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The Myth of "Rights"

This is my first post here and I don't even have a clue how this will go, but I keep ruminating on this same subject in my mind.

It is my belief, that while I am aware (a little) of the origins of "Natural Law" and a bit about John Locke, I can not for the life of me work out in any scenario a universe where "rights" actually exist. While I enjoy the rights the Founders set forth as natural to us as per the Constitution and the Declaration, I can not logically come to any conclusion that tells me that rights, necessarily, objectively, exist.

While it is my opinion that IF God exists, then, concepts such as rights may possibly exist, I can in no wise see clearly from the Scriptures which I believe in, any absolute declaration of anything, any human is "deserved". In a universe where A God, or some sort of Higher consciousness does not exist, a purely naturalistic framework, it seems utterly obvious and virtually absolute (if such things as absolutes could exist in regard to morals and concepts in naturalism) that rights could NOT exist.

I would just like to hear your thoughts on this, my community of fellow liberty believers. Thanks so much for any input you may supply.

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Natural Rights make no sense -- I never understood why

we even talk about them.

Civil Rights (enforced by law, by court, by gun, by kidnapping, by asset theft) are easy to see and understand and even "rely" on.

HOWEVER -- they are only active AFTER the offense; meaning, it might not be you but rather a family member who benefits from the fact that your "rights" were violated when you were wrongly executed.

MEANING -- with any law and in regards to protectionism, it is almost ALWAYS after-the-fact. Meaning the police protect you after your home is invaded, or during the invasion, or long afterwards in the recovery of your belongings.

What they can't do is give you back your "peace of mind"

The kind of "rights" Natural Law folks talk (endlessly about), if not protected / guaranteed / revenged by force-agency (gov't: courts or police) then it's ONLY philosophical musings.

NO RIGHTS protect you in the moment -- if attacked by a Bear your right-to-speak-freely, your right to come-and-go as you please, and your right to regain lost assets is not worthy of mention.

Rights are a set-up for an abdication of self-defense -- If you believe in self-defense and ZERO force-agency then you do not need "rights" nor would you waste your time talking about them.

Every "right" you could list can be taken from you by disease, injury, or death -- if you have no "rights" to allay these forms of forfiture then how are you going to stop a unionized mob, hahahahahaha.

I find the whole conversation to be childish and is has NOT helped to secure the kind of free-society I'm talking about EVER in all human history (not even close).

Locke was born to wealthy people -- stop looking to the dayum wealthy Founders as your "kings of olde" -- If you want a free-society then you are going to have to meditate deeply on Self-Defense.

Your quandary..

is that you are attempting to redefine "natural" and then protest about them not being magical and divine.

You said:

"The kind of "rights" Natural Law folks talk (endlessly about), if not protected / guaranteed / revenged by force-agency (gov't: courts or police) then it's ONLY philosophical musings."

The bolded text is the key to resolution. Natural rights have never claimed to be anything other than philosophical and metaphysical musings.

Natural rights are determined by observing entities operating in nature.

Feeding dogs only jelly beans and beating them makes dogs unhappy. Empirically and observationally dogs are much happier if you feed them meat and play with and love them. Dogs have a natural right to be fed proper food and treated in ways that suits their characteristics. The fact that dogs are sometimes abused and mistreated is no proof that there aren't better or worse ways to treat them according to their nature. (note the word "nature")

Humans have a certain "nature" that, through observation of man in society, leads to the conclusion that society and mankind is better off if individuals can speak freely, defend themselves, be secure in their possessions, are not dragged off to prison without due process, etc..

You are overcomplicating and strawmanning natural rights...

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~

A dog is afforded NO RIGHTS by nature -- if it is not fed or if

it can't hunt -- it dies.

My point is very relevant.

Self-Defense Talk (in free-market terms) might possibly lead to pragmatic action.

Eternal discussion about Rights in a Zero force-agency society is futile and immature.

In legal terms a right is a guarantee, something that is backed by the might of gov't.

In a free-society there is NO force-agency so why would anyone EVER talk about "rights" (guarantees).

Show me how natural rights "talk" can lead to pragmatic understanding of free-market theory, if you can?

You are conflating...

"society" with "anarchy".

society - The union of a number of rational beings; or a number of persons united, either for a temporary or permanent purpose. Thus the inhabitants of a state or of a city constitute a society, having common interests; and hence it is called a community.

