Why people’s beliefs about rights are wrong. {part 2/2}

Anarchists favour voluntary protection. Quoting Tucker once again:

The Anarchists answer that the abolition of the State will leave in existence a defensive association, resting no longer on a compulsory but on a voluntary basis, which will restrain invaders by any means that may prove necessary.

Anarchists understand that individual freedom leads to social order: that one can only have an orderly society when each individual is free to cooperate with others. Cooperation leads to the intricate workings of the market, to mutual aid and to the growth of knowledge. Preventing people from cooperating with each other can only create disorder, inequality, discord and social warfare. As long as we permit the State to balkanize society and pit us against each other, we will not be able to face social problems as a society.

Collectivist rights, on the other hand, can only lead to an attack on individual rights. To claim a “right of health care” necessarily implies attacking the freedom of trade of doctors, attacking the right to participate in markets, and the freedom to choose one’s health care alternatives. This monopoly situation leads to higher prices, lower standards of service, and more deaths. The use of force in such a context is undesirable, because it represents a general attack on freedom and peace.

The logical consequence of the statist conception of freedom and rights lead to the absolute opposite: complete slavery. What we do, and even what we are, in many cases, is sure to frighten, offend, hurt or otherwise find disfavour from some other people. The only outcome of making one’s freedom depend on how other people see our actions is slavery to those other people. If the State should control each individual’s actions and measure them against the State’s own standard of what rights should be enforced (i.e. as many as the State makes up and manages to make everyone else accept), then the only ultimate outcome is totalitarianism.

This leads us to the second point…

2. Statists believe that rights can and must be protected by the State.

There are two different issues in this point: whether rights CAN be protected by the State, and whether they MUST be protected by the State.

With the proper understanding of what a right is, we must conclude that a right cannot be protected by the State. If the individual wishes to use force against an invader, then the State cannot help him in that regard, and if he does not (because he is a pacifist, say), then the State cannot help him either. All that the State can do is become an invader itself, and it must, as all States are predicated on crime on a massive scale.

A statist might reply that the State does indeed help, because of the State’s police force. But as I already mentioned, the State’s police force is itself illegitimate, and mainly serves to enforce the arbitrary rules (”the law”) of the State itself, not the rights the individual claims for himself. The police sees with suspicion anyone who seeks to protect his rights, and does its best to trample them when they go against the rights claimed by the State to cheat, kidnap, extort and kill.

It is equally easy to see that the State cannot possibly protect one’s freedom. The freedom of the individual, his possible range of actions, depends on his biological makeup and his own decisions (personal and mental freedom), on his relations with others (relational freedom), and on the resources available within his society (social freedom). As the agency that monopolizes force, all that the State can do in these areas is criminalize the individual’s decisions, criminalize individuals and isolate them from society (the War on Drugs being a great example of this), and take over entire markets, generally reducing the amount and quality of resources available to society.

So in short, the State CANNOT protect rights, by its very definition. But supposing that a State could protect rights, MUST it do so? Would we be justified in arguing for the State in this hypothetical scenario?

It does not seem so. Suppose that the State can protect the individual from invaders (as you can see, we are already in the realm of highly unrealistic hypotheticals). Even if this is so, it remains unclear why the State would necessarily be the best protector against invaders. As anyone knows, monopolies are the worst producers of goods: monopolies tend to have higher prices, lower quality and bad service. This is also the case for the State’s police. Why would free individuals cooperating together to repel invaders in an Anarchy be a worse solution than the State’s police, which does not even intend to repel invaders in the first place?

Does the US Army “protect my rights” by fighting an immoral and unjust war in Iraq? It is not clear how killing innocents halfway around the globe protects me as an individual. I do not deny that it protects the US government’s plutocratic interets, and therefore protects the rights claimed by the US State. Clearly the US State agrees in that regard, since it calls its opponents “enemy combatants” and “insurgents,” and denies them all legitimacy. But these rights claimed by the State are a sham, as no collective right can exist without contradiction.

So once again we fall back to the principle of universality. Do the individual soldiers have the right to murder innocent people? Do their officers and attendant politicians have the right to order murders? Clearly not. Those soldiers are invaders. Those officers and politicians are invaders. They attack the right of both their “enemies” and their own subjects, through “laws” designed to “fight terrorism” by denying privacy and the freedom to travel. As I said, the ultimate consequence of “collectivist rights” is no rights at all.

One thought on “Why people’s beliefs about rights are wrong. {part 2/2}

  1. jdavidb October 31, 2007 at 16:32

    Excuse me, what happened to “Army Cadets Under Investigation For ‘Killing'”?

    Yes, I think there is definitely a market anarchist at the Onion. Or something very similar.

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