Talk on Individual Rights Versus Force

Starting with the example of slavery, I talk about the principle of individual rights, which holds that each individual properly lives his own life and keeps the fruits of his own labor, as contrasted with the principle of force.

I presented this talk on March 19 at Liberty Toastmasters (which does not necessarily endorse anything I have to say).

I slightly misquote Howard Roark; the original line is, “I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life.”

As an aside, I have an interesting story about this talk. I struggled to come up with a theme and outline I was happy with, and the morning of the talk I woke up early and thought about this some more. It seemed that I was trying to mash two different talks together, so the results were unsatisfactory. I went back to sleep and dreamed about writing down some notes, and when I woke up I altered my speech according to the notes I had dreamed about. I cut some material from the middle of the speech and added some new material, and I’m much happier with the talk as revised partly in my sleep. Of course one must rationally review the results, but the subconscious is fairly amazing.

Where Do Rights Come From?

We in America routinely invoke our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But where do our rights come from? Here I overview the main false theories of rights before briefly summarizing the theory of natural rights as articulated most forcefully by Ayn Rand. (See Rand’s essay, “Man’s Rights.”)

Ben July 13, 2010 at 5:44 PM
I give the Declaration a little more credit. Though “Creator” was capitalized, I don’t take it to mean “God.” It means (to me) whomever/whatever created you – “God,” nature, or Papa Smurf. I suspect that’s why “Creator” was chosen instead of “God.”

I agree that Rand did a nice job of explaining rights and why we have them.

Ari July 13, 2010 at 10:01 PM
Well, as I note, the Declaration also invokes natural law. Specifically it refers to “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Obviously, it is possible to believe that God created the natural order, and that that natural order gives rise to human rights. It is also possible to believe that our rights come from God’s declarations on the matter, which is the viewpoint I was briefly arguing against. (But it’s a very short speech that left little time for many of the complexities of the debate.

Brad Williams July 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM