Friday, February 17, 2006



Murray Rothbard (For a New Liberty):

A "right", philosophically, must be something embedded in the nature of man and reality, something that can be preserved and maintained at any time and in any age. The "right" of self-ownership, of defending one's life and property, is clearly that sort of right: it can apply to Neanderthal cavemen, in modern Calcutta, or in the contemporary United States. Such a right is independent of time and place.

Putting some context to the quote above, this is Rothbard's response to the notion of a "right" to education, which he states is a fallacy. Additionally, these luxuries of modern society are not "rights" and should not be considered as such. "Rights" to food, guaranteed wages and work, profit, medicine, and just about everything else in modern parlance that is touted as a "right" are just modern entitlements having no real justification, other than a convenient public choice mechanism for the buying of votes.

Ah, sweet Murray Rothbard.
No other comments Travis? So I guess you agree with his quotation and my assertion?

Why shouldn't anything become a "right", as soon as it becomes and intergeneration entitlement?
I agree with Murray, Chris and Travis. Well-said, gentlemen.

Chris, in answer to your question, something cannot "become" a right. A right either is or it is not. Furthermore, rights in the strictest definition, cannot make claims on others. Education does so. Ergo, it cannot be a right.
Heh, had this very question on my 495E exam.

Jenna: Thanks for the succinct clarification.
Well, I am personally skeptical of Rights-based arguments like this. I think their most fundamental problem is explaining where rights come from. Murray asserts what he thinks they are and are not in this quote, but that doesn't explain why.

David Friedman also made some good points about the practical problems to enforcing these rights. For example, if I had an argument with a neighbor and I wanted and I wanted to get back him by shinning a floodlight into his house at 2am, would that be a violation of his property rights? If so, then wouldn’t accidently shining a maglite flashlight into his window at 2am also be a violation of those rights? If it is not violation, why isn’t it? And where do we draw the line?

Natural Rights arguments seem to fall silent on both questions.
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