Anarchy has ZERO power over organic local society. None at all. Except for isolated short-term instances, local communities(organic society) will always implement monopoly sewers, police, judges, etc..

Anarchy is some utopian mythical society of 100% strong-willed independent persons which will never exist. Seventy percent of people are either wholly incapable or wholly unwilling to lead ANYTHING and most of them demand a structure of leadership within which to operate.

The granny that can feed an army and makes excellent blankets but is reduced to trembling and tears at the prospect of leading anything or anybody, that granny is SUPER IMPORTANT to society. The same for many of the most brilliant scientists, innovators and artists. I've known scientists who can't find their car to go home at the end of the day or even merely drive. They can't even lead themselves. But they are super important and need protections other than a profit-making concern.

Every single one of us is born into the non-anarchy of family. The family is a hierarchical power structure and the opposite of anarchy.

Anarchy is a utopian myth that is antithetical to the observable social nature of humankind and is in opposition to all known historical precedence of man's behavior in society.

Anarchy is just another version of the spaghetti monster... :)

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~

No Sir -- "Society and Gentile-ness" is the Myth

It cannot serve perfectly -- ONLY imperfectly on every issue people unionize collective might.

People seek "rights" -- people seek guarantees against failure.

These things are known as "protectionism"

The kind of rights (natural rights) that cannot guarantee anything but ONLY meander philosophically (especially over the bones of long dead wealthy men) are one of the most IMPOTENT of activities.

If you meditate on how rights cannot prolong life (against disease or injury or murder) then what's left? Self-Defense.

---Good Nutrition
---Plenty of Rest
---Fulfilling Work
---Conscious Submission (when one is feeble or injured or incontinent)
---Protection of one's property / assets

In a free-society (with no force-agency) the amount of innovation that would go into the various sub-categories of "self-defense" would be one of the fastest paced industries: Health, Insurance, Home-Defense, etc.

When gov't doles out "rights" of citizenship -- They limit how much the individual can defend or arm themselves (monopoly formation) and decide which industries are in compliance / certified / bonafide.

Saying one has the "natural right" to self-defense is just pointless jibber jabber -- worse and inevitably these conversations turn into guaranteed rights; as all "rights" (writ of law) were born from (born from philosophical musings).

I'm not conflating anything.

My take is that rights exist

as a product of nature or god depending on your inclination. You have the right to speak because you have a tongue and voicebox, you have the right to travel because you have two legs and feet. You have the right to think because you have the capacity to. You can do these things but you can't take that from another or initiate violence through the laws of man which boils down to property rights (the product of your labor). Misguided or evil people have created laws that usurp the laws of nature or god. Misguided or evil laws (usurping of property rights) have transferred some ownership of property to everyone else in some way and given us the abomination that we have now. Keep in mind that inflation is theft at the monetary unit level. In a system where property rights are being destroyed prosperity declines and violence increases, we move away from god if you're so inclined.

God or nature gave us the capacity to respect property rights (reason, nonviolent interaction, trade) which can separate us from animals if we chose to grow. Some animals eat each other, some rip food from each others mouths, but even in the wild animals move toward property rights by such things as marking their territory, they form mutually beneficial relationships without initiating force, some pair up for life. They become more civilized over time as a system based on violence (theft, force, etc) cannot exist in the long term, I believe that this is nature or god's will. All animals are generally guided to a non violent means of satisfying their needs unless options exclude it. Maybe even through conservation of energy.

Does this mean that a hungry man can rightfully steal food from another? Obviously no, he can't even rightfully (in a natural or godlike way) take food that the person has left behind unless he is confident that it is abandoned (the owner has voluntarily chose to give up ownership and no other has a claim to it). What is the consequence of stealing the food? He feels physically satisfied for the moment but guilty for taking it. He may say that he thinks what he did was right, but he is becoming more uncivilized and animal like with each action as he devolves away from god or nature's will. Should he have died rather than take the food? I say that he can become a thief if he wants to and live with it and hurt us all a little in the process. He should have never ended up there at that moment in that situation, and if he did, he would rightfully be at the mercy of the owner of the food who in nearly all cases would come to the aid of a dying man for both of their benefits. If the man cannot stop putting himself in this situation, do I believe that the man with the food should let him die? I'm sorry but he has that right. Another may come along and chose to support the hungry and irresponsible or incapable person and choose to try to rehabilitate him but that is his choice and not responsibility.

This is why the ends never justifies the means. Making yourself more godlike benefits everyone, but never forcing people to be godlike which hurts everyone as force is destruction. Proper law is defense of property rights.

