Samson Corwell

A serious flaw in the negative/positive rights dichotomy: positive rights reframed as negative rights

Recommended Posts

So the whole positive/negative rights dichotomy--never quite liked it myself--is one of the major themes present in libertarianism and Objectivism. It exists in the wider field of political science, but it's not raised much as an issue. Most people, even if they're political junkies, probably haven't heard of it. "Positive rights" are the prevailing problem libertarians and O'ists face, as you know, because it involves, as they see it, expansion of government power.

Negative right: A duty imposed on others to refrain from acting.

Positive right: A duty imposed on others to act.

A "right to food" is a "positive right". A "right to life" is a "negative right". The "right to food" requires others act to provide someone with food...or does it? The reason I ask this is because there are certain commands in the Bible that in effect say "under certain conditions, this stuff that you think belongs to you actually belongs to the worse off". Note that I'm not endorsing this, merely pointing out what I think is a potentially serious problem. An example of stuff that might belong to the poor: the scraps from a crop harvest. In this case, this isn't necessarily a "positive right". Because these scraps would belong to the poor, it means that these scraps are their property, and therefore there is a negative right in them.

I think that the implications of this are that looking at this situation in terms of negative rights versus positive rights mistakes the point. Any thoughts on this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Negative right: a right to acquire food by your own honest efforts.

Positive right: a right to food (implying a duty of someone to give it to you and it's not trade or contract)

How do you confuse the 2?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"A hungry man is not free." (FDR)

"We have in 1964 a unique opportunity and obligation to prove the success of our system; to disprove those cynics and critics at home and abroad who question our purpose and our competence... We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects. We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program. We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad. We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity. We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power. We must, by including special school aid funds as part of our education program, improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas. We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes under the Hill-Burton Act, and train more nurses to staff them. We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer... We must, as a part of a revised housing and urban renewal program, give more help to those displaced by slum clearance, provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family. We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them. Above all, we must...create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land." (LBJ)

"We just can’t trust the American people to make choices…government has to make those choices for people." (Hillary Clinton)

"The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." (BHO)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Negative right: a right to acquire food by your own honest efforts.

Positive right: a right to food (implying a duty of someone to give it to you and it's not trade or contract)

How do you confuse the 2?

Whoosh. I'm not. I'm saying that it somewhat misses the point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Negative right: a right to acquire food by your own honest efforts.

Positive right: a right to food (implying a duty of someone to give it to you and it's not trade or contract)

How do you confuse the 2?

Bingo! You win the fur-lined bathtub, Jerry.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Negative right: a right to acquire food by your own honest efforts.

Positive right: a right to food (implying a duty of someone to give it to you and it's not trade or contract)

How do you confuse the 2?

Whoosh. I'm not. I'm saying that it somewhat misses the point.

That is, a negative right is a positive while a positive right is actually a negative. I prefer rights to not rights or a right to not a right. Further confusion comes from a right to rape, loot and kill. Those are also "positive" rights, or the right to have victims or go out and get victims. Not rights at all, of course. Such is the government's "right" to tax and enslave in sundry and various ways. Blah, blah, blah.

Advocates of these positive rights are doing a better job of it than us respecting dominating the moral and political structure. Take from the few and give to the many when nothing should be taken and nothing given. The curse of democracy.

--Brant

in the long run the baddies lose, but they do a lot of their baddie stuff first for hoi polloi wants something for nothing "by right"--what freedom lovers want is for the baddies to get theirs up the kazoo sooner than they will forgetting or not knowing that "living well is the best revenge" (bed, sex, sleep, sex, breakfast, sex--go out and fight like hell [or go to the office]--come home, sex, eat, sex, have a drink, sex, repeat*)

*you can have more sex on the weekend

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... under certain conditions, this stuff that you think belongs to you actually belongs to the worse off". ... An example of stuff that might belong to the poor: the scraps from a crop harvest. In this case, this isn't necessarily a "positive right". Because these scraps would belong to the poor, it means that these scraps are their property ...

What if there were no harvest? Someone had to plant, to know what to sow and how, and when to gather, and how. Tools for harvest are known from the microlithic ("New" Stone Age) just before the invention of ceramics and the discovery of metals. Someone has to make those tools or there may be nothing left over from a harvest only by hand.

Perhaps you have a better example.

