We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Opt-out organ donation expands the state’s power over the individual. There may be a shortage of donors, and doing more to encourage people to sign up is no bad thing. But a person should never have to opt out of state control. It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.

Emily Dinsmore

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77 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • CaptDMO

    “Coma”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Absolutely correct! Good for her. And thanks for posting the quote, and also for the link.

  • Fraser Orr

    There is a simple solution to the organ donor shortage problem. Simply that we pay people for their organs. We pay the doctors doing the transplant, we pay the doctors cutting the organ out, we pay the nurses, we pay the people who make the knifes, we even pay the taxi driver who drives it across town. Why not the guy or gal who provided it? Maybe we are icky about donating organs from living donors for money (though “my body my choice” seems the appropriate thought here, why shouldn’t I sell part of my liver that grows back any less than I sell my semen, blood or hair?) but for sure selling a future contract on your organ seems a perfectly reasonable thing. It revives the deceased person’s family from difficult decisions, allows people to enjoy payment ahead of time, and solves a horrible problem.

    All we have to do is stop saying “icky!!!!”.

  • Paul Marks

    I used to carry a donor card – for many years. But the idea was no longer advertised – and it just went.

    As for the government they are utilitarians – the heirs of David Hume and Jeremy Bentham, they do not believe in rights against the state. And it is not just when you are dead (or when the state says you are dead – which may not be the same thing), it is also when you are alive. Ask any establishment figure about Freedom of Speech (not for “racist” speech or other speech they do not approve of), or the right to keep and bear arms (“magical thinking” according to the Economist magazine – there can be rights AGAINST the state). To the modern “liberal” elite a “right” is a good or service from government – the idea that there are rights against the state is, to them, an absurdity.

    So, for example, if five people can be saved by using organs from your body – or just one useful person be saved by sacrificing one “anti social” person, that is fine. And there is no real need (such people will admit in private) to wait till you are dead.

    The late George Bernard Shaw argued, quite seriously, that every person should have to justify their existence before a Government Board. And those people who could not justify their existence should be executed. Ask our rulers if they thing that George Bernard Shaw was a great cultural figure and “humane” thinker. Ask them the same about Mr Shaw’s friend and fellow Fabian H.G. Wells – with his “painless gas” to wipe out the “teeming millions of blacks, browns and yellows” – somehow advocating genocide is not “racist” (not when it is one of the cultural elite doing it). Wells and Shaw and….. are great figures to be held up as examples to the young in the media and the education system.

    Much like the Communist Mexican (and mistress of Trotsky) who a certain person wears a picture of on her wrist. For this is a problem of all parties – it is a problem of cultural “education”.

    Expecting one of our rulers to wear a picture of Margaret Thatcher, rather than a Communist Revolutionary and moral degenerate, on her wrist is like expecting the music of Elgar, rather than bad pop “music”, at conference. It is against the “Spirit Of The Age” (Hegelian nonsense) it is not “hip” and “with it” to believe in limited government. And only the most “hopeless reactionary” believes in rights against the state.

  • Mr Ecks

    And its BluLabour that comes up with the idea.

    OK we’ll start with the Fish Faced Cow. NOW.

    Breathe-Smogg for king a s a p.

  • The late George Bernard Shaw argued, quite seriously, that every person should have to justify their existence before a Government Board. (Paul Marks, October 8, 2017 at 6:06 am)

    And imagined he himself would have no difficulties in the interview. 🙂

    In reality of course, he might indeed have had no difficulties; the board would consist of like-minded people. But it is said that GBS used to annoy the hell out of H.G.Wells. Shaw’s nimble verbal wit, aided by his indifference to truth, meant he could argue rings round Wells verbally though even Wells (!) was often defending the saner position when the other side was Shaw. Wells hated not dominating in argument (see, for example, the account of Wells finding himself at a dinner with George Orwell some months after Orwell published his essay ‘Wells, Hitler and the World State’). So I can see the board of conventional lefties losing their rag with Shaw and putting him down as they might put down a dog with an annoying yap.

