Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rights don't obligate you to DO anything

Ayn Rand once noted that a definition of individual rights can often effectively be put in the negative: to be free from coercion (the initiation of force) by other men (including the men of government).

That means other people must always keep their hands off of you, your money and your property, as long as you do the same. It is a big "don't." Don't interfere with someone else's right to be let alone, to fully govern their own lives and well-being.

Conversely, a right does not obligate you to DO anything. You do not have to be productive, you do not have to be moral, you do not have to help others. You are free to run your life toward happiness or run your life into the ground.

But if you decide upon the latter (or former, for that matter), you cannot demand that others take care of you. They have the same right to "don't": to do nothing for you, to stand by as you self-destruct or fall into abject poverty or poor health. They don't have any obligations to you that they haven't signed in a contract to do for you. Your immorality does not obligate them to surrender their rights to self-determination. They can morally say, "I have a life to live. I care more about me, my friends and my family than I do you. So, good luck and get lost."

Rand gave a perfect definition to rights:

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

With all of the above in mind, the American welfare state is an immoral travesty. It assumes that individuals have an obligation to DO something for other Americans -- be it for housing, food, medicine, old age, health, etc. -- to surrender their individual rights.

The modern politician and 99% of Americans have bought into this philosophy of altruism -- and its stepson: political altruism -- instead of the philosophy of rational self-interest that recognizes each human's fundamental right to pursue his values for his own happiness and sustenance.

Once the sacrificial philosophy of altruism is embedded in the human mind, that mind then demands that humans sacrifice their self to other selves, that they must surrender their goals for others' goals, that they DO something for others, whether they like it or not. (What irony is it that these altruists think it is OK for us to make others happy but not ourselves?)

This is, fundamentally, the philosophy of skepticism: the belief that humans are not fully rational, not efficacious, not capable of being fully happy by themselves, not nice. Once this belief in the "fallen" human (usually via religion or neo-Marxism) is swallowed and ingrained, the mental house of cards falls, and the landscape of liberty is littered with the wreckage of coercive altruists, who seek some redemption for their mental confusion by pretending to overly care about others. It's the Jesus syndrome. "I've come here to save you." It's the heady "savior" mentality to compensate for their own lost identity.

The fix is singular: Recognize that reality is real (not supernatural). Recognize that humans are rational and capable of understanding reality. Recognize that humans can guide their own lives and develop a rational morality to be that guide. Recognize that governments have only one job to do: to protect rational beings from being interfered with on their free paths to wherever they wish to go.

In other words, the fix is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. You don't have to read and study Rand. You don't have to DO it. But if you don't, I'll never be free of you and your demand that I DO something for you or those you allegedly care about.

Study Rand. Hold your head high. Let's shake hands as happy equals and make a toast to liberty.

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