On Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 03:35:04PM +0900, Brad Phelan wrote:
> 
> >
> >My take is the opposite -- that cases where law contradicts rights are
> >violations, and the law should be changed.  I don't take legal violation
> >of rights to be a hint that rights aren't all that important.
> >
> 
> Can you explain what you believe 'rights' are in the absence of 'law'? 
> I am aware that people have different opinions on this depending on 
> their background, eg religious affiliation, philosophy or legal 
> training. My take is that 'rights' do not really exist in that there is 
> no 'natural law' to reference to. To believe otherwise gives a false 
> sense of human importance in the universe. On the other hand 'wants' and 
> desires do exist and are very tangible. I want a car, I want a 
> girlfriend, I want a new CD, I want to download that software, I want to 
> sell some software, I want a gun, I want to walk down the street in 
> safety, I want to be healthy, I want to smoke unfiltered cigarettes etc.

Rights are those limits on how others may interact with one, based on
principles of a consistent system of ethics derived logically from a
minimal set of necessary axioms.  In other words, they're the individual,
practical manifestation of ethical principles.

I'm subscribe to neither the "natural rights" theory of ethics (in its
traditional form, at least) nor the postmodern assertion that rights are
just social conventions and we're all subject to whatever the tyrrany of
the majority decrees.  Ultimately, the origin of rights as far as I'm
concerned is in the bare minimum of care one should take in:

  A) allowing others their own beliefs
  B) avoiding irrevocable acts that may prove "evil", in absence of any
  provable certainty of metaphysical morality

In other words, just as one doesn't go around randomly eating berries in
the woods for no other reason than curiosity, because one is careful
enough to consider that unidentified berries might be poisonous, I
subscribe to a system of ethics that is essentially based on the idea
that imposing my will on others, against their will, runs substantial
risk of being wrong in some manner more substantial than mere social
convention.  Comments about how important humans are (or aren't) are
basically meaningless to me, since it's not the number of limbs or
chromosomes that makes someone ethically significant.


> 
> Want's only get codified to 'rights' in reference to the Law so it is 
> difficult to suggest that the Law somehow contradicts rights which it 
> self creates. It can only contradict 'wants' which is a natural thing 
> because not all 'wants' are compatible or sometimes they are but not all 
> of the time. The reason the Law is complex is because human wants are 
> complex and contradictory.

Laws are attempts to provide a set of social standards of conduct that
are enforced by some centralized power structure.  Ethics are an attempt
to provide a set of social standards of conduct based on a reasoned
analysis of right and wrong.  In a perfect world, laws would be based on
a consistent system of ethics -- but we live in a rather imperfect world,
where often the law consists of conveniences created to serve those with
the influence to do so, based on majoritarian whim, or based on profound
failures to understand the causal relation between certain policies and
their consequences.  In this manner, we end up with laws that, in
practice, materially violate rights rather than protecting them.

One might link law to desire, but doing so is a losing proposition unless
the law's only relation to desire is to protect people against the
imposition of desires that directly affect them against their will.


> 
> The main thing is to try not to confuse your wants with your rights.

I don't have any problem with that.

-- 
CCD CopyWrite Chad Perrin [ http://ccd.apotheon.org ]
Rudy Giuliani: "You have free speech so I can be heard."