Please forgive my use of terms and keep in mind that when I use nature and god interchangeably I mean no disrespect or pagan implication, if anything I recognize god as the supreme creator of all things or all natural systems. This also is not meant to attack the bible's stories any more than any other religion's texts as I believe them to be the will of god as written to the best of man's understanding. If read correctly, there is also no way that what I wrote here can be bended toward some pseudo communistic eco-foolery, it would be actually the complete opposite. A clean and balanced world is a free world with the highest possible protection of property rights. People that use force to make things cleaner move us in the opposite direction as it can only be done in a god like or natural way. The ends can never justify the means.

This post is an example of why libertarians have trouble with soundbites and why Dr. Paul has done so amazingly well at relaying the message of liberty in the times that we now live. A liberal would say that "silentboom thinks that hungry people should die." and the crowd would boo me and scream "racist!"

"Endless money forms the sinews of war." - Cicero, www.freedomshift.blogspot.com

For me

a right is nothing more than a universally accepted, unequivocal and unrestrainable permanent permission to perform an act which may include holding a possession.

It has nothing to do with who created you but rather what society or civilization you are in. As we've seen throughout history and across the continents, rights are not universal outside of some limited scope.

"Thou shalt not kill"

The commandment to not to murder certainly implies a right to life. The commandment not to steal implies that there is property that is owned by an individual.

In your opinion.

As a woman who bore children, biologically I am faced with the fact that I have the ability to NOT bestow a fetus with a portion of MY life energy. Without my consent, no baby. I can make it happen and no one would ever know. That is how I know I have that right - I can just do it. The baby, not so much. It MUST have my consent, making the baby a slave to my will. Good thing most mothers are awesome, huh?
And if it is a sin, that is between me and my Creator, none of your affair at all.
So, there it is again. You have one opinion, I have the opposite, and we can argue about it for the rest of our lives or we can concentrate on the areas we DO agree upon.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

So did the baby fairy put the baby in ya?

Come on, lame. You consented with unprotected sex and neglected the morning after pill. No reason to murder an innocent third party, i.e the fetus-baby, because of your mistakes to acknowledge the cause-effects of simple reproductive action (thats SEX for you statists out there).

I love fairies!

My husaband and I sat by a creek one night and watched the moonlight dance across the ripples, and we both thought "Those have to be fairies!"

As for your assumptions about how and when I have sex... None of your business, but here goes:
My virginity was raped away from me, but I got over it and married a wonderful man for whom I bore two children, the only pregnancies I ever had. So, I lived my life according to my morals, and wish to allow you room to do the same.

Go watch for some fairies tonight, the moon is just off full - they are lovely.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.


I assumed you were speaking of a hypothetical.

Odd logic/definition....

If I have the ability to break into your house and steal all your valuables it doesn't follow that I have right to do so. It is still wrong for me to steal all your stuff. A "right" implies it is the opposite of a wrong.

If the Govt takes all your weapons and leaves you defenseless you STILL have a natural right to possess arms and defend yourself. Your right is just being violated.

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~

I( like to think like a squirrel.

Like I am a squirrel, then I understand what "rights" my "Creator" bestowed upon me.
I, like any good squirrel, DO have the right to sneak into your attic and take any nuts I find, or perhaps hide a few nuts of my own there. However, I am a clever squirrel, and SELF GOVERN, choosing not to risk my life over a stash of nuts you may or may not have, and possibly face the wrath of another squirrel who catches me stealing his nuts. I also choose to find a hiding place that is not the obvious nest of another squirrel, knowing that you would probably steal my nuts, just because they were in your nest. Doing what is right comes from within - or it does not. Having a right - the kind bestowed by our Creator, not by any agreement among men - is brutally obvious.
What if you broke into my house and stole everything because you had lost everything, including your mind? What if your wife and baby were starving and all you steal is some of my food? You have the right to do whatever you have the gumption to get up and do. It is by impeccable self-governance that you CHOOSE what is right - and the word has multiple meanings. (Shall I get picky and say it is the opposite of left, and of course we all have rights unless we were born horribly deformed?)

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

Rights existed before the state, now, and after it's gone!

Your scope is way too narrow. Rights are not "deserved", but are gracious provisions if we are humble enough to receive them and preserve them.