I think that we also need to separate the historical evolution of rights from their ontological validation. In other words, we know by evidence that even Neanderthals cared for "unproductive" members of the tribe. Libertarians assume that it was a matter of every member having some positive value; those without such value would have been abandoned. So, it looks like a right to be cared for could be argued.

In Bronowski's The Ascent of Man we see an old man left behind to die because he cannot cross a rapid stream (among modern herders, the Bakhtiari of Iran). Perhaps they are the exception to that rule above.

In our society, here and now, in modern times, we have a different context. As a new nation, we created our legal structure and many of our norms. I mean just the mundane examples of ketchup and apple pie point to uniquely American folkways that suggest why our legal system does not depend on inheritances from the Neanderthals. America is a nation of immigrants. They thought it through from first principles. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." So, we argue philosophical foundations for rights, i.e., the ontological derivation.

Also, it had been true that immigrants came here to make new lives for themselves. Now, it seems, they come here to be cared for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are free in America. Free to succeed and free to fail. However, I still see gray areas concerning the children who's parents are failures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Samson, if you said specifically what you think the point is, I missed it. Or perhaps didn't understand it. Brant may have come close, but I often don't understand him. :smile:

Since I missed the point, I will belabor it. It could be said that the farmer doesn't even have full ownership of his crop. There are rules about the disposal of harvest "by-products" just like there are rules about restaurant food that was prepared in advance but not sold. Even if the producers of those goods wanted to give them to the poor, they often can't.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Samson, if you said specifically what you think the point is, I missed it. Or perhaps didn't understand it. Brant may have come close, but I often don't understand him. :smile:

Since I missed the point, I will belabor it. It could be said that the farmer doesn't even have full ownership of his crop. There are rules about the disposal of harvest "by-products" just like there are rules about restaurant food that was prepared in advance but not sold. Even if the producers of those goods wanted to give them to the poor, they often can't.

As I understand the example from the Bible that I'm using, it's that the scraps or leftovers or whatever they may be do not rightfully belong to the farmer. They would instead belong to the less fortunate, i.e., the scraps are their property, in which the farmer trying to take them back would in effect be stealing. Something similar is going on when a starving person is allowed to take a fruit from the tree of an orchard: that specific fruit becomes "common" and as such can't constitute theft or taking. Another is example is when I was arguing against some of Apple's more boneheaded patent grants during the time of its lawsuit against Samsung. It's not that I thought other companies should be able to "use what they didn't make", it's that I thought Apple shouldn't have been granted the particular patents it was using to sue Samsung over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/2/2014 at 2:30 PM, dldelancey said:

Samson, if you said specifically what you think the point is, I missed it. Or perhaps didn't understand it. Brant may have come close, but I often don't understand him. :smile:

Since I missed the point, I will belabor it. It could be said that the farmer doesn't even have full ownership of his crop. There are rules about the disposal of harvest "by-products" just like there are rules about restaurant food that was prepared in advance but not sold. Even if the producers of those goods wanted to give them to the poor, they often can't.

You've come the closest.

First, why would you say that the farmer has only partial ownership of the crops instead of saying that he has full ownership of the crops whereas he has no ownership of the scraps? When I used the term "scraps" in the post, I did not mean it in the sense of "scraps of food", it's just my term for what the Bible verse was referring to. The passage in question talked about gleanings of the crops.

Second, I am of the belief that "positive rights" are not coherent if we are using the term to refer to a vague cosmic command. However, many of things called "positive rights" can be reformulated as "negative rights". Instead of a cosmic duty that is silent on who it is to be enforced against, in the example that I use, the gleanings of the crops—what I called "scraps"—do not belong to the farmer. He has no negative right in/to them. The negative right belongs to the poor person who comes along and collects them.

Remember, I'm not trying to endorse the Bible's command, only to make a point about the negative/positive rights dichotomy. I hope I was able to clarify what I meant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎5‎/‎12‎/‎2019 at 9:38 PM, Samson Corwell said:

You've come the closest.

First, why would you say that the farmer has only partial ownership of the crops instead of saying that he has full ownership of the crops whereas he has no ownership of the scraps? When I used the term "scraps" in the post, I did not mean it in the sense of "scraps of food", it's just my term for what the Bible verse was referring to. The passage in question talked about gleanings of the crops.

