mellyrn on May 09, 2012, 02:04:05 pm
Today's strip (5/9/12, page 951) reminds me that I'm not clear on the terminology here.  What is a 'right'?

I know there are things I want for which I will fight with all I've got, like choosing for myself what I will or will not do.  That doesn't stop other people from trying to force or coerce me, so I may indeed have to have that fight.  At what point does this thing I want, to choose my own actions, acquire the mantle of a 'right', as in 'the right to choose for myself'?

Does the term only imply how hard I'll fight for it, how much trouble he can expect who tries to deny it to me?  Does it imply that I have a community of like-minded people who will help me fight for it?

(If I were a dictator, I'd make free speech a positive obligation.  How am I to know what people are thinking if they don't say it?)


Andreas on May 09, 2012, 02:24:35 pm
First way of showing it is in contrast: A right is not a privilege (although having it respected can make one feel privileged) - a privilege is something gained, which means it's not the default, and also that it can be lost.
A right is also not an obligation, a right is a potential to demand, and everyone is always free to abstain from demanding.

A right is something you have by virtue of being born as you were. A human (human rights), a citizen (legal rights), a sentient being (philosophical rights).
A right is something that can be denied you (otherwise we could speak of a right to be material) - but unlike a privilege, denying a right can be seen as an act of violence. Defense of a privilege can be seen as robbery supported by history (historic events gave you something, something that was taken from others - defending the continuation of this misdistribution isn't ever completely ethical), whereas defense of a right cannot be seen as such.

And finally; the natural limit of any right, is where it leads to the violation of a right of others. That limit is seldom applied to privilege, which is why socialism has such appeal to so many.

myrkul999 on May 09, 2012, 04:02:48 pm
Rights are best explained "negatively"

Starting with the "big three", Life, Liberty, and Property:

The right to life is best explained as the right not to be murdered.

The right to liberty is best explained as the right not to be locked up.

The right to property is best explained as the right not to have your stuff stolen.

Rights prevent people (who respect them) from doing things, they do not oblige people to do things. In today's strip, the claim is made that "healthcare" is a human right. Let's examine that, shall we?

The right to healthcare, expressed negatively, is the right not to be prevented from receiving healthcare. This does not oblige someone to provide health care, but does keep people from forcibly stopping you from getting it.

mellyrn on May 09, 2012, 06:18:03 pm
Quote
denying a right can be seen as an act of violence.

Aha!  I can work with this.  Things usually on a laundry list of "rights" have seemed to me to be "things which, if you tried to deny them to people, any reasonable person could tell you that you were just asking for trouble that way".  Way too longwinded & clumsy.  I couldn't ever get how anyone "had" the things themselves, not in any irrevocable way, so I was thinking that if both a right and a privilege could be taken away, how did they differ?  The only difference seemed to lie in the quality of the reaction to the attempted removal.  It still does, but Andreas' remark quoted above seems to say it all rather more succinctly.

As to myrkul999, I quite like the point that no one gets to (with impunity) actively prevent you from seeking care while at the same time no one is obligated to provide it to you, either, which the woman in today's strip apparently does not yet understand.  I think she has taken the, hmm, supernatural? view, that if you invoke the magic Name ("Right"), that somehow guarantees it to you.

Homer2101 on May 09, 2012, 07:19:50 pm
In American constitutional discourse, a right proscribes the government from doing something to you. A privilege (a "positive" right) requires the government to do something for you.

That's probably the best way to make a bright-line distinction between rights and privileges, and think it parallels what has already been said. There is a rather big gray area between positive and negative rights in practice. And it's not really common usage, so am not sure it is what Sandy means.

A "human" or "natural" right is something deemed so fundamental that all persons are considered to have it simply by being alive; it can be either a negative right, or a positive right (a privilege). Historically natural rights have been negative, as myrkul999 nicely illustrates. But they can be positive as well, because what is defined as a human right is almost entirely subjective. So there can be a positive right to healthcare,* and it can be deemed a natural right. Whether it should be a natural right is a different matter; not getting into it here unless someone really wants my opinion.

*Older constitutions are more concerned with negative rights. For example, the Bill of Rights is a list of things the federal and state governments cannot do. More recent constitutions tend to include positive rights, such as rights to shelter and to healthcare; some governments even manage to deliver on these promises, with varying degrees of success.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 07:26:58 pm by Homer2101 »

SandySandfort on May 09, 2012, 07:44:33 pm
Everyone posting so far, has made good points. However, for precision and simplicity, myrkul999 best describes what a [natural] right is. It mells very well with the ZAP and fairly well with the Golden Rule. "Life, liberty and property" comes from John Locke, an English philosopher who strongly influenced Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers.

Rights are best explained "negatively"

Starting with the "big three", Life, Liberty, and Property:

The right to life is best explained as the right not to be murdered.

