Tag Archives: individual rights

The One Minute Case For Capitalism

Capitalism a social system based on the principle of individual rights.

A capitalist society is based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights. Under capitalism, all property is privately owned, and the state is separated from economics just as it is from religion. Economically, capitalism is a system of laissez-faire, or free markets, where the government plays no part whatsoever in economic decisions.

Capitalism is the only social system compatible with the requirements of man’s life

To pursue the values necessary for his life a society, man requires only one thing from others: freedom of action. Freedom means the ability to act however one pleases as long as one does not infringe on the same and equal freedom of others.   In a political context, freedom means solely the freedom from the initiation of force by other men. Only by the initiation of force can man’s rights be violated. Whether it is by a theft, force, fraud, or government censorship, man’s rights can be violated only by the initiation of force. Because man’s life depends on the use of reason to achieve the values necessary for his life, the initiation of force renders his mind useless as a means of survival. To live, man must achieve the values necessary to sustain his live. To achieve values, man must be free to think and to act on his judgment. To live, man must be free to think. To be free to think, man must be free to act. In the words of Ayn Rand, “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”

Capitalism recognizes the inherent worth of the individual

In a human society – one that recognizes the independence of each man’s mind – each individual is an end in himself.  He owns his life, and no one else’s.  Other men are not his slaves, and he is not theirs.  They have no claim on his life or on the values he creates to maintain his life, and he has no claim on theirs.  In a free society, men can gain immense values from each other by voluntarily trading the values they create to mutual gain.  However, they can only create values if they are free to use their minds to exercise their creativity.  A man is better living off on his own than as a slave to his brothers.  Capitalism recognizes each man as an independent, thinking being.

The individual is an end in himself

Just as no individual has the right to initiate force against anyone, neither does any group of men, in any private or public capacity. It is immoral to initiate force against any individual for any reason. This includes the initiation of force for “the public good.” The “public” is merely a collection of individuals, each possessing the same rights, and each being an end in himself. Any attempt to benefit the “public good” is an immoral attempt to provide a benefit to one group of individuals at the expense of another. In a free society, no individual benefits at the expense of another: men exchange the values they create in voluntary trade to mutual gain. The rule of law in a free society has just one purpose: to protect the rights of the individual.

Capitalism leads to freedom and prosperity

A free, capitalist economy has never existed anywhere in the world. The closest the world came to a free market was during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and during the late 19th century in the United States. The Industrial Revolution was a period of unprecedented economic growth and unimaginable improvements in quality of life. In less than two hundred years, the life of most people in the Western world changed from a a short life filled with poverty, plague, and near-constant war to a modern, comfortable existence that  even the kings of medieval Europe couldn’t have imagined.  Since 1820, the leading capitalist nations have increased their wealth sixteen fold, their populations more than four-fold, their productivity twenty-fold.  Annual working hours went from 3,000 to less than 1,700 and life expectancy doubled from thirty to over seventy years. 1

Yet despite the undeniable material superiority of capitalist societies, its critics continue to attack it as inhuman and selfish.  What the world lacks is not evidence of capitalism’s practical superiority, but a moral defense of a man’s right to his own life.

Reference

  1. Angus Maddison. Phases of Capitalist Development, p4 (1982)

Further Reading

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The One Minute Case For Individual Rights

Man is the rational animal

Like all living beings, man requires certain values to survive, but he is unique in that he must choose the values necessary for his life because he has no automatic means of doing so. It is his ability to experience the world around him and comprehend it by the use of reason that gives him the capacity to understand the values his life requires, and then achieve them. Every value we enjoy in our civilized, comfortable, existence is the product of the application of man’s mind to reality.

There is no “collective mind”

All creative effort, every invention in history, was created by the mental effort of individual men and women. When they worked together, their knowledge was increased by the work of predecessors, but each advance they made was their own. The mind cannot be received, shared, or borrowed.

