Rights â€“ vs. What Ifs and Mights
Eric Peters Autos
December 5th, 2012
â€śRightsâ€ť â€“ like â€śfreedomâ€ť â€“ is one of those terms that means different things to different people. Often, mutually contradictory things. Perhaps the simplest way to identify aÂ rightÂ is to ask whether itsÂ exerciseÂ causes aÂ provable harmÂ to another.
Not â€śmightâ€ť harm a theoretical â€śsomeone.â€ť (Or â€“ much worse â€“ â€śI donâ€™tÂ likeÂ thatâ€ť â€¦ and therefore you shouldnâ€™t be allowed toÂ doÂ that).
A demonstrable harmÂ â€“ to an actual person.
If such exists as a result of your actions, then your actions wereÂ wrongÂ â€“ because you violated someoneâ€™sÂ rights.
Otherwise â€“ if your actions have caused no harm â€“ you have everyÂ rightÂ to expect to be left free to proceed. And to be left in peace.
Immediately, the objection pops up: Wonâ€™t problems arise if people are left free to act as they please? Wonâ€™t people abuse the freedom to act â€“ or act stupidly?
Yes â€“Â certainly.
SomeÂ people will.Â But that should not become the pretext for abusing the rights of others who have caused no harm.
Group-guilt is bad.Â Pre-guiltÂ even worse.
Consider: Has taking away everyoneâ€™s rights ever prevented those inevitable â€śsome peopleâ€ť from behaving irresponsibly or stupidly? At any time â€“ in any place?Â ThisÂ is the question. And the answer â€“ obviously â€“ is:Â No. Because there willÂ alwaysÂ be irresponsible, stupidÂ â€“ even evil â€“ people â€¦ inÂ anysociety, underÂ anyÂ form of government. A momentâ€™s reflection will confirm the truth of this. Irresponsibility, stupidity â€“ evil, even â€“ cannot be â€ślawedâ€ť out of existence.
ButÂ rightsÂ can be.
And all-too-often, they are.
Not on the basis of actual harm done, either. But on the basis ofÂ what if? â€¦ andÂ might.
In the absence of speed limits, for example, thereÂ willÂ be people who drive beyond their ability to control the car. SomeÂ willÂ inevitably wreck. Others â€“ innocents â€“ will be harmed in the process. This is tragic. But erecting speed limitsÂ doesn’tÂ prevent â€“ or even significantly reduce â€“ such occurrences. What itÂ doesÂ do is take awayÂ everyoneâ€™sÂ rights beforeÂ anyoneâ€™sÂ rights have actually been violated. It cements the concept ofÂ prior restraintÂ into both law and the public consciousness –Â such that it becomes acceptable to limitÂ everyoneâ€™sÂ freedom because of the possibility thatÂ someoneÂ might act irresponsibly, or stupidly. In short order everyone finds their freedom of action preemptively fenced in, their lives under the control of others â€“ whose judgment is by no means superior, but who do possess superior force. Force thatâ€™s applied in ever-increasing doses in a never-ending quest to get a handle on irresponsibility and stupidity â€“Â by assuming everyone is irresponsible and stupid and treating them as suchÂ â€“ even when theyâ€™re not.
This is how rights â€“ real ones â€“ are put to sleep. On the basis ofÂ what ifÂ â€¦ andÂ someone might.
Meanwhile, crime â€“ actual harm done to actual flesh and blood people â€“ continues on its merry way.Â If anything, real crime â€“ with real victims â€“ isÂ enabledÂ because so much in the way of attention and resources is frittered away on non-crimes.
Consider, just for instance, how much police manpower is spent enforcing arbitrary traffic laws. Stalking, stopping and issuing fines to people who havenâ€™t actually harmed anyone. Oh, theyÂ might? Well, possibly. ButÂ wouldn’tÂ it be more judicious to wait until our hypotheticalÂ theyÂ actuallyÂ doÂ harm someone?
As opposed to harming everyone by such things as radar traps and checkpoints?
Which is better: To be free to travel unmolested, but with the knowledge that itâ€™sÂ possibleÂ (although not very likely) that youÂ mightÂ get hit by a â€śspeederâ€ť or drunk driver? Or to know that youÂ willÂ be ticketed merely for exceeding an arbitrary velocity â€“ or forced to submit to a random stop/interrogation/presentation of your papers because the law has decreed that everyone must be treated as a presumptively drunk driver?
Unfortunately for the cause of liberty in America, a dauntingly large percentage of the population appears to be perfectly willing to live in a society that regardsÂ mightÂ andÂ what if?Â as more than sufficient cause to extinguish their rights.
And everyone elseâ€™s, too.
The circles grow smaller. BecauseÂ mightÂ andÂ what if? are infinites. Rights â€“ properly understood â€“ finite specifics. They are lines in the sand, beyond which others may not trespass against us.Â Because we have not trespassed against them. And until we do, we have every right toÂ insistÂ we be left in peace, free to go about our business â€“ exercising our own judgment, to reap the benefits â€“ and accept the consequences. And toÂ resistÂ when this freedom is denied us.
Freedom â€“ respect for human rights â€“ does not mean an end to human suffering. JustÂ lessÂ of it. Because irresponsible, stupid â€“ even evil â€“Â individualsÂ can only do so much damage. And be held accountable far more easily. Empower the collective to impose itself on millions of individuals â€“ and the potential damage is essentially limitless.
It is the difference between an occasional pile up on the road â€“ and a pile of bodies in a mass grave.
Throw it in the Woods?
Delivered by The Daily Sheeple
Contributed by Eric Peters of Eric Peters Autos.
Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author who has written for theÂ Detroit NewsÂ andÂ Free Press,Â Investors Business Daily,Â The American Spectator,Â National Review, TheÂ Chicago TribuneÂ andÂ Wall Street Journal.Â His books includeÂ Road HogsÂ (2011) andÂ Â Automotive AtrocitiesÂ (2004). His next book,Â â€śThe Politics of Driving,â€ťÂ is scheduled for release in 2012. Visit his web site atÂ Eric Peters Autos.
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