Why Do You Think People Have Rights, Bro?

I’m just curious: Why do you think that people have rights, bro? Where do you think rights come from? You speak about them all the time, but it doesn’t really seem legitimate to begin political philosophy by assuming that people have rights. That is, there ought to be an explanation for why people have rights.

But you can’t come up w/ an explanation. There’s the explanation we have from Classical Liberalism w/ the State of Nature, but that is far from satisfying*. You might think that rights come from God. I believe in God, but that doesn’t suffice eitherand I’ll explain in a moment.

No, the best secular argument for people having rights is the argument that Jimmy Valmer used to unite the Bloods and the Crips on South Park: “I mean, come on.” As in, “people have rights, I mean, come on.” In other words, people have rights as a matter of faith. When you begin political philosophy with the premise that people have rights, you take it as a matter of faith.

Oh yeah, but you’re secular and you believe that the Constitution requires the separation of church and state. Nevermind that that is a questionable Constitutional doctrine concocted in 1947 by the Supreme Courtyou accept it. What distinguishes your acceptance of ‘rights’ from religious belief? You say that it doesn’t have anything to do w/ the supernatural? Well then, explain to me the basis for your belief that people have rights.

Oh yeah, it’s “I mean, come on.”

No, in reality people don’t have rights b/c what is right consists in particular situations. Even if God is the source of morality, what is right still consists in the particular situation. You can’t even seriously discuss what is right w/o discussing particular situations.

In reality, the idea that people have rights is a rationalization of the need for private property for the development of capitalism. You are supposed to believe that you own what is right like you own property, whereas what is right actually belongs to the situation. Consider, what does saying that someone has a right to something contribute to meaning, compared to merely saying that it is right that one thing or another happen? For instance, people have a right to healthcare versus it is right that people are provided with healthcare. All that is added is the idea of property. It might be said that rights are rules without which society cannot be just. But even this can be adequately described more generally: A society cannot be just if it is not generally characterized by what is right.

In reality, ‘rights’ is just a name modern society gives to certain kinds of general rules. Society requires general rules and what is right consists in the particular situation. Therefore, there is a particular situation in which it is right to adopt general rules: the founding of a country especially, and generally, setting policy for groups of people. Furthermore, if there really is such a thing as right and wrong, then some general rules are more desirable than others for a particular situationi.e. for a particular group of people. But, since society can’t enforce its general rules w/ perfect discretion, there will be particular situations when a person’s ‘rights’ are upheld and it is wrong according to the specific situation b/c ‘rights’ is just the name given to your particular society’s set of general rules. That is, there will be situations where what is actually wrong will be right from society’s perspective, and you have to live in a society if you at least want to learn a human language.

Maybe, as in the case of the Constitution & the Bill of Rights, your society’s general rules are the greatest set of general rules that has ever been politically adopted. But, what is right still consists in the particular situation. Society and the individual cannot utterly exist in harmony.

* This writing could be said to be a brief statement of one of the conclusions of the debut writing for The Solid Quarry of Relatively Sober Reason: Classical Philosophy > Classical Liberalism. That writing is fairly comprehensive for only being about 10,000 words, and should be consulted if someone finds this writing objectionable, although interesting.

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