The Real Anatomy of Political RightsSubmitted by Molusk on Sun, 06/23/2013 - 02:58
The following are just some thoughts on what rights really mean in practice, emerging from a discussion on another thread. Please try to correct me if I am wrong in any point or find a flaw in my thinking if there is any.
Rights are claims to a given political power or freedom, and can only be granted real existence by persuading the collective power of society of its interest in granting that power or freedom. No individual by himself has the ability to enforce any political claim if opposed by a sufficient number of others.
Rights are the legal or formal acceptance of a political claim; they are not inherent in man or nature or in any natural conditions, and are not "provable" from argument like a scientific or mathematical postulate or claim. They don't have an objective existence in the real world, they only come into existence as a outcomes of a political process.
Power and freedom, on the other hand, each have concrete meaning in the real world. Power is what you can control, freedom is the absence of interference or control over yourself. A right is only a claim to this or that political relation (either power or freedom) between yourself and the rest of society. Any such claim can only be upheld by force, in the last resort.
Prior to force, the battle for political relations and outcomes can be waged with propaganda, argument, moralizing, rhetoric, emotional appeals, deception, or threats of violence.
The way your claims become politically real is if you can persuade others to defend them along with you, with force if necessary. "Might is right" thus becomes, Law is right. The joined might of mutual defense of the legally established political or legal relationships, between members of society. The claims are transformed into legal and actual relationships by force, and hallowed by custom and usage into 'rights' by time. People feel entitled to the rights they are accustomed to by long usage, established originally by the real power that turned the claim into the right.
These arrangements will tend to follow the actual power distribution of individuals and classes in society, so that your actual level of power and influence will be reflected in your political rights. They will also tend to be disrupted by changes, rapid or gradual, in the real underlying distribution of power between individuals and classes, due to technology or other changes. The petrified political mold will shatter if the power relationships underlying the structure move too far from the overlaying formal, legal structure. Revolution is the result (and can go in either direction).
Your argument, or appeal, for your 'rights' to society will have to be an appeal to their moral beliefs, their interests in common with yours, or their interests in not 'treading' on your claimed rights. Or all three.
Therefore they have to be reasonable, foremost, in that they make sense to other people. If you make crazy, wild claims and your moral or ethical arguments are easily refutable, they won't carry weight and will fail to persuade sufficient members of society to join in defending your claims (rights).
Secondly, they can't infringe on the basic interests of others, or they won't find any supporters.
Finally, your appeal needs to be broad enough so that the collective strength of all who subscribe to put forward the same claims actually have sufficient social, economic, and physical force to uphold the claims against the other segments of society and those opponents of your claims.
Otherwise, you're just pissing in the wind!