Goldstein at PW points us to yet another example of leftoid academia’s enforcement of groupthink under the heading of “diversity”. Jeff is quite capable of carrying the linguistic and epistemological aspects, and Thompson and FIRE are much better than I at explicating the specifics. What interests me is something a bit deeper.

The Left began from the observation that, in the process of converting an agricultural economy into an industrial one, the productive were not receiving the benefits of the new order. Marx takes that to the limit, arguing that the only productive elements are the workers, who should receive all the benefits. As a side effect, the Left also adopted the ideal of free speech. In order to obtain their just portion, workers had to be able to advocate freely for a different ordering of society.

Sometime between then and now, the nominal “Left” took the concept of “fairness”, which had originally referred to the lack of equity consequent to denying the workers the product of their labor, and extended it to form the concept of positive rights. Positive rights theory begins with the unremarkable proposition that the benefits of society are unevenly distributed, and concludes that the original “rights” as conceived by such people as the US Constitution’s Framers are meaningless.

I live in Texas. Am I free to go to London? Of course not, under “positive rights”: I am sitting here shivering because I can’t afford enough propane to last through the winter[1]. There is no way I can afford a plane ticket across the Pond, or a place to stay when I got there.

More deeply, am I free to speak, or even to live? Not unless I have enough food to survive. In general, positive rights theory argues that no one is free to do anything unless they possess the wherewithal to exercise that freedom, from which it follows that for “rights” to mean anything the wherewithal to exercise them must also be a right.

There are people who have food, but they deny it to me unless I give them something in return. This is clearly extortion — the possessors of food are denying my right to live unless I satisfy their base urges for profit. It follows that people who have food must have it taken away in order to satisfy my right to good nutrition, and that their complaints must be ignored or suppressed as the blatherings of criminals.

But the people who have food must, in general, have produced it — the food did not simply appear in their larders; they had to expend effort (“work”) in order for it to be there. “Positive rights” demands that the producers — the workers — have the product of their labor taken away, and that their speech in defense of keeping the benefits of their labor be suppressed.

In this way, the advocates of positive rights have totally inverted the ideals that animated the original Left. This is why I refer to them as “leftoids”.


[1] Tip jar at upper left (hint, hint)

 

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