Second, I am of the belief that "positive rights" are not coherent if we are using the term to refer to a vague cosmic command. However, many of things called "positive rights" can be reformulated as "negative rights". Instead of a cosmic duty that is silent on who it is to be enforced against, in the example that I use, the gleanings of the crops—what I called "scraps"—do not belong to the farmer. He has no negative right in/to them. The negative right belongs to the poor person who comes along and collects them.

Remember, I'm not trying to endorse the Bible's command, only to make a point about the negative/positive rights dichotomy. I hope I was able to clarify what I meant.

I'm sure you did clarify.  However, since I've slept many times over since 2014, and I haven't worked in agriculture in 3 years, I have no basis on which to continue debate.  :-)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/1/2014 at 9:38 PM, Samson Corwell said:

So the whole positive/negative rights dichotomy--never quite liked it myself--is one of the major themes present in libertarianism and Objectivism. It exists in the wider field of political science, but it's not raised much as an issue. Most people, even if they're political junkies, probably haven't heard of it. "Positive rights" are the prevailing problem libertarians and O'ists face, as you know, because it involves, as they see it, expansion of government power.

Negative right: A duty imposed on others to refrain from acting.

Positive right: A duty imposed on others to act.

A "right to food" is a "positive right". A "right to life" is a "negative right". The "right to food" requires others act to provide someone with food...or does it? The reason I ask this is because there are certain commands in the Bible that in effect say "under certain conditions, this stuff that you think belongs to you actually belongs to the worse off". Note that I'm not endorsing this, merely pointing out what I think is a potentially serious problem. An example of stuff that might belong to the poor: the scraps from a crop harvest. In this case, this isn't necessarily a "positive right". Because these scraps would belong to the poor, it means that these scraps are their property, and therefore there is a negative right in them.

I think that the implications of this are that looking at this situation in terms of negative rights versus positive rights mistakes the point. Any thoughts on this?

No.  A right to food mean you are free to grow your own food or seek the means to purchase food from others.  It is NOT mean someone has to feed you.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Deanna,

A farm girl are ya'?

I knew there was a reason I liked the vibes coming from you.

:) 

Michael

That or she has limited time "set aside." Or there is little to "harvest" because I am sure she "gleaned" the meaning. I will "crop" this short. Gar"field" The Cat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎5‎/‎21‎/‎2019 at 5:18 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Deanna,

A farm girl are ya'?

I knew there was a reason I liked the vibes coming from you.

:) 

Michael

Well, no, I wouldn't go that far.  I worked tobacco farms as a kid/teenager.  Always someone else's farm.  Of course, my family always had a garden, or else we ate poorly.  The agriculture I was referring to in the post (and the experience on which I was drawing originally in this thread) was from working in STEM for a global agriculture corporation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dldelancey said:

The agriculture I was referring to in the post (and the experience on which I was drawing originally in this thread) was from working in STEM for a global agriculture corporation.

Deanna,

Marijuana?

I mean, that's a logical step after tobacco...

:) 

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a legal marijuana farm in existence here in Maryland, "up the road a piece," which is another way of saying "up the HIGH way."  It has barbed wire around it. Are they dispensing the stuff through regular pharmacies yet? If it really is medicinal that seems the right way to do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Deanna,

Marijuana?

I mean, that's a logical step after tobacco...

:) 

Michael

I can't think of any logical reasoning behind a leap from "working in STEM" to marijuana farmer, so I will assume you're joking.  LOL hahahaha you're so funny.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dldelancey said:

... so I will assume you're joking.  LOL hahahaha you're so funny.

Deanna,

Scott Adams says that there is a rather substantial percentage of human beings that have no sense of humor. They just don't respond. He should know since he does Dilbert and he has to know these things for professional reasons.

Well... I'm glad to see you're not one. :evil:  :) 

(That's a joke. :) )

btw - A couple of days ago I looked you up online. I don't know why. Just for the hell of it. I do that sometimes with people who catch my attention (famous and not famous).

If I read correctly, 2008 was not a good year for you. Dayaamm!

I hope you recovered OK.

You have my best wishes for everything, for what it's worth.

I mean it.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/2/2014 at 4:17 AM, jts said:

Negative right: a right to acquire food by your own honest efforts.

Positive right: a right to food (implying a duty of someone to give it to you and it's not trade or contract)

How do you confuse the 2?

Back to front - positive right, freedom *to act* to get whatever you want by your own efforts.

If a society has (positive) individual rights, this -implies- not acting against others' freedom of action to get whatever they want by...etc.(mistaken for "negative rights").

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...