I’ve had some ideas percolating in my head for a few months now. I am re-evaluating the entire idea of what rights are. For a very long time rights were something I viewed as God-given. One had a right to speech, to bear arms, to privacy, and to a myriad others endowed to us by our creator. Then I read some Murray Rothbard and learned that either he, or Mises, had efficiently summed it up as one specific right; the right to property. All of the other rights we can dream up come down to property rights.
The right to life is merely self-ownership. Weapons, narcotics and food, among other things, are all material goods that are owned, and if accumulated in a voluntary manner, should all be permissible in a free society. A classic example is that the right to speech only goes as far as where one is speaking. If a person is yelling “fire” in a crowded theater then he is violating the theater owner’s rules, and thus, does not have a right to speech. If that same person is, however, printing an article on his own paper, with his own ink, or likewise has the consent of the paper and ink owner, then there should be no one to stop him. The list of examples could go on but if one is interested in learning more I would refer them to Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty.
The harsh reality though, is that for everything the libertarian says should happen quite often does not happen. I cannot help remembering an instance a few years ago I had while reading Aesop’s Fables I discovered the original saying of an oft misspoken phrase is “might makes right” as opposed to what I had always thought was “right makes might.”
Being a libertarian I was well versed in the whole concept of positive and negative rights. But it wasn’t until I converted to anarchism that I started to suspect that there really is no such things as rights, after all. There is no right to property, therefore, there is also no right to life or liberty. The only right an individual has is his free will. If I do not have one hundred percent control over it, then it is not a right. Essentially, this amounts to what one thinks and what one’s physical body can do. Those are the only inalienable rights. By definition, inalienable means that something cannot be taken away. But since property and life can be taken away with or without one’s consent, then it is not an inalienable right. Free will is the only thing God gave us that cannot be taken away by man. So, the whole concept of rights to me is moot. Liberty, on the other hand, is a different story. Liberty encompasses all that one normally understands as rights. My goal as an anarchist is not to maximize individual rights, but instead individual liberty. And there is a difference.
I believe we are living in anarchy right now. Natural Law, Austrian Economics, and anarchy are operating one hundred percent of the time, all day, every day. Anarchy is not about getting rid of government and then having anarchy. For me, getting rid of the state is the same as increasing individual liberty and thus creating a society that is more in harmony with Natural Law, anarchy, and Austrian Economics. Society at large is not guilty of disobeying the laws of nature, but merely ignoring them. For too long libertarians have been waiting for the rest of the individuals and institutions on earth to respect their rights. This is not how nature works. Individuals are not guaranteed rights that do not exist. Liberty must simply be stronger than that of tyranny. As anarchists we will never convert the world by playing by their rules, instead we must find and live by our own.
The state exists in people’s minds. It can exist in the minds of one billion people or one person. The state is essentially the initiation of force. It is anti-justice. It can and will happen for the rest of eternity. We are never going to stop it. We can, however, end the state as a global institution. That will not happen until enough individuals recognize the state for what it really is… institutionalized violence. The state cannot be reformed just like the initiation of violence cannot be reformed. It must be disobeyed.
I would love to read what others think about the idea of rights. And I would specifically like to know where each person is coming from in their definition, such as a viewpoint of minarchy, anarchy, statism, or other.