  • Thailover

    They assume they own you. It tips their hand when they ask, “how will we pay for this proposed tax cut”, as if it’s their money and you’re proposing taking it away from them.

  • Thailover

    “…that every person should have to justify their existence in front of a government board…”

    “You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He’s a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he’s built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone.”

    https://vimeo.com/15365268

  • JadedLibertarian

    Until the term “beating heart cadaver” becomes a regular part of the public discourse on organ donation, no consent (assumed or otherwise) that is provided can be said to be informed and is consequently void. The medical establishment has been obfuscating about this for years. “Take my organs after I die” is what the organ donor card says. It doesn’t say “Take my organs once I’m in the grey area between life and death – without anaesthesia of course”. If it said that, it would be more accurate and far fewer would donate.

    “Brain death” is a diagnosis of convenience that only cropped up after organ donation began. Its primary purpose is to make it legal to remove organs from those who would otherwise be considered alive (and consequently capable of being murdered).

  • Lee Moore

    Hmm.

    Looking at my diary, in the last twelve months, I’ve been in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia; and the diary predicts that the next twelve months will add France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Iceland, Canada and Singapore to that list. I make that seventeen places which might want to harvest my organs if I expire on their turf. (And that’s counting the US, Canada and Australia as just one each.)

    Do I have to opt out in each of these places ?

  • Thailover

    “To the modern “liberal” elite a “right” is a good or service from government – the idea that there are rights against the state is, to them, an absurdity.”

    Inalienable (or in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “unalienable”) rights cannot be granted by any authoritarian body, be it a person, collective or even a god, because that which an be granted by fiat can be just as easily abrogated, undermined or retracted by that same body, which of course contradicts the meaning of both ‘inalienable’ and ‘rights’.

    By natural rights, we don’t mean natural like a pristine stream in a forest, nor do we mean natural as opposed to supernatural, but rather natural as opposed to synthetic. Rights naturally follows from the observable, demonstrable facts of our existence. Whereas synthetic rights would be purely arbitrary notions of the mind, orchestrated from wish and whim only, with no necessary correlation to reality. The idea of synthetic rights is that it’s an invention of the collective as a nice useful tool to keep people in line, but which can be usurped by the collective when they prove cumbersome.

    That natural rights naturally follows from observable and demonstrable facts is why Ayn Rand called her philosophy Objectivism.

    In the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, In article 29, “verse” 3, it says

    “These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

    Which of course nullifies the whole nonsense. You have rights…as long as we wish to recognized them.

  • Mr Ed

    It gives a whole new meaning to ‘Stand and De-liver‘.

  • Cristina

    It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.

    Why?

  • Cristina

    It gives a whole new meaning to ‘Stand and De-liver‘

    LOL

  • Mr Ed

    It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.

    Why?

    Because anything else is tyrannical.

  • DP

    Dear Mr de Havilland

    How many patients will come to be regarded as potential donors the moment they are wheeled through the hospital door? Will good matches for prominent or VIP recipients be at risk of being ‘helped’ off this mortal coil? Perhaps our beloved government™ is planning for its old age.

    Maybe card carrying donors were put off by this.

    DP

  • Why?

    Because people in power hate the sound of tumbrils rolling up in front of their houses to take them to Place de la Concorde.

  • Cristina

    Because anything else is tyrannical.

    And?

  • Mr Ed

    At what stage will organ harvesting, for ‘presumed consent’ is not consent, nor is stealing ‘donation’, be extended to genitalia for trans-gender surgery?

    If this is not on the agenda, why not? Surely presumed consent should not discriminate.

  • Laird

    “Why?”

    Is that a serious question or are you just trolling?

  • Cristina (October 8, 2017 at 12:50pm) questions: “It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.” This with

    Why?

    This makes me wander: along slippery slopes.

    If having “implicit consent” in the event of death, what logic is to prevent this first being extended to “forced consent” in the event of death.

    Next, what logic is to prevent this being extended to “forced consent” without the event of death. While this might be viewed by government as unjustified for a single critical organ (say the heart) – as one person (soon) dies whether or not the organ is donated.

