You Have Only the Rights You Take

I’m going to start this post off with a clip of George Carlin:

You have no fucking rights. Whenever I say this somebody inevitably gets upset and tries to rebut my statement by listing off a bunch of rights that they think they have. Libertarians are probably the worst offenders but followers of most political philosophies generally have a list of what rights they believe they have.

As George Carlin said, rights aren’t rights if somebody can take them away. Let’s consider the right to property. It’s probably libertarianism’s most fundamental rights. But nobody in the United States has a right to property. At best a person living in this country can enjoy the privilege of renting property. The privilege is revoked if the renter fails to pay their rent, which is often referred to by the euphemism “property tax.” The privilege is also revoked, as is the privilege to any property, if a law enforcer claims that the property might be related to a drug crime (Isn’t civil asset forfeiture great?). And let us not forget the fact that the privilege can also be revoked if the landlord decides the property would be better off in somebody else’s hands (This is usually referred to by the euphemism “eminent domain.”).

So we can just cross the right to private property off of the list. At least have have a right to live, right? Again, at best, you have a privilege to live that can be revoked at any time. Justine Ruszczyk privilege to live was revoked by Officer Noor. Your privilege can live can be revoked at any time by a law enforcer and if it is the enforcer’s employer will retroactively justify that revocation.

You don’t even have a right to associate or disassociate with whoever you choose. If you believe you do, try disassociating with a law enforcer during a traffic stop sometime. I’m just kidding, don’t do that because your privilege to live will likely be revoked. But I think you understand my point. There is a list of individuals and organizations you are required to associate with and another list, probably just as long, of individuals and organizations you are not allowed to associate with.

If you have no right to property, life, or voluntary association then what rights can you say you have? None whatsoever. Unless, of course, you can take them.

There are people who have managed to protect their property from being seized through civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain. People have also been successful at defending their lives when law enforcers attempted to revoke their privilege to live. And there are people who manage to disassociate themselves with unsavory characters as well as associate themselves with individuals and organizations they are prohibited from associating with. How did they managed to protect their privilege to property, life, and voluntary association? How did they turn a privilege that was about to be revoked into a right? By defending their rights. This brings us to the point of this post, you have only the rights you take.

How you take your rights is irrelevant. If you are able to take your rights by pleading with the State’s courts, by defending yourself against law enforcers, by convincing others to respect them through rational discourse, or by leaving the territory controlled by the individual(s) or organizations attempting to force you to associate with them, the result is the same. They lose. You win. They fail to take your rights. You succeed in taking your rights.

Those who rely on anything other than their personal ability to guarantee their rights have no rights. No philosophical axioms, constitutional amendments, or higher deities can grant you rights. The only thing that can grant you rights is yourself and, as much as it sucks to read, you won’t always be successful.