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:10-13

It's clear, if you believe the scriptures here, that the power given, "to become the sons of God", has nothing to do with any limitations imposed, "of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man". Since God alone made the provision for, "as many as receive him" to have the, "power to become" His sons; then what other rights go along with that right?

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." - 1 Corinthians 2:9

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." - 1 Corinthians 2:12

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." - 1 Timothy 6:17,18,19

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

You are right that

in a godless universe rights do not exist. That is another reason that so many want to disprove God. That way all rights and laws are under the authority of man.

I'm not sure what your belief is since you say "IF God exists" and then say "Scriptures which I believe in". But if you do believe in Scripture and therefor God then it should be plain to you that there are certain rights that we have bestowed on us by God. There are two commandments that all commandments hinge on and likewise there are two rights that all other rights hinge on and those rights are the Right to Life and the Right to Property. These are upheld throughout Scripture.

There are no inherent rights when it comes to man made things though.

That's weird. I'm an atheist and I recognize your rights

The statement "rights come from your creator" does NOT mean whatever version of God you personally believe in. 'Creator can' have many interpretations as long as the creator is something other than man and the state.

Perhaps you need to have a fear of some God to recognize the rights of other men, but I and many people do not. My ethics are independent from religion.

You have no rights

except what God gives you. What you believe on your own is as sure as the direction that the wind blows. You wouldn't even know what ethics or morals were if not for God. Take your self righteous posturing somewhere else.

Judea-Christian doctrine declares that God Gave us Free Will

God gave you the Right to choose Hell over Heaven, did He not?

It is Free Will that is the source of Rights as well as Wrongs.

So whether God gave them to you, or you claim them by claiming unalienable authority and ownership over oneself, you have Rights and they are definable. They are NOT subject to religion, dogma, or the state.

If one thinks about Rights in the Free Will context, it really doesn't matter how one attains the Free Will, just that one has it.

Morality is simply the absence of Wrong Behavior.

Take your self righteous posturing somewhere else

"You wouldn't even know what ethics or morals were if not for God."

Talk about two hypocritical statements! You obviously don't know what self righteous posturing is. Thinking like this is exactly why religion simple needs to be banned globally.

Remember, of total people on this planet, your little religion is in the minority so you better hope others have ethics.

I think

that your ignorance is your own worst enemy. You are obviously a product of public education. You ignorantly think that belief in God is self righteousness. What an idiot.

Self is an individual.
Righteous is being morally and/or lawfully right.
Posturing is a stance or disposition with regard to something.

So self righteous posturing is taking a stance on morality or lawfulness based on ones own thinking.

I think stupid people like you should be banned globally. :-)

Well, you think wrong.

First off, I was educated in a parochial school and raised devoutly lutheran. I am very aware of both sides of the christian religions as well as many non-christian ones.

Then I learned logic and started asking questions. I was basically demonized for not blindly accepting "because he said so" and "because this book says so" and "the book is the truth because it tells us it's the truth". This does not make me an idiot but calling me one because I'm exposing YOUR flaws certainly makes you one.

Self righteous posturing is a well known tactic where one claims the higher ground in a debate based on an assumption that they are right. It is essentially accusing them of that assumption being wrong. So, you accused of this and I accused you back in a pot-calling-kettle manner which adds hypocrisy.

The difference is there is zero proof that religion has any validity at all if one uses logical practices where science has many and you can't even see that this gives you no higher ground to make this claim than those you call out.

Rights exist because Free Will allows for there to be Wrongs

Rights are actions or behaviors that one does not need permission of another to act or behave.

Privileges are actions or behaviors that require the permission of another to act or behave.

What is wrong? Wrong is acting or behaving when permission has not been given, infringement or abridgement. One has a Right to ones own person simply because we are the only ones that can give permission to it.

By Person, I mean self, thoughts, labor, and acquired property.

'Deserved' is a terrible word. It means earned without earning. Rights are earned. When one is born, one truly has no rights because we are completely Dependent upon others. Dependency requires permission/supply of another. Rights are acquired as one becomes less dependent upon others.

Because Division of Labor does not foster complete independence, we have a fairly complex set of Rights and Privileges, but the error is in trying to name or define (codify) them all. A formula to decipher what Rights and Privileges are is a better way to recognizing or Declaring Rights.

Rights can spring from Religious concepts and natural ones concurrently. God gave mankind Free Will. It is this Free Will that separated mankind from the rest of Creation. Free Will allows for wrong doing, but not without retaliation.

