I consider myself to be a free man. I am voluntarily in this society, I could go elsewhere. What I like about the UK is that there are many other free men.When someone says you cannot steal I work out the problem for myself. I would certainly steal if my family were starving and it was the only option. We decide not to steal according to our own morality, which in my case would only permit theft in extreme circumstances. Morality aside, what stops us from stealing in practice is that those who have possessions usually have some power to protect their possessions. They have the police and physical security on their side. Opposed to my liberty to steal is the power of the powerful in society. Many people do not see the world like this. They maintain that people have the “Right” to
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When someone says you cannot steal I work out the problem for myself. I would certainly steal if my family were starving and it was the only option. We decide not to steal according to our own morality, which in my case would only permit theft in extreme circumstances. Morality aside, what stops us from stealing in practice is that those who have possessions usually have some power to protect their possessions. They have the police and physical security on their side. Opposed to my liberty to steal is the power of the powerful in society.
Many people do not see the world like this. They maintain that people have the “Right” to possessions and it is their duty not to steal. I see this as the victory of propaganda over reality. The declaration of the “Right” of people to own stuff is simply a rewording of the fact that the police have the power to stop you stealing.
The language of Rights is as wrong as the language of religious extremism. Freedom is not my “Right”, handed to me by a benevolent state. I am free. I am free mentally even if you lock me up. If you limit my actions or take away my physical freedom you are exercising power.
The language of “Rights” is the language of power. It is an attempt by the powerful to implement a universal morality in a post religious age.
A Constitution that says there is a “Right to liberty” is saying far more than that, it is saying that I have been given a gift by the powerful – the agreement not to lock me up arbitrarily. We should reject this, there is no gift, our ancestors fought the powerful to limit their power. Describing the Limitations of Powers that we have achieved as “Rights” is a sneaky attempt at re-instating power. A Declaration of Rights limits the State and the powerful but is worded in such a way that we are beholden to the powerful. It is far better to reword the Declaration of Rights as a “Declaration of the Limitation of Powers”.
We need a Declaration but not a Declaration of Rights because it must be assumed that we are free.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights can be used to illustrate the subtle difference between a Declaration of Rights and a Limitation of Powers. Consider Article 3 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Consider how much better it reads in Limitation of Powers language where the powerful are defined as the State, warlords and gangs employed by the wealthy and the nasty:
“The powerful shall not kill you, lock you up or beat you up.”
In Limitation of Powers language it is assumed that you are a free man and killing you etc. is a big limitation on your freedom and you really do not want it. It also focuses attention on the fact that we free men have made an alliance to stop the powerful doing these things in the UK as far as possible, at least for the moment. It directly implies that there should be laws drafted to stop the powerful from doing these things.
The powerful are usually groups of people or corporations or whole communities with their own agenda.
The way that the language of Rights makes it appear as if they are a gift by the powerful has led some people to claim that there are Natural Rights that are universally self-evident and Legal Rights imposed by law. However, this is no more than creating a short list of what Natural Rights supporters consider are the limits of our freedom.
The use of Declarations of Rights as a deliberate distraction of people away from the tendency of the powerful persecute us is the invention of a cult called “Communitarianism”. This involves the belief that a community should use its power to impose detailed control of our thoughts and actions. Not being satisfied with the fact that communities have power and can impose their wishes by law they desire to fool us into thinking that there is some natural or God given reason for accepting the power of their community. The twentieth century with its psychotic communities of communists and national socialists showed us just how dangerous this communitarian approach can be for people who prefer to be free.
Communitarians construct Rights to give validity to “Duties”. As examples, if there is a right to life there is a duty to provide sustenance, if there is a right to work then there is a duty to supply a job. This is a direct assault on freedom. As a free man my duties are what I decide they should be. OK, you might hate me for that but such is the nature of freedom and without our freedom we are robots. Certainly I will vote for a law to prevent starvation in the UK but that is my decision and my boon given to the community. There is no God-given or natural “law” that demands I should empathise with my fellow citizens though I may have a natural inclination to do so. If I do not support feeding the starving I could withhold my taxes but the power of the community, in the form of its laws, will penalise me. If I decide not to feed the starving I am clearly not immoral to myself and although I am immoral in the eyes of society I am free and not morally bound by what they think. But I am bound by their power.
In the case of starvation I agree with the laws of my community but as a free man I reject utterly that our current society has some direct line to a "universal morality" that justifies this law.
The language of “Rights” and “Duties” allows lawyers to feel they are operating according to some overriding universal principles of the “community” rather than implementing the law. In reality they are never doing more than implementing the law.
I like freedom and the powerful would like to limit that freedom because that is the nature of power in society. A “Decalaration of Limitations of Powers” would certainly ensure that my freedom has some protection. Limiting me to a set of Rights is just defining the boundaries of my freedom whereas the “Limitation of Powers” defines the absolute limits of the powerful whether that be powerful individuals, groups or the whole of society.
In practice a Declaration of Limitation of Powers would largely overlap a Declaration of Rights in its content but it would be radically different in its implications because a Limitation of Powers immediately implies that the powerful should be prevented from exceeding their powers.
Limiting Powers rather than declaring Rights also defines who is acting against whom: it is the powerful acting against the less powerful. Declaring Rights has no such boundaries so becomes a prescription, like a religious creed, that limits individual freedom, especially when Rights are opposed to Duties. The language of Rights can be extended right down to how one individual treats another and laws based on Rights will curtail individual speech and action. The focus on Rights, by meddling with individual behaviour, is imposing a moral code and moral codes are largely a matter of opinion and belief. Unfortunately communitarians, whether communists, national socialists, socialists or social democrats believe their various moralities are universal and beyond question, they are blind to the way that Communists, Socialists and National Socialists have different universal moralities in the same way as religious sects are blind to the multiplicity of "universals" between sects.
What is the motivation for declaring Rights in a form that makes freedom a limited list rather than assuming that even the most well meaning laws limit freedom? Why evade the fact that law is a necessary evil and can become an expression of power that must be limited and instead impose a list of Rights? It seems that those drafting the various Declarations of Rights were on the side of the lawmakers and conceived of themselves as agents of “society” opposed to the individual rather than agents of the individual against the powerful.