The right to liberty is best explained as the right not to be locked up.

The right to property is best explained as the right not to have your stuff stolen.

Rights prevent people (who respect them) from doing things, they do not oblige people to do things. In today's strip, the claim is made that "healthcare" is a human right. Let's examine that, shall we?

The right to healthcare, expressed negatively, is the right not to be prevented from receiving healthcare. This does not oblige someone to provide health care, but does keep people from forcibly stopping you from getting it.

myrkul999 on May 09, 2012, 07:51:43 pm
A "human" or "natural" right is something deemed so fundamental that all persons are considered to have it simply by being alive; it can be either a negative right, or a positive right (a privilege). Historically natural rights have been negative, as myrkul999 nicely illustrates. But they can be positive as well, because what is defined as a human right is almost entirely subjective. So there can be a positive right to healthcare,* and it can be deemed a natural right. Whether it should be a natural right is a different matter; not getting into it here unless someone really wants my opinion.

*Older constitutions are more concerned with negative rights. For example, the Bill of Rights is a list of things the federal and state governments cannot do. More recent constitutions tend to include positive rights, such as rights to shelter and to healthcare; some governments even manage to deliver on these promises, with varying degrees of success.

I respectfully disagree.  A government can offer privileges, such as national healthcare, and call them "rights", but that does not make them rights. Rights are something a sentient being is inherently born with.  

sam on May 09, 2012, 08:51:17 pm
More recent constitutions tend to include positive rights, such as rights to shelter and to healthcare; some governments even manage to deliver on these promises, with varying degrees of success.

In practice, governments cannot deliver, and so lie about it.  Thus, for example, approximately ten percent of deaths in the Netherlands are murder by government.  A civilized government, for example the Australian government says "Sorry, we try to provide free healthcare for everyone, but we cannot guarantee everyone all the medicine they might need, so you can buy health insurance, or face a risk of being sent home should you have an expensive ailment and no money to pay for it".  An uncivilized government, for example the Netherlands, guarantees everyone the right to healthcare, and then murders people as necessary to free up sufficient hospital beds.

By and large the four main causes of death in old people are difficulty breathing, difficulty excreting, difficulty eating, and heart failure.  If an old person shows up at the British National health with difficulty breathing, they sedate him, with benzodiazepines, which depresses his already inadequate breathing.  In other words, breathing difficulties under British national health are treated by murdering people who show up with an ailment that is difficult to treat, and if treated would probably result in them hanging around in hospital for years on artificial respiration.   The correct treatment for old people with breathing difficulties is oxygen, surgical treatment to clear their tubes, or a mechanical respirator, all of which are expensive and are likely to result in lengthy and indefinite hospital stays.  Instead, they get a treatment that will surely kill them in a week or so, thus preventing the apocalyptic scene of overflowing hospitals.

« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 08:56:34 pm by sam »

Homer2101 on May 09, 2012, 09:29:23 pm
@Sam:

I noted that government success in delivering on constitutional promises varies. The statistics are publicly available for anyone who is interested in researching the matter further, rather than repeating populist agitprop* that has little basis in reality. If you want me to provide an opinion on the ethics of refusing to spend vast sums of limited public resources treating terminally ill geriatrics, I can do that in another post.


@myrkul999:

Renaming the animal does not change its nature. I am happy to substitute "privilege" for "positive right." The term "positive right" tends to come up in comparative political science literature which discusses constitutional provisions. I prefer the negative/positive terminology because it makes the distinction between the two concepts more apparent: a negative right is a right from something; a positive right (what you'd call a privilege) is a right to something.

But I do not think we are in disagreement over the distinction between rights and privileges.

I do disagree that all negative rights are natural rights, and that all human rights are negative rights, if I understand your position correctly. The two are not at all the same. A negative right is defined by its function -- it proscribes the government from doing something. A natural right can be either positive or negative; it can be either a "right" or a "privilege." Its defining characteristic is that we deem it an essential part of living in a civilized society.** Call them "natural privileges" if you must. The Second Amendment prevents the government from disarming the American population; but is the right to bear arms a "human right?" Are the Sixth Amendment guarantees rights or privileges, and are they natural rights? I am not arguing for either position, mind.

* Agitprop is oddly enough in the default browser spellchecker.
** We live at the leading edge of over two thousand years of Western legal and philosophical tradition. What we consider a natural right today was often not considered a natural right even two hundred years ago at the operational level; what we do not consider a natural right today may well be considered a natural right two hundred years from now.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 09:34:28 pm by Homer2101 »

Tucci78 on May 09, 2012, 09:32:46 pm
It might be best understood that the unalienable negative rights - life, liberty, and property - slide frictionlessly past each other, and are not only easily accommodated but utterly necessary for society to happen.

Society is not properly a concrete entity, but rather the process by which omnivorous naked killer apes - who will expediently slaughter and eat each other if circumstances facilitate such activities - manage to live in each others' company without behaving like the proverbial Kilkenny cats. 

The philosophers of the Enlightenment spoke of "the state of nature" as a condition of constant warfare between man and man, and members of our species were said to have "come in out of the state of nature" when by virtue of agreement to respect our respective rights we condition our peaceful (if not necessarily amicable) coexistence with the deadliest animals on the planet: our fellow H. sapiens sapiens.

This then facilitates a division of labor society and we begin speaking not only about psychology and sociology but economics, thus getting ourselves to von Mises' praxeology, the concerted study of all conscious human action. 

There can't be "conflicting rights" when it comes to these negative human rights.  Another person's right to go about his own life unmolested doesn't infringe upon another individual's precisely equal right to the same respect, and neither does the ineluctable corollary "unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon — rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission."

(Thank you, Mr. Smith, and why the hell aren't you serving the people resident in your congressional district as their voice in the U.S. House of Representatives?)

Positive rights, on the other hand, derive from the essential negative rights and pertain to voluntary dealings with fellow sovereign sapients in the disposition by exchange of the participating entities' tangible and intangible alienable property.

Even then, of course, there's no such thing as "conflicting rights" because everything grinds down to the question of which party has the right in each particular case, whereupon that right must be respected or things will be "getting pretty sporty down here."
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 11:51:52 pm by Tucci78 »
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

SandySandfort on May 09, 2012, 10:23:22 pm
I do disagree that all negative rights are natural rights, and that all human rights are negative rights, if I understand your position correctly. The two are not at all the same. A negative right is defined by its function -- it proscribes the government from doing something.

Actually, natural right have little or nothing to do with governments. They are prohibitions that apply to anyone. Under the ZAP, for example, no one may take your life by the initiation of force, nor may they deprive you of your liberty or property. So called, "governments" are just people. Each person who decides to follow the orders of another person--within government or not--is always responsible for the consequences of his acts. So the sheriff who seizes your property wrongly, may not say, "I was only following orders," since he has the power to say, no, to those orders.

A natural right can be either positive or negative; it can be either a "right" or a "privilege."

Not really. What you are calling a privilege is just permission giving by someone who has the right to give that permission. "Governments" have nothing to give other than that which they take from others (or are voluntarily given). Show me a "privilege" and I will show you either just the recognition of a pre-existing right or the denial of a right to whomever provided the privilege. All rights are negative and derived from Locke's three rights, life, liberty and property.

Its defining characteristic is that we deem it an essential part of living in a civilized society.** Call them "natural privileges" if you must. The Second Amendment prevents the government from disarming the American population; but is the right to bear arms a "human right?"

The natural right that the 2nd protects is self-defense, which is derived from Locke's right to life. I can expand on that, should anyone care.

Are the Sixth Amendment guarantees rights or privileges, and are they natural rights? I am not arguing for either position, mind.

I see the conceptual problem here. You think the first 10 amendments to the constitution are a list of "rights" (natural or otherwise). Bill of Rights is a misnomer that was applied to the first 10 amendments, after the fact. Though it recognizes the existence of certain rights, it's purpose is to explicitly limit the power of government in certain specific and implied areas. The "Bill of Rights" does not "grant" rights, nor are all its prohibitions necessarily about rights.

We live at the leading edge of over two thousand years of Western legal and philosophical tradition. What we consider a natural right today was often not considered a natural right even two hundred years ago at the operational level; what we do not consider a natural right today may well be considered a natural right two hundred years from now.

Whoa! Examples, please. And what are the weasel words, "at the operational level" supposed to mean? Let's just stick with Locke's life, liberty and property. You can derive all natural rights from just these three. The fact that somewhere, sometime people violated other people's right, does not mean they don't exist. Yes, all three are regularly violated by freelance criminals as well as criminals who call themselves the "government," but might does not make right. If we rigorously apply the ZAP to Locke's life, liberty and property, we have all the rules for living that we need to create a just society.

myrkul999 on May 09, 2012, 10:39:19 pm
The Second Amendment prevents the government from disarming the American population; but is the right to bear arms a "human right?" Are the Sixth Amendment guarantees rights or privileges, and are they natural rights? I am not arguing for either position, mind.

Tucci said it well, and Sandy nailed it down, all "positive" rights (they're actually negative rights, but it's easier to say "right to bear arms" than "right to not be disarmed") actually derive from the big three I used above. The right to bear arms is essentially just your right to use your Property* in order to defend your Life.  The fourth through eighth amendment guarantees are neither rights nor privileges, under the definitions we're using here. They are just what they are called, guarantees. Specifically, guarantees that the government will not abridge your right to Liberty without very good cause, and only after significant proof of that cause has been presented. Still, it's easier to refer to them as rights, and positively, so that's the way they get referred to.



