ericpetersautos.com / By Eric Peters / November 30, 2012
“Rights” – like “freedom” – is one of those terms that means different things to different people. Often, mutually contradictory things. Perhaps the simplest way to identify a right is to ask whether its exercise causes a provable harm to another.
Not “might” harm a theoretical “someone.” (Or – much worse – “I don’t like that” … and therefore you shouldn’t be allowed to do that).
A demonstrable harm – to an actual person.
If such exists as a result of your actions, then your actions were wrong – because you violated someone’s rights.
Otherwise – if your actions have caused no harm – you have every right to expect to be left free to proceed. And to be left in peace.
Immediately, the objection pops up: Won’t problems arise if people are left free to act as they please? Won’t people abuse the freedom to act – or act stupidly?
Yes – certainly.
Some people will. But that should not become the pretext for abusing the rights of others who have caused no harm.
Group-guilt is bad. Pre-guilt even worse.
Consider: Has taking away everyone’s rights ever prevented those inevitable “some people” from behaving irresponsibly or stupidly? At any time – in any place? This is the question. And the answer – obviously – is: No. Because there will always be irresponsible, stupid – even evil – people … in any society, under any form of government. A moment’s reflection will confirm the truth of this. Irresponsibility, stupidity – evil, even – cannot be “lawed” out of existence.
But rights can be.