    However, for a non-critical organ (such as a kidney – most people need only one that works), government might well argue that it is better to force donation of a (genetically) more compatible organ than to accept consenting donation of only a marginally compatible organ. Government can then be seen to be doing the ‘right’ thing: continuance of two modestly to fully healthy persons rather than one completely healthy (the donor) and one modestly unhealthy (the recipient of an organ with poorer genetic match).

    Best regards

  • Julie near Chicago

    I’m sure Dr. Zeke (Emanuel) would be fully on-board with Nigel’s nightmare scenario. (The difference is, Nigel is giving a precautionary scenario.)

    And after all, other countries do even worse things, like forced abortions in China. (Unless they’ve actually, not merely allegedly, quit in the last two or three years.)

  • Cristina

    Laird, this is the only forum I bother to post a comment now and then. Take this as a testament to my respect for the authors and commenters alike. Even though it might seem I’m trolling, the question is serious indeed.

    Since the “individual rights and choice” is an always-changing line, contingent upon the culture imposed on us by the powers that be, where to set the boundaries to what the government can do to us now?

    What is the moral foundation for said boundaries?

    Is there any real difference between the eternally-changing “individual rights and choice” and a mandate now that would transform into a personal choice and right in the future?

    Interesting thoughts by Nigel Sedgwick above.

    BTW, I’m always joyful, especially when intellectually engaged. 😉

  • Alisa

    Great to see you back, JL.

  • JadedLibertarian

    I never left Alisa, I just switched to being a lurker 😉 I think my last post was around 2 years ago during that particularly heated thread on immigration. After thinking about it for 2 years I think I have some new insights on that topic but will save them for another thread.

    As to the organ donation question, the information given to the public regarding organ donation is carefully chosen to shepherd them to the “right” choice. Anything upsetting or controversial (such as the question of whether brain dead patients still qualify as alive) is carefully kept from public view.

    Even with this approach not enough people are making the “right” choice so the government is going to make it for them.

    I wonder what other things traditionally considered choices could be switched to an opt-out system? Sterilisation perhaps? TV license? Labour party membership? Experimental piles surgery?

    If you don’t ask, consent can’t be informed and contravenes (amongst others) the Nuremberg code of medical research ethics. Normally I’m all for ignoring prissy government rules, but even I recognise those particular rules were introduced for a very good reason.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Jaded, let me second Alisa: I too am glad to see you.

    And thank you for the comment indeed, as it speaks to an issue of major concern to me. Can you suggest any reading on the subject that actually seems to reflect credible research and conclusions?

  • JadedLibertarian

    Julie I thought this interview with an anesthesiologist by the Christian medical fellowship does a good job of covering what I perceive to be the salient points.

    Link

    Organ transplantation was a moral quagmire long before presumed consent reared its ugly head.

  • JadedLibertarian

    See also this journal article.

    When the anesthesiologist questioned the diagnosis of brain death, one of the declaring physicians reportedly stated that because the donor was not going to recover, he/she could be declared brain dead, and that in any case the liver recipient would die imminently without transplantation. Vital organ collection proceeded over the protests of the anesthesiologist, who observed donor movement and hypertension with skin incision that required treatment with thiopental and a muscle relaxant. The liver recipient died in another operating room of acute hemorrhage before liver collection was complete. The liver went untransplanted.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks very much for the links, JL. Following. :>)

  • CaptDMO

    And when the “medical students” began requesting certain parameters to the body snatchers, certain unexplained deaths, and subsequent prompt delivery, ensued.
    FOLLOW THE MONEY!
    I’m thinking the Asian, SouthEast Asian Pacific Rim business model, where “opt out” is NEVER given by the unconscious donor, is simply expanding to new markets.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A
    “But she’s not dead yet…”

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Here’s another angle- lots of people claim to have new talents and skills after receiving an organ from someone else, picking up new skills into the bargain!
    So what worthy libertarian will donate all of their body to all, in the hope of creating new libertarians? This may be the only way to convert some people!

