17 October 2006

What's so natural about rights?

As an anarcho-capitalist I do not hold with the idea of a positive right, in that such a right automatically entails the bondage of the individual to the collective. However, I am now also beginning to doubt the usefulness of trying to argue from negative rights, this is partly because it seems to create situations where negative rights suggest one course of action whilst the would be adherent of negative rights prefers another course of action (suggesting that the negative rights have somehow broken down in the particular instance). It is also because in situations where we do want the effect of negative rights, we can eliminate the need for 'rights'. An example of this is your right not to be killed, surely this is equivalent to the lack of anyone else with the right to kill you. I think this line of reasoning can lead to an non-rights based explanation for why anarcho-capitalism is the preferable system for the general furthering of individual goals.

This article, A Positive Account of Property Rights, by David Friedman, led me to thinking that maybe rights (or more specifically 'natural rights') are actually problematic for a systematic description of the basis for anarcho-capitalism. Rights are still talked about here, but they are specifically contractual, not philosophical. This then explains their origin and integrates them into a more evolutionary system, which has the potential to deal with the ambiguity apparent in philosophical systems of rights and ethics.

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