Man requires freedom to live

To live, man must achieve the values necessary to sustain his live. To achieve his values, man must be free to think and to act on his judgment.  Restrictions on freedom force man to focus not on the absolutes of reality, but on the arbitrary ideas of others. In a free society, a man can choose to not associate with those who do not respect his judgment – by finding a new job, new friends, or a new lover. Even if there is no one to share his ideas, every man is still free to present his own vision – by publishing his ideas or becoming an entrepreneur. However, as soon as he faces the threat of physical force, the possibility of any such alternatives becomes irrelevant. The initiation of force renders the mind useless as a means of survival.

Freedom requires rights

Rights are moral principles defining man’s freedom of action in society. The purpose of establishing individual rights is to protect man from man – to define the basic conditions necessary for social existence. All rights derive from a man’s right to his own life, including the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Whether it is by a theft, force, fraud, or government coercion, man’s rights can be violated only by the initiation of force.

Rights are inalienable and non-conflicting

Rights are not guarantees to things or obligations placed on others, but only guarantees to freedom from violence (the right to life), freedom of action (the right to liberty), and the results of those actions (the right to property). In a free society, men deal with one another exclusively by trade, voluntarily exchanging value for value to their mutual benefit. The only obligations one’s rights impose on other men is to respect the same and equal rights of others – the freedom to be left alone. A man may have his rights violated by a criminal or a government, but morally he remains, in the right, and the criminal in the wrong.

Further reading:

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The One Minute Case Against Mandatory Seatbelt Laws

Driver safety is not a special prerogative of the state

Seat belt laws are enforced “for our own good.” But traffic accidents are not leading causes of injury and death, nor is buckling seatbelts the most beneficial thing you can do for your health. Daily exercise, nutritious meals, intellectual enrichment, and regular sexual activity have all been shown to have a positive impact on mind and body. The issue is not whether seatbelts are beneficial, but whether the state has the right to coerce us for our own good.

You own yourself

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially prohibited the ownership of another human being. To own something is to exclusively control and use it for one’s own purposes. We recognize that control is ownership, even when property nominally belongs to another party. Thus, under the regime of the National Socialist German Workers Party, industry belonged neither to the original owners, nor to the workers, but to the Nazi party, and in the Soviet Union it belonged to the Communist Party, not “the people.” Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, explained it thus: “To be a socialist, is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.” If the state controls every aspect of the individual’s life for the “common good,” then individuals become property of the state.

Safety regulations lead to reckless behavior

Common sense indicates that individuals are more likely to be concerned with their safety than politicians. Even when they aren’t, safety laws may have a counterproductive effect. According to studies cited by the Independence Institute,

When subjects who normally did not wear seat belts were asked to do so, they were observed to drive faster, followed more closely, and braked later. In other words, people who are naturally cautious voluntarily choose to wear seat belts, and voluntarily drive safely. When reckless people are forced to wear seat belts, they “compensate” for the increased safety by driving more recklessly. Furthermore, no jurisdiction that has passed a seat belt law has shown evidence of a reduction in road accident death.

Externalized healthcare costs are only a problem under socialism

Those who support outlawing risky behavior argue about the “social costs” of medical treatment for accidents. But this is only a problem for a socialist state. In a free society, a person is injured due to their own recklessness is responsible for their own treatment. However, in a socialist economy, everyone is responsible for paying for everyone else’s health. It’s not a coincidence that advocates of seatbelt laws are supporters of socialized healthcare as well.

“Click it or Ticket” is a step towards totalitarianism

There is no logical end to laws that replace individual judgment with politically-mandated notions of what risks we are and are not allowed to take. If it desirable to the state to control individuals while driving, eating, working, and seeing the doctor, it follows that the state should regulate every other aspect of their lives as well. Without a principled and uncompromising defense of the individual’s right to own his life, we are reduced to being property of the omnipotent State, being permitted to live only at the mercy of a bureaucrat’s decision that we contribute to the “common good.”

Further reading:

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The One Minute Case For Abortion Rights

What is abortion?

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the induced removal of the fetus which results in the death of the fetus.

There are two issues raised in abortion debates:

  • Does a fetus have a right to be in a woman’s body against her will?
  • Does the government have the right to restrict reproductive rights to pursue social objectives?

