and the gifts they bear are called rights. Reject their rhetoric wholesale lest you get caught up in their convoluted mess of what rights you do or do not have and when, where and how. Instead recognize two simple truths. One, rights do not exist so you do not have them; and two, the ten scariest words in the human language are these, “I’m from the government, and I am here to help.”

 

The Moral Framework

As with all political ideals, a sound moral theory must be presented to establish the validity of the ideal. I do that here.

Politics, at least political science, deals primarily with ideas about how systems should operate in order to best ensure justice is achieved within society. It seeks to codify into law how men ought to act and establish a just system of recourse for when laws are broken. Of course, this begs the question, “How should men act?” (As an aside, when I say men, I mean individual people. Men is just shorter and faster to type.) In order to answer this question, we must establish a basic framework of ethics and morality.

Morality is the study of right and wrong, and ethics is the application of rules governing right and wrong action within a society. We have to determine what is right and what is wrong, and in order to do this, we start by accepting some basic facts of reality.

  • We exist. Some philosophers in the past have tried to argue that we do not exist or we cannot know if we exist. Our capacity to think, feel, and interact with reality should be evidence enough of this.
  • We have free will. The fact that I have chosen to write these words and the fact that you are now choosing to read them is evidence of this.
  • An individual owns his or her body. Without self-ownership, all ownership is impossible. Ownership is defined as the ability to exercise exclusive control over something. An individual is the only being capable of exercising exclusive control over his or her body, and is therefore the owner of the self.
  • Through self-ownership, each individual is responsible for his or her actions. This is called moral agency, or simply agency.
  • Agency makes each individual responsible for the impact of his or her actions towards one’s self and towards others.
  • Through self-ownership, we are able to acquire other property as well. Clothes, cars, land, etc. and we are responsible for these items just as we are responsible for our bodies.
  • We are allowed to preserve and defend our ownership over ourselves and our property. No person has the right to violate self-ownership or the ownership rights there derived. If a person cannot defend his or her body or property, then it cannot be said that they have exclusive control over it and therefore do not own it. This is a contradiction, and therefore we conclude that self-preservation and defense are inherently a part of self-ownership.

From these founding principles, we deduce the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), which states the initiation of the use of force is morally wrong. The NAP is a deduction from observed reality; it is not an assertion. We deduce that because any initiation of the use of force interferes with the principles of self-ownership, it is a violation of reality, and is therefore immoral. Allow me to elaborate.

Murder, rape, assault, and theft are all obvious violations of the NAP. Murder violates self-ownership by ending the function of a body that is not owned by the perpetrator. Rape and assault are both violations of self-ownership in that the attacker is compelling action against the victim’s will which violates the principle of self-ownership and therefore cannot stand. Theft is simply the taking of another’s property and of course is a violation of the principle of self-ownership.

Fraud and deception are a little harder to categorize, but they are also violations of the NAP as they seek to compel one to act against his own self-ownership without full volition. If I hire you to vacuum the rugs in my house, and you agree, that is a completely sound contract. If, however, I have cut a hole in the floor under one of my rugs with the sole intent of having you fall into it, you are not responsible for the ensuing injuries to your person; I am. I have intentionally led you into a situation that is clearly against your own best self-interest, and I am responsible for the outcome. If I was not aware of the hole, or you enjoyed falling into holes and knew beforehand that it was there, the situation would be different. Due to the fact that I was fully aware that I was defrauding you, I am responsible for the outcome.

This the moral framework by which we establish a moral society under anarchy. This will of course require a high degree of internalization of morality as well as some voluntary enforcement systems, all ideas that will be covered in subsequent posts.