Rights again (was Re: [extropy-chat] SUV versus sedan etc)

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Sun Aug 22 08:36:42 UTC 2004

BillK wrote:

> On Fri, 20 Aug 2004 09:26:12 +1000, Brett Paatsch wrote:
> >  
> > But still a public road is something that is constructed as
> > part of a public policy which requires some sort of legal
> > framework to make it work.
> > 
> > If there has to be some public policy and some minimal 
> > set of laws or rules to make it work then what could be
> > wrong with considering what that public policy (what 
> > those laws) should be?

> This ... seems to be getting at the root of  the discussion.
> The SUV supporters seem to be assigning a greater value
> to their individual rights than to the good of the public at
> large (the commons). This is the traditional contradiction
> between individual rights and social responsibility.

I think what is missing to ground this stuff sensibly is a notion of
rights, what secular non-mystical rights are, where they derive
and how they work.  

I'll offer the following as a first attempt.

1) The rights one assumes for oneself are meaningless as rights.
Any creature can pursue its own interests any way it likes and
for so long as it can get away with it. A creature operating alone
is one operating more basically and outside the sphere of rights
and responsibility. Rights only arise in a social context. An individual
without a group has infinite "freedom-to" and zero "freedom-from"

2) Rights arise only in conjunction with two other associated 
concepts, the concept of group membership and the concept
of responsibility. Where others in ones group don't accept
responsibility one does not have an actual right. Rights and
responsibilities must balance. Group membership is where
individuals forgo some "freedom-to"s in exchange for some

3) The only rights a group member has are those that the group
can underwrite for its members by drawing on the reservoir of
member responsibility. The books must balance: rights cannot
exist where responsibility for underwriting them and the
resource to do it don't exist. 

4) Laws are the means by which groups manage the balance 
between rights and responsibility but only for their members

5) Groups (families, tribes, nations) can and will compete and
conflict unless they can pool their members and align their rights
and responsibilities. 

There are no mystical rights - the mystics are trying to re-allocate
real world resources when they talk of such rights - and to the 
extent that they do they diminsh the resource pool to underwrite
responsibilities such as duty of care to group members. 

The above is quick and crude but maybe a beginning. 

Brett Paatsch

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