One powerful insight: Property is a “positive” right.[1]

“Positive” rights are better described as third party rights. In order to exercise a “positive” right against opposition, the exerciser needs a third party to intervene. A hungry person whose “right” to good nutrition is frustrated by the farmer’s refusal to provide food needs somebody else to go take the food from the farmer and satisfy their “right”.

A person who has something of value is likely to be faced by attempts by others to take it away. The greater the value of the possession, the more prospective takers will be attracted; and, sooner or later, the possessor’s ability to defend his possession will be overcome. The person who has something of value needs help from the remainder of society — a third party — in order to defend his “right” of possession.

Libertarians and others who assert that property is a natural right are totally in the wrong, and thus end up losing the debate. This does not mean that the Left is correct in the results they get from reasoning from this proposition, or that the Right is wrong. It does mean that the reasoning never gets really started, because the Left is starting from a correct proposition and the Right is not.

Responding to an earlier post, commenter TFT says, inter alia:

…the basic conceptual foundation on which our arguments operate … is the individual and his liberty; we start from that and go from there. Even when I was young I noticed that the left always skips right over that part. I used to assume that it must already have been addressed in their logic chain at some point — that it was implicit, just taken for granted and thus unspoken.

I eventually realized that, no — it’s not that they’re merely failing to mention it; it’s that it was never even part of the argument.

No, it never was part of the argument, because the Right sacrifices it from the beginning by presenting an argument, the two portions of which directly contradict one another.

When you assert that property is a natural right equivalent to speech, the contradiction demands either that neither right is natural or that both are — and since property is not a natural right, the conclusion must be that speech is a third-party right also. The Leftist is thus free to ignore the entire question of fundamental rights, and proceed directly to prescriptions based on deciding which rights are best supported by the third party and which are not, a debate which is and must be based on cost-benefit analysis as regarding costs and benefits to society vs. costs and benefits of the individual. That debate must always reflect “the greatest good for the greatest number”, and thus come down on the side of Society prevailing over the individual.

You don’t get to talk about fundamental points if you yield them from the outset of the debate.


[1] The designation of “natural” rights as “negative” and derivative rights as “positive” is a triumph of PR. Who wants to support something that’s “negative”? I prefer my formulation.

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