Sunday, January 5, 2014

Collective rights: winning the battle, losing the war.

Because many libertarians came to their philosophy from the Right they often bring with them a style of discussion that betrays their roots. While their position may be correct philosophically  the way in which they express themselves conveys meanings they may not intend, alienating the people they are hoping to address.

Libertarians believe in individual rights. I have no problem with that. Rights reside entirely with the individual. There is no such thing as collective rights, just the rights of the individual. So it would seem logical for a libertarian to shun terms like “woman’s rights” or “gay rights” or “minority rights,” etc.

We should be clear that people use the term “rights” in two different ways, and without clarifying which one is using can lead to unnecessary confusion. When a libertarian says that someone has “rights” they are referring to the ideal situation, not to the actual situation. It is to the libertarian vision of individual rights that they are referring.