Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Preliminaries: On Natural Right

Most ideologies begin with some notion of natural right.  This can be Locke's defense of property, the religious justification for the political order of Christendom, Marx's concept of the right to the product of one's labor (generally expressed through the negative of this, alienation from one's labor), or the Thomas Jefferson's life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is perhaps the most cynical part of my project.  I don't believe in natural right.  I believe all rights are artificial.  This makes them no less important, I personally believe it makes them more rather than less special and important, rights can be justified because they ultimately have resonance with a broad range of individuals and have real positive impacts on societies that adopt them.

I realize for many people this takes away much of the moral justification for rights.  Personally, I feel the opposite about it.  Nothing makes me more certain that there is a good end for humanity than that we can create concepts of such power with such universal resonance that benefit mankind so much with no ultimate rational or traditional basis for them (the right to life I feel slightly different about, there does seem to be a natural compulsion against murder that may be an individual basis for a more general societal right to life, this is a rather more complicated topic and in any case, the right to life alone is far too little to form a society or ideology around).

In any case, I will be starting by looking at problems and seeking to derive an appropriate ideology rather than using a notion of natural right as a starting point, mostly due to this belief.  I think this is just as good as a starting point, Locke's defense of property can be seen as a protest against the personal discretion that ruled property relations in favor of the monarch and law, Marx can be seen as a protest against industrial capital, and Thomas Jefferson as a protest against the divine right in favor of a basis for society in rationality.

I should also confess that I've never quite wrapped my mind around why something natural is better than something artificial, not just in politics but everywhere else.  This may be the root of my lack of understanding why the idea of rights being natural is important to some people, I don't get why natural is important anywhere.

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