Pillar 1: Right
The concept of political rights, as distinct from the unfettered whim of a monarch to do what he pleases (alleged as the Divine Right of Kings), originated in the Enlightenment in Europe. The concept of political rights pertained to individual human beings in their capacity as conscious agents acting in the natural world.
Hence, the doctrine that emerged from the Enlightenment was known as Individual Rights or Natural Rights. Mankind (in Europe) was making the first steps toward reason and freedom, simultaneously. Heroic people challenged the power of church and state and opened the New World (America) to live even more fully as they chose.
The creation of the United States of America—through the Declaration of Independence, the ensuing colonial revolt, the Articles of Confederation, and finally the Constitution—represents the first and thus far the only country explicitly founded on the principle of Individual Rights. These rights are life, liberty, and property.
Closely following the true Enlightenment and its challenge to authoritarian power, a false liberation theology sought to retain authoritarian power in the name of "the people." Collectivism, let’s call it involuntary socialism (there isn’t any other kind), has continually attempted to subvert reason and freedom. See the Political Spectrum analysis for further information.
As stated in the table, rights make the connection between metaphysics and ethics to politics. The simple syllogism proceeds as follows:
- Man exists in the cosmos with the capacity to reason. (metaphysics)
- In order to live, man(3) must choose to reason and act accordingly; to achieve the values of one’s own life is good—i.e. right. (ethics)
- It is right, therefore, for all individuals to have the freedom of thought (reason) and action. (politics)
Certainly more can be stated about so important a subject as rights. It’s often misinterpreted. For example, a nurse friend of mine insists individual rights is the idea that people, particularly those with a medical need, have a blank check on the wealth of others. Kind of a "my right entails your paying me to get what I want" notion. Obviously, that’s a misuse of the longstanding philosophical concept.
And the principle of individual rights has its opponents, even among those who understand it. I recommend the various think tanks, particularly the more scholarly and academic institutes, on our Links page for further clarity and support of rights, the foundational concept of freedom in society.
Pillar 2: Life
David Bergland in Libertarianism starts the argument for liberty by saying we all own ourselves:
"You own yourself. To own something means that you decide what do with it…. To own yourself means that your decisions about what to do with your life, your body, your energy, speech, action, and honestly acquired property, are the decisions that count. No one has the right to force you to act against your own interests as you see them."
We see that freedom is all about life. Your life. Each individual’s life. We can frame it more broadly in terms of individualism vs. collectivism. The former recognizes the life and well being of each individual, in accordance with his effort, as the purpose for which society is arranged. The latter believes the individual’s life must be sacrificed to "society," which in practice means some individuals must be sacrificed to other individuals.
Note that life is the purpose of freedom, the life of each individual human being. Although freedom is a necessary condition for life, it is not a sufficient condition. Meaning, we can be free to make decisions but may not make the correct ones to assure our survival. In the free market, you may freely guess wrong about what the consumers want.
Freedom doesn’t mean a guarantee of success, but without freedom, human society cannot be successful in the long run. Put more succinctly, slavery, or statism, guarantees failure.
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
— John F. Kennedy, 1961
[It matters not, how beautiful the orator, nor how revered. A socialist is a socialist. Patriotic calls for you to sacrifice your life energy for the "good" of society are just one of the means for the few to steal from the many. —Ed.]
Pillar 3: Liberty
Closely related to the right to life is the right to speak and act as we will, regardless of any objective connection to economic survival/success. Conventionally, the right to liberty means the various civil freedoms:
- religion or philosophy
- expression of ideas in the media
- access to government information
- biochemical preferences
- riding without helmets or seatbelts
- sex and reproduction(4)
- rock and roll… yes, even disco and rap/hiphop
- speech, assembly, petition, voting, and so on
The US Constitution enshrines civil liberties in the Bill of Rights. Particularly important is the Ninth Amendment, which states that the enumeration within the Constitution of certain rights does not deny or disparage others retained by the people. In other words, just because we haven’t identified a freedom doesn’t’ mean you don’t have it.
Indeed, because of the Tenth Amendment, you do have all unspecified freedoms. The 10th makes it clear the government is explicitly limited to the powers set forth in the Constitution, and nothing further. Therefore, an unspecified freedom, for example the right to grow and ingest marijuana, is constitutionally protected by the Ninth Amendment. Any laws prohibiting peaceful consensual activity are Constitutionally null and void.
We don’t have to tell you the state has long ago broken its Constitutional bonds and the national security state (NSS) has come into ascendance—by the way, leading to the need to impeach the current administration and prosecute government officials for complicity in the 911 attacks. Liberty is hanging by the slenderest of threads, in America, not to mention dying in the rest of the world.