  • bobby b

    Does a finger count as an organ? ‘Cuz, libertarians have been giving fingers to progressives for a long time without effect.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.

    What should be usually is irrelevant to what happens in reality, even when you’re right about it. Government action is generally a consequence of the makeup of power in society, not morality.

    Even when the government does the good, morally right thing it is seldom a consequence of superior moral argument but simply a coincidence of circumstance in which power aligns with doing the moral thing in that instance. Correlation does not mean causation, after all.

    If you want to protect the rights of people’s organs not being harvested in modern Western nations I would suggest building something that has power in democracy. That would be either a fortune ($$$) or joining and contributing babies to a traditionalist, high-trust, high birth-rate sub-culture that values life by virtue of a cultural belief in the human soul (dualism on mind-body problem) and therefore will forever be fundamentally opposed to the demonic, modern culture that leads to harvesting of humans (votes – think Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Traditionalist Catholics).

  • Fraser Orr

    @Thailover
    Inalienable … rights cannot be granted by any authoritarian body … because that which an be granted by fiat can be just as easily abrogated,

    Although I am a libertarian like you, I am curious about this statement. Is it your view that an inalienable right cannot be abrogated? Doesn’t that happen all the time? One might suggest that a right as defined in a written constitution is harder to abrogate, but that is because it is written in the constitution not because it is “inalienable” in some sense.

    By natural rights… rather natural as opposed to synthetic. Rights naturally follows from the observable, demonstrable facts of our existence.

    Explain how the right to free speech arises in this way, or the right to a fair trail, or the right of habeus corpus? I don’t think they do at all (which is why I am not an objectivist.) Historically these supposed inalienable rights have barely raised their heads until very recently in our history.

    Rights surely in reality arise because we as a society determine them. Of course that is pretty terrifying, but it is also, truthfully, where rights actually did come from historically. The masses gained a temporary advantage over the powerful, and we lucked out that they made reasonable demands. Magna Carta and the US Constitution both came about in that manner. (“Masses” loosely defined in the first case) as did the right for women to vote and to not be the property of their husbands/fathers among many others.

    I think the natural rights argument is very appealing because it offers a putative objective framework, but in a universe that cares not one whit for your rights it is really just a made up justification, as far as I can seen.

    In mathematics we like to build our systems on a set of axioms, which are in many ways akin to natural rights in philosophy. However, Godel quickly dismissed that notion. So to in Philosophy those axioms might seem appealing, but the truth is that morality, rights, and all those related things evolved through memetics over a period of time. They were not and cannot be derived from some set of philosophical axioms.

  • Mr Ed

    One might suggest that a right as defined in a written constitution is harder to abrogate, but that is because it is written in the constitution not because it is “inalienable” in some sense.

    Perhaps If you take the view that a Constitution does not provide or declare rights, but simply sets out what is already inalienable (so that the curious, the stupid and the evil can see), then whether a right is in the Constitution is immaterial, you simply apply Dr Bonham’s Case to the interpretation of the Constitution, that which is repugnant to natural justice is void.

  • Rights surely in reality arise because we as a society determine them. Of course that is pretty terrifying, but it is also, truthfully, where rights actually did come from historically. The masses gained a temporary advantage over the powerful, and we lucked out that they made reasonable demands. Magna Carta and the US Constitution both came about in that manner.

    I’ve always taken it to mean that all humans have these rights, and therefore any government that is taking them away is morally wrong, not as some sort of guarantee.

  • Alisa

    Indeed Wh00ps, they are inalienable in the moral, not the practical sense.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Take it one stage further. Will those of us who prefer cheeseburgers to salads ultimately have the NHS being able to sue our estates for compensation because our organs were in a less than perfectly healthy condition?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Wh00ps
    I’ve always taken it to mean that all humans have these rights

    But what does that mean, or why do you say that? You say it as if it is as obvious as saying “all humans have hands and hearts”. Why do they have these rights? Which rights? I can list all the bones I have, or the blood vessels, or all the major organs of my body, and nobody would really disagree with me. But you can’t find two people who would give you the same list of rights I have.

