The Nature of Individual Rights: Short Notes

Bill of Rights - First Ten Amendments to the US ConstitutionSome short notes about the nature of genuine human rights. I start by clearing up some common misconceptions about rights, then discuss what rights actually are.

What Rights Are Not

  1. Rights do not come from religious texts, like the Bible. Biblical Commandments like “Thou shalt not murder,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” don’t provide an answer to what killing counts as murder, or what taking counts as stealing. In the Biblical book of Exodus, priests and leaders may kill those in their community who are not attacking them, and it is apparently not considered murder. (See: Exodus 32:27-29) Also, many early Christians eschewed private property and lived a communal lifestyle, with all things held in common. (Acts 2:42-45) The Judeo-Christian tradition relies on the arbitrary dictates of the Biblical God and does not provide a solid basis for rights to life, liberty and property.
  2. Rights are not moral duties or “side constraints” on purposeful action, as many academic libertarians believe. They don’t have their basis in some vague concept of “inherent human dignity.”
  3. Rights are not means to “general utility”–i.e. the “collective pleasure” of everyone in society–as John Stuart Mill thought.
  4. Rights do not protect need-based claims to goods or services to be provided by other people, such as food, shelter, healthcare, etc. Contra Bernie Sanders, healthcare is not a right.

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Why Facebook and Twitter Can’t Censor Speech

facebook-twitter-instagram-icons-png-social-media-iconsFacebook and Twitter have been banning a lot of conservatives and anti-social justice activists recently, like Paul Joseph Watson, Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin), Tommy Robinson, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones. This has commonly been called “censorship” by them and others. But in this essay, I will argue that this is not censorship. It is something fundamentally different from censorship: moderation.

Censorship is always bad. Moderation can be good or bad. But even when it is bad, irrational and/or biased, it should not be regulated by law.

What is Censorship? What is Moderation?

According to Dictionary.com, a censor is “an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.”

“Suppressing” here means “suppressing by using the force of the government.” That is, this is the government punishing citizens and/or confiscating their property (the banned materials in question.)

This is fundamentally different than a citizen regulating the speech of another on his property, as a condition of using it. If someone comes into your house and starts denouncing your wife or mother as a slut, you are within your rights to demand that he leave and to assert your property rights by the force of the police. If you and an opponent have been invited to a debate on abortion, and your opponent, or someone in the crowd, starts screaming about how you’re just privileged and your view is invalid, that person can be asked to leave and forced out if necessary. If someone is continually talking loudly during a movie, again, the theater is within its rights to have that person removed.

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Video: Why Socialism is Always Oppressive, Dictatorial and Corrupt

I just published a video version of my essay, “Why Socialism is Always Oppressive, Dictatorial and Corrupt.” In it, I explain why socialism, when implemented to a high degree in the real world, results in dictatorship, oppression, rampant corruption, and personality cults.

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Jordan Peterson at OCON: Video and Objectivist Commentary

On July 1, Objectivist Summer Conference 2018 hosted Dr. Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin in discussion with Objectivists, Dr. Greg Salmieri and Dr. Yaron Brook. Here’s the video of the discussion:

After this discussion, Yaron Brook hosted Greg Salmieri and Dr. Onkar Ghate on his show for some illuminating after-action analysis. Here’s that video:

You can see more interviews and discussions like this by subscribing to Yaron Brook’s YouTube channel, here: The Yaron Brook Show.

You can listen to Greg Salmieri on Ayn Rand’s ethics on the Elucidations philosophy podcast, put out by the University of Chicago, here: Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

On a related note, I am now producing original videos for YouTube. My YouTube channel is here: Sword of Apollo.

See Jordan Peterson Live at OCON 2018 — Yaron Brook Show Announcement

Video

Live Event: Philosophy and the Human Soul

Jordan Peterson will be joining Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate and Dave Rubin for a conversation at OCON 2018. You can sign up for OCON and see this event in person on Sunday, July 1st, 2018 at the Newport Beach Marriot in Southern California. Scheduled time is 3:30-5:00 pm PDT. Student and young adult discounts are available.

Special event website: http://arioffer.org/SpecialEventatOCON2018

OCON Website: http://ocon.aynrand.org/
#OCON2018

This event will also be streamed live on The Rubin Report and Jordan Peterson’s YouTube channel.

The Yaron Brook Show: https://www.youtube.com/user/ybrook

Video: Why Socialism is Morally Wrong: The Basis of Property Rights

I just published a video version of my essay, “Why Socialism is Morally Wrong: The Basis of Property Rights.” In it, I discuss the “purest” and “most economically reasonable” form of socialism, and I show why it’s immoral and impractical, by the standard of a morality that is pro-human life.

Now, of course, if your morality is against human life on Earth, socialism may be perfectly “moral,” according to your anti-human moral code. And indeed, as Ayn Rand argued in Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness, conventional altruism is one such anti-human moral code. It is the origin of the appeal of socialism to so many people in the past 200 years. This includes, not only Marxists, but utopian and Christian socialists as well.

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How Government Welfare Programs Are Immoral and Hurt Everyone, Including the Poor

US Federal Government spends 19% of its budget on overt welfare programs, (including Medicaid).

In 2016, the US Federal Government spent $740 billion, or 19% of its budget, on overt welfare programs, (including Medicaid). It spent $1.57 trillion on Social Security and Medicare. Together these make up 60% of its budget. (Source)

A very common view today is that the government needs to provide welfare programs for the poor. This is the view that “redistribution of wealth to the needy” is a noble project, and such “government assistance” is necessary to keep people from starving in the streets.

This essay will challenge and refute this view. In Ayn Rand’s ideal society, under laissez-faire capitalism, there would be no welfare programs, and this would be a good thing.

The people who didn’t vote for welfare programs, yet are taxed to support them, did not consent to the taking of their money. They signed no “social contract,” and simply living near other people does not give those other people a right to take their money. If you doubt this, watching this short video should be helpful:

Welfare programs are immoral for the same reason that three people using guns to force a fourth to pay for all their dinners is immoral: It’s an injustice that violates the rights of the victims. It has the same moral status as a robbery.

Yet people still attempt to justify using government to “redistribute” (steal) money by force, by appealing to alleged good consequences that result from the practice. The main line of argument is that welfare benefits are needed to prevent the poor from starving, while wealthier people can “afford” to have a corresponding amount of money taken out of their incomes. Thus, the argument goes, there is a net “social benefit” to welfare redistribution.

This argument is wrong on four counts:

  1. Welfare is not needed to keep good people from starving.
  2. The effect of redistribution on the wealthy should not be thought of in terms of whether they can “afford” it.
  3. There is no such thing as a “social benefit,” in the way this argument assumes.
  4. Even if we dismiss the idea of “social benefit,” the argument falsely assumes that the “beneficiaries” of welfare really benefit, overall, from redistribution.

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