Nature gave mankind Free Will. How we all got here I cannot be certain of, but I do know that I have and I'm capable of Free Will. How? Far less important than Why. We were all born in the same manner and Equal Station is a Given without some Creator restricting Authority over ones person (Free Will). But Religion (at least Judea-Christian) states that God gave mankind Free Will (aka Rights) so both achieve the same Truth.

It really all boils down to Free Will and what ones does with it. Do you have Authority over your own Person as defined above? Do you use that Authority to disrupt/usurp the Authority others have over their Person?

Morality is simply acting or behaving in a manner that recognizes the Rights and Privileges of oneself and others.


If rights exist, if ethics exist. None of which you've proved right? I like your definitions, but when you get to the section on what is acting wrong, you make a huge philosophical leap of faith assuming that what you say is actually "right" and that wrong exists without ever giving an underpinning for why it would exist. Take a crack at it though, you'll exercise all our brains!

Thanks so much

This has been wonderful. This thread has confirmed fears about the naturalistic world view over and over, it has given me just the break through I was hoping for in my own thinking as far as the truth of natural rights, which can only be divine in origin, if an over arching moral law and justice actually exist. You've all been so kind in your discussions, rational and thoughtful. You made my first posting experience feel very worthwhile. Thanks again.

You are just choosing not to believe

You are choosing to not believe in natural rights, regardless of how compelling the proofs are.

I can "choose" to believe that 1+1 does not equal 2.

That doesn't make it not so.

It sounds like you're a bit (depressed?) for some reason, and this is affecting your ability to let the arguments sink in.

I can't say that for sure - or why - but no, you're *choosing* to live in a depressing reality where we are mere animals, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.

You are choosing to live in a world, where the ultimate reality is one where those with the most amount of dominance can "force" you to accept that 1+1=4 (ala Winston Smith).

But that does not make it true.

Human beings are creatures of choice. Choose wisely! (or try like hell lol)


Well I don't feel depressed. Just trying to be sure of what I believe. Actually this has helped my understanding of rights quite a bit, it has confirmed what I already knew to an extent and deepened one side of my understanding thanks to my fellow theist DPers.

As I stated before, rights may exist in a universe where a God exists. I believe for many reasons that this is a universe where a God exists and that He has rights and that they are tied to His holiness and righteousness. My whole understanding is developing, but it's too long for me to go into now.

In a universe where God does not exist, my fellow DPers have helped to again confirm the fact that no way in heck do rights exist, no matter how evolved someone gets, they have not ever developed a "rights" gland. Ha. So of course they are a pretend concept that many partake in to protect themselves and of course creating a very complex smoke screen to hide that they don't exist gets pretty wordy but still ends with there being NO rights in a purely naturalistic universe.

Thanks for the concern, not depressed, doing just fine! God Bless!

I disagree.

You wrote that you are a theist, and you go on to ask if Rights exist in the Natural World, then confirm your thoughts with this statement which I disagree:

"In a universe where God does not exist, ... the fact that no way in heck do rights exist, no matter how evolved someone gets, they have not ever developed a "rights" gland. Ha. So of course they are a pretend concept that many partake in to protect themselves and of course creating a very complex smoke screen to hide that they don't exist gets pretty wordy but still ends with there being NO rights in a purely naturalistic universe."

Well, good question -- do natural rights exist in the natural world?

Unfortunately, its Bad answer.

Your answer is that one must believe in an unnatural 'magical underpants' gawd in order to believe in man's very natural rights' to life, liberty & property. No, not at all. One is not based upon the other at all.

Natural rights does exist in the real world, evidence for it is derived from factual events and it exists because MAN exists. Natural Rights of Man exists in much the same way as does the Law of Supply & Demand.

Good question, bad answer I think.


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Naturals rights exist...

in the same way that if you beat your dog and feed it only jelly beans makes the dog unhappier than if you feed them meat and veggies and pet and play with them a lot and are kind to them.

Dogs have a natural right to not be beaten and fed inappropriate food. Whether a god or evolution caused it to be so doesn't matter. It just is.

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~

So you've used the idea of natural rights ..

... to rationalize further your belief in a very *specific* - preexisting concept of a creator.

A concept that was handed to you by other people, that were living here on this planet before you were born.

You were sold on this idea, and have adopted it and cannot imagine a universe that does not conform to this particular, specific concept of a creator that was handed to you by other people.

Not knocking it. You might be right.

Merely clarifying what you are actually saying here.