Sunday, October 23, 2005

Who owns you?

I found a great link to a philosophical piece, courtesy of Bad Hair Blog. The article deals with human rights. Now, I have strong beliefs about the importance of the individual. It probably stems from my Catholic upbringing; the essential core of the right is that humans do not exist for the state, nor even the family, but for a mission that they determine for themselves (and, I would add, with the grace of God). In essence, the question is, why am I here? To be able to answer that question, you have to believe that it is your right to decide that for yourself. If someone else is in charge of your destiny, you cannot freely make that determination. Therefore, you have to "own" your destiny, or your own self.

That's the real reason that slavery is wrong - slaves cannot chose their own destiny. It isn't the working conditions, or the unsavory choices they face - millions around the world, although nominally free, find their choices limited, and their working lives a nightmare of brutality and toil. A slave doesn't own himself. That's the issue.

The core of Alvaro Vargas Llosa's argument:
The discussion about human rights, therefore, is a discussion between those, on the left and the right, for whom the end justifies the means and therefore legitimizes the use of state force against peaceful individuals, and those for whom the rights of an individual take precedence over the government’s aims and interests. If you think individual liberty is paramount, you do not justify Castro’s human rights violations on the grounds that U.S. foreign policy against Havana is unjust, and you do not justify Pinochet’s elimination of 3,000 Chileans on the grounds that his free market policies were ultimately beneficial for the country.

One essential problem with the issue of human rights has been the difficulty, on the part of the left, to understand that property rights are at the core of that very notion. Ultimately, the “right” a person has not to be violated is the property he or she exercises over his or her body (by extension, a person should enjoy the “right” not to have his or her possessions expropriated through outright violence or distributive compulsion). And the right has had a hard time understanding that notions such as “free markets” and “free enterprise” are meaningless if the government concentrates power around it to such an extent that society is no longer a “spontaneous order” (in Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek’s famous phrase) but an autocratic command system in which human rights are conditional on the government’s plans.
That's the problem with the Kelo decision - it strikes at the core of liberty. More important than Roe v. Wade, will be the issue of your absolute right to own your own property, without interference from government.


Tags = Human Rights

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