Pillar 4: Property
The concept of property is what distinguishes the libertarian from the wrong type of leftist—what is termed Left 2 in Logan Brandt’s analysis on the political spectrum. Libertarians hold that property is a material necessity of survival, that just as you own your own life, you have to own your own property to make life possible.
It is "right" for men to mix their labor in nature and be recognized as having authority over that which they have found, created, or gained in voluntary exchange with others. We’ve often heard the adage, "I favor human rights over property rights." But the alternative to individuals owning and controlling their own property is that some individuals own and control other individuals by means of their property. Without property rights men are slaves.
So property rights are human rights, indispensable for life and progress.
The right of property leads to the right to voluntarily contract for goods or services, or to mix property—usually represented by money—with other people’s property to develop wealth, e.g. investment in a longterm business project. Common law has grown to provide rules under which such trade may be conducted.
Nothing in the common law or the nonaggression principle prevents a group from founding a business that makes it publicly known that the funds at risk for that business are limited to the funds invested (in other words, losses of that business cannot be compensated from other noninvested funds of the individual shareholders). This so-called limited liability is a key characteristic of a corporation.
Unfortunately, corporations have been created by government statute with many other legal powers and privileges that would not follow from common law or the nonaggression principle. An example lies in laws that shield officers from prosecution for criminal wrongdoing of the corporation. The Byzantine nature of the law, combined with the tax and regulatory power of the state, ensures corporations receive and return massive economic favors.
Corporations have neither bodies to kick, nor souls to damn
— Andrew Jackson
Many historical corporations—certainly the large ones with influence—in the United States have become little more than arms of the state and vice versa, highly politicized and increasingly immune from market forces. You’ll note when well-connected corporations look as if they’re going to capsize, the government often bails them out with taxpayer largesse. Bankruptcy laws also make it possible for corporations to violate their contracts.
The category of property rights can be extended to a discussion of all things economic; free market economics is a huge area that has been dealt with at length with several noteworthy libertarian opuses.(5) I particularly want to point out the importance of who controls the money supply.
Money is property and needs to be kept in private hands in a market system that establishes the voluntary true value of things. Any paper notes that get transacted in a property-rights-based economic system represent something of actual value, probably gold, held in the holder’s private bank. A proper bank—as opposed to an investment firm—is a warehouse of value, providing value-holding and related services for fees. Its notes in circulation match the amount of value (gold) it has on deposit.
As the amount of wealth steadily increases in a free society, the relative value of a unit of gold increases. This encourages more exploration, but the available supply of gold remains relatively fixed compared to growth of goods and services. This means as wealth increases, the price of goods and services denominated in gold actually declines.
In fact, prices gradually lowering, with general prosperity, is a telltale of a true market economy.
It seems anomalous (odd), especially when we’ve been so used to central-government banks and their control of money. Notice how scrupulously honest a free market, private banking system is regarding the value of money. Contrast that with the state-monopoly system that continually inflates the money supply; like counterfeiting, inflation benefits the people who receive the new money first (corporate insiders) and makes goods more expensive for Joe Lunchbucket.
Before leaving we need to point out that the only way to morally finance government is voluntary payment. (Keep in mind the government in a free society is very small.) Taxation, like government control of the money supply, is a violation of the right of property. It compels individuals to give their property to the government at the point of a gun. If you don’t pay you go to jail. Which segues nicely to the nonaggression principle.
ReasonToFreedom.com, Freedom 101
- We’ve noted this before, on the use of the historical male gender pronoun to denote both genders—for tradition, consistency, convenience, and readability. back to text
- The rational libertarian position on abortion is that the choice of terminating a pregnancy belongs to the woman. A woman is a person; a fertilized egg is not a person. Rights pertain to persons. When pregnancy cannot be avoided or is unforeseen, abortion can be the moral alternative—the moral standard being the life and happiness of the woman (person). Regardless of any moral considerations about the act itself, the state has no right to intrude on a woman’s body, on her person, for any reason—either to compel or to prohibit gestation and birth. This is the only rational libertarian position. The same arguments apply to euthanasia; the voluntary choices of persons are all that matters. back to text
- The two comprehensive works most often cited as foundations of libertarian economics are Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises and Man, Economy, and the State, by Murray Rothbard. I’d also like to throw in Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia and Ayn Rand’s (a series of essays) Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal; these are premier, though more rational rights-focused, works in the context of economic reality. back to text
Bookmark/Search this post with: