Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A question of rights

Reading this blog in a vacuum, one might conclude I have drifted away from writing of late, when I've just been writing elsewhere. I want to import one post that I tossed into the fray over at Sunni Maravillosa's place in a lively discussion of whether rights really exist or whether they are asserted in a process akin to blind faith:

It seems to me this question of rights boils down to the fact that the only actions I can control are my own. I can persuade or enter into contracts or (if I was someone else) attempt to do it by force, but in the end I can't make you respect my rights or property.

That's why the Zero Aggression Principle is so important to the free life. The more people adopt ZAP, the more likely it is that agreements will be honored and exchanges will be peaceful - or at least nonviolent.

The concept of rights presents a neutral, immutable appeal to a third party in conflicts - if we've agreed on what those rights are, we have something to gauge who's right and wrong. But it requires agreement on the basic principle.

I'm a Christian in part because I believe Jesus asserted ZAP when he said all law is summed up in two statements, one of which is "Love your neighbor as yourself." (You can accept the other statement or not; I do.) I'm a Browncoat in part because I believe in the words Joss Whedon put in Malcolm Reynolds' mouth: "I got no need to beat you; I just want to go my way."

I happen to think we'd all live better lives if we adopted that philosophy, but if I demand it, it won't work. I can't make you do anything. I can only try to persuade.

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