Your Rights End Where My Feelings Begin

This is intended as a direct rebuttal to YouTube broadcaster Sargon of Akkad’s day long distortion of Classical Liberalism and Libertarian ideology via Twitter. While Sargon frequently claims the mantle of Classical Liberalism, rejecting both modern day Liberalism and Conservatism, he even more frequently rejects the core tenants of the ideology. Specifically, rejecting individualism in favor of collectivism. Dr Anne Wortham summarized Von Mises’ view on the subject thus:

“Mises’ brand of individualism is known as utilitarian individualism. Although he makes no explicit reference to utilitarianism or individualism in Liberalism, this doctrine is implicit in every aspect of Mises’ argument. Elsewhere he has defined the essence of utilitarianism to be “the cognition that action pursues definite chosen ends and that consequently there can be no other standard for appraising conduct but the desirability or undesirability of its effects . . . By its recognition that social cooperation is for the immense majority a means for attaining all their ends, it dispels the notion that society, the state, the nation, or any other social entity is an ultimate end and that individual men are the slaves of the entity. It rejects the philosophies of universalism, collectivism, and totalitarianism. In this sense it is meaningful to call utilitarianism a philosophy of individualism.” (Theory and History, pp. 5758)”

Frederic Bastiat, in his work The Law, asserts just law must arise from the truth of individualism:

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

So Von Mises echoes Bastiat, but Bastiat is himself echoing John Locke who, in his Second Treatise on Government, wrote:

“Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where the rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature.”

It was this understanding which led the Founders to craft a Constitution which placed strict limitations upon the scope of government so as to protect the principles of Natural Rights laid out within the Declaration of Independence. The current method of rejecting this principle of individual Rights is to suggest that entering the public sphere somehow makes one a public entity devoid of all individualism. This is an absurd modern twist of Hobbesian logic. Dr Steven Forde summarizes Locke’s rejection of Hobbes thus:

“The difference with Hobbes is clearest in Locke’s argument about property. Hobbes and Locke agree that individuals have a right to property in the state of nature, but Hobbes denies that individuals have any duty to respect the property of others. This makes property more or less useless in Hobbes’s state of nature. Locke says individuals have a duty to respect the property (and lives and liberties) of others even in the state of nature, a duty he traces to natural law. Natural law and natural rights coexist, but natural law is primary, commanding respect for the rights of others.

Here, then, is the issue in the natural law–natural right dichotomy: if individual right is primary, can individuals have any duty to respect the rights of others? If the fundamental moral fact is the individual’s right to “look out for number one,” where would a duty to respect others come from? Hobbes finds no such duty, for it would restrict the individual’s liberty and his right. Locke argues for a duty to respect others’ rights, but traces it to natural law, not right. Locke’s view is the view most of us share—I have rights, but “my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” We typically think of individual rights as being coupled with a responsibility to respect the rights of others. Locke’s argument suggests that this responsibility depends upon duty and natural law, not individual right, as the basis of morality.”

The modern statist embraces Hobbes by likewise rejecting the private property rights of others; though in a twist which might take even Hobbes aback this expression of “individualism” is based on feelings and not being offended. Thus, the old adage now becomes “your right to swing your fist ends where my feelings begin.” Private property is no less useless in this modern day Leviathan since your property rights end at your front door. Though even this is subject to review since in today’s web based economy more and more people run their businesses from their personal homes or vehicles. Presumably these neo-Hobbes acolytes would have no compunction about entering into a private home if they even suspecting a thought crime might be occurring.

If your private property becomes public entity simply because it is a business, we have a word for that: communism. No doubt the pro-Leviathan crowd will sneeringly dismiss as insanity; rather than the simple truth of a definition. They will proclaim it is absurd hyperbole because the state doesn’t OWN your property it merely REGULATES your property. Of course, we also have a word for an economic system wherein the state does not own the means of production but dictates the processes of the means of production: fascism.

Freedom means not only you being free to think and do as wish but that others may think and do things you would rather they didn’t. Yes, that means stopping the ACTUAL forcing of people to bake wedding cakes they’d rather not MAY mean a HYPOTHETICAL situation arises where a baker refuses to make a cake based on race. That’s called freedom. And it doesn’t presage a return to institutionalized racism. Separate facilities and refusal to serve blacks were not institutional racism at the point of service, but because Jim Crow laws mandated such racism and prohibited non-racists–or anyone just looking to make a buck–from serving whoever they pleased.

Yet rather than tackle these issues head on and discuss the principles of Classical Liberalism and modern Libertarianism, Sargon uses the tired tactic of erecting an army of straw and setting them alight. A recognition government is a necessary evil the grasping tendencies of which much be vigilantly monitored is not an endorsement of anarchy. An admission of the value of render aid laws is not then a rejection of Libertarian principles. And if a random person on Twitter is unable to answer such questions and articulate these principles, it does not make Sargon an intellectual titan and arbiter of Classical Liberalism. Perhaps he should take on Milton Friedman, who was constantly shooting down these same absurdities, and see how he fares. The man has been dead a decade yet I still think Sargon would lose that debate.