Anti-abortionists confuse the potential with the actual

A human being is a physically distinct being who survives by the use of reason. Prior to birth, a fetus is to a human being what an apple is to an apple tree, or an egg to a chicken. A fetus may superficially resemble a human being, but it is no more a baby than an embryo inside an egg is a chick – a picture is not an argument. It has the potential to be a human being, but does not become an actual human being until it is born.

There is no right to be a parasite

Rights derive from the fact that human beings need freedom from the coercion of others in order to live. Two properties are essential for a being to possess rights: physical independence and the capacity for rational thought. “Physical independence” means that a being’s existence is not necessarily dependent on the sustenance of another.

A fetus is not an independent entity – in order to live, it must drain the resources of the mother – it is literally a parasite until it is born. A newly-born infant is also helpless, but it does not impose a burden on the mother by its very existence – others may choose to provide for it. A parent who chooses to bring an human being into the world accepts an obligation to ensure that it is provided for, but until that choice is made, the fetus has no more right to live of the mother than a thief has to live on other’s wealth.

Humans own their own body

The most fundamental of rights is the right to one’s own life, which means the right to own one’s body. A woman’s body is not the property of the state or society, to be controlled by majority rule. Just as it would be unjust to violate a woman by raping her, so it is evil to force her to remain pregnant.

Pro-rights is the only consistent pro-life, pro-family position

“Responsible parenthood involves decades devoted to the child’s proper nurture. To sentence a woman to bear a child against her will is an unspeakable violation of her rights: her right to liberty (to the functions of her body), her right to the pursuit of happiness, and, sometimes, her right to life itself, even as a serf. Such a sentence represents the sacrifice of the actual to the potential, of a real human being to a piece of protoplasm, which has no life in the human sense of the term. It is sheer perversion of language for people who demand this sacrifice to call themselves ‘right-to-lifers.’ “

— Leonard Peikoff (Objectivism, in the Chapter on Government)

Further reading

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The One Minute Case For Open Immigration

Restricting immigration violates individual rights

The founding principle of the United States is that “all men” are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights“. These rights are inherent to our nature as human beings, not privileges granted by the government. It is unjust to protect the rights of some but violate the rights of others because of their place of birth.

Immigration is non-coercive; restricting immigration is

A foreigner does not steal from anyone when he pays to buy a house or a car – he benefits both parties. But the government engages in coercion when it forbids a citizen from selling to, hiring, or doing business with a foreigner. There is no right to be protected from being outbid for one’s goods or labor just because one’s competitor is a foreigner. As long as immigrants are peaceful, the government has no right to treat them like criminals by preventing them from engaging in the same voluntary transactions as any other American.

Immigrants make us richer

Every self-supporting worker produces more than he consumes, adding to total output and raising the real wage rate for everyone. The notion that immigrants cause unemployment is based on the fallacious idea that the total output of a country is fixed, and can only be divided among its residents. But historically, the American standard of living rose fastest during peak immigration periods and continues to rise today. Our greatest source of wealth is not natural resources or the capital base, but the ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs and workers. Each new American creates not only new demand, but also provides the supply and insight to meet that demand.

Immigrants are not at fault for welfare abuse

Immigrants are often blamed for living on the public dole. But being born in a particular country does not give anyone a right to the property of others. American welfare bums don’t have any more right to other’s wealth than Mexican bums. It’s the welfare state that’s immoral, not immigration. This argument is also contradicted by legislative efforts to punish the employers of illegal immigrants, and the fact that illegal immigrants and permanent residents are generally not eligible for welfare.

Immigrants epitomize the American Dream

Whether they come here to escape political oppression or simply the pervasive poverty of socialist states, immigrants who come here seeking a free, productive life embody the American spirit. They have shown by their actions that they are far better Americans than most people born in the U.S. While most Americans don’t even bother to vote, they abandon their former life and culture and risk everything to embrace the American dream. Upon coming to America, they are usually more successful than their native born-counterparts.

Further reading

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-”The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

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