*Capitalization intentional, I am here referring to the rights.

Homer2101 on May 09, 2012, 11:58:55 pm
It is rather amazing how much trouble my use of "positive right" instead of "privilege" has caused. At this point it is probably prudent to link to Wikipedia and leave it at that. This is why I prefer to use readily-acceptable terminology, rather than trying to define a concept like "privilege," which has a host of technical and colloquial definitions.


@myrkul999:

The Second Amendment very much involves a negative right. It is a quite express limitation on government power. A positive Second Amendment right would involve a mandate that the government distribute firearms. Some Amendments can be characterized as either, although they all functionally act to limit government power.


@Sandy:

At no point did I say that the Bill of Rights enumerates only negative rights. Else I would not have asked whether the Sixth Amendment enumerates rights or "privileges" (positive rights). The Sixth amendment is a limitation on government power.* But does it grant the privilege to a jury trial in criminal cases, or protect the right to a jury trial by preventing the government from using any other method? And is that right/privilege/whatever "natural?" There is no conceptual confusion. Nor do I understand why you think I am conflating permissions with positive rights, unless you are using the term "permission" in a specific sense I am not familiar with. If anything, we're probably in agreement that the Bill of Rights does not enumerate all that many actual rights as we define them.

As for specific examples of how natural rights are subjective, I thought they would be unnecessary. How inalienable and natural has Locke's right to property been considered historically? Does it extend to women? Quite a few of the Framers certainly did not think so, and that thinking was reflected in laws which barred women from entering into contracts or owning property independently. Is liberty inalienable and natural for non-Caucasians? The liberty of slaves was very much alienable and was hardly considered natural for much of early American history. I should not have to go into all the cases where the "right to life" of one group or another was both very alienable** and considered quite unnatural.

Fact of the matter is that what we consider "natural rights" were not considered natural for much of human history, except for a privileged few.

Some disagree, and argue that natural rights exist in the aether, waiting to be discovered. That is a matter of personal preference. I reject that notion just as strongly as I reject the sort of moronic moral relativism that was until recently in vogue. My point is that positive rights, whatever you want to call them, can be considered "natural." Whether they should be considered so is a different matter.

* It is true that positive and negative rights apply to individuals. But the usual discussion involves individuals acting collectively as part of that organization we call a government.

** Alienable in the sense that not only could a certain group's rights be denied, but that they should be denied.

myrkul999 on May 10, 2012, 12:15:18 am
@myrkul999:

The Second Amendment very much involves a negative right. It is a quite express limitation on government power. A positive Second Amendment right would involve a mandate that the government distribute firearms. Some Amendments can be characterized as either, although they all functionally act to limit government power.

A more careful reading of my post will show that I did not imply that the 2A was a positive right, only that it was expressed as one for ease of reading and of writing. I also stated that 4-8, while, again, are expressed as positive rights, are actually nothing more or less than promises, from the government, to respect your right of Liberty. Promises, I would like to point out, that they are working very hard to break.

Oneil on May 10, 2012, 03:09:58 am
Isn't it funny how it's always the banner of "Rights" or "Privileges" when any group is describing government.  The yardstick has and always will be personal freedom.

Absolute freedom means one is free to do what ever they desire at any time no matter what.  Obviously if you think about that a moment you see the problems it presents.

  • "Bob has a bad night and decides your house blocks his view of the sunrise, with a little explosive he removes it with you still inside.  In a world of absolute freedom he has done nothing wrong.. "

With that, If myrkul999 explanation below fails to explain to you how "Right's" protect "Freedom" if you view it from a negative perspective...

Rights are best explained "negatively"

Starting with the "big three", Life, Liberty, and Property:

The right to life is best explained as the right not to be murdered.

The right to liberty is best explained as the right not to be locked up.

The right to property is best explained as the right not to have your stuff stolen.

Rights prevent people (who respect them) from doing things, they do not oblige people to do things. In today's strip, the claim is made that "healthcare" is a human right. Let's examine that, shall we?

The right to healthcare, expressed negatively, is the right not to be prevented from receiving healthcare. This does not oblige someone to provide health care, but does keep people from forcibly stopping you from getting it.

Then I do this, describe any government and measure it by the the wisdom in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Four Freedoms Speech - The Declarations.

Read the full speech at the link and realize "Freedom of Fear" in 1941 prioritized global war as a danger to all people, more-so than than being robbed or murdered as the "Freedom from Fear" should cover as well,  but to summarize as most do..

    Freedom of speech and expression
    Freedom of worship
    Freedom from want
    Freedom from fear
 
I will let someone else expand on the Fifth Freedom that may be part of this theme.  I think it was covered under "Freedom from Want" myself..
« Last Edit: May 10, 2012, 03:12:05 am by Oneil »

 

anything