    @Alisa
    Indeed Wh00ps, they are inalienable in the moral, not the practical sense.

    But isn’t that the same thing I just said? Aren’t morals just a community evolved set of rules that we apply to ourselves. So to say they come from morality is to say exactly what I just said above. Morals are no more a stable base on which to build a universal set of rights than rights themselves.

    Some people think that morality comes from on high written on tablets of stone, but, to my knowledge, there are no religions that advocate a set of rights that we modern humans would consider adequate or appropriate. (For example, nearly all religions are opposed to you having the right to worship whatever god you choose.)

  • Alisa

    Fraser, I had not yet read your previous comment when replying to Wh00ps (I replied to his first simply because his was so short and so to the point, from my particular perspective) – but I have now, and there is little in it with which I disagree. Still, since you asked, I may as well address some particulars:

    but that is because it is written in the constitution not because it is “inalienable”* in some sense

    They were written into the Constitution because they were seen as inalienable in the moral sense. And yes, I do understand morals the same way you seem to do, which to me means that at least those particular parts of the Constitution simply made these social moral conventions into law of the land.

    *That discussion is about the specific rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ (which in my view are best described as fundamental, rather than ‘natural’, although I still don’t think that the difference is immense). Other parts of your comments seem to address rights which I would call ‘secondary’ – such as free speech, trial by jury, rights pertaining to religious worship, etc.). I may be wrong here, but IIRC these are not described as ‘inalienable’ or ‘natural’, the reason for this being that they are derived from the fundamental rights (hence, ‘secondary’).

    Does any of that make sense to you?

  • Alisa

    Some people think that morality comes from on high written on tablets of stone, but, to my knowledge, there are no religions that advocate a set of rights that we modern humans would consider adequate or appropriate.

    Even people who do think this would not argue that when faced with a hungry bear or an earthquake. Seriously, most religious people are no more stupid than most non-believers.

    (For example, nearly all religions are opposed to you having the right to worship whatever god you choose.)

    Depends what you mean by ‘opposed’. You are free to leave Judaism or Christianity – there may well be a price to pay, such as giving up the right to be part of that particular society or community; but certainly your rights to liberty, pursuit of happiness and your very life are not part of that price. From what I’ve read, Islam is different in that regard.

  • Cristina

    Aren’t morals just a community evolved set of rules that we apply to ourselves.

    This pervasive understanding of morals is what makes the “individual rights and choice” void of meaning.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Cristina
    > This pervasive understanding of morals is what makes the “individual rights and choice” void of meaning.

    That isn’t true. Just because something is derived in an evolved manner through community change and evaluation doesn’t make it void of meaning. For example, the scientific method came about precisely by that mechanism and I hope you recognize that without it you’d be hurtling clay tablets to me rather than typing on your computer.

    @Alisa, yes I get your point, and I think we are aligned. My main point is this one of objectivism, the idea that rights are someone self evidently derived from our very existence rather than a constructed human artifact. I wish that it were no true; in such a case I think “rights” would be easier to define and defend. But reality is rarely so cooperative.

  • Alisa

    Yes Fraser, we are aligned – but only up to a point:

    My main point is this one of objectivism, the idea that rights are someone self evidently derived from our very existence rather than a constructed human artifact.

    I used to hold this position (by which I mean yours, rejecting the quoted one), but I no longer do. My current position (until further notice when I find a better one) is something like this: ‘Morals are a human artifact, the construction of which is based on self-evident facts arising from our very existence. Rights are social/legal codifications of these morals’.

  • Julie near Chicago

    James A. Donald put together a very good paper on “Natural Law and Natural Rights” back in the ’90s. His exposition begins:

    “Natural law and natural rights follow from the nature of man and the world. We have the right to defend ourselves and our property, because of the kind of animals that we are. True law derives from this right….”

    What is a “right” in this context? I believe that “we have the right to…” would be better said, “it is right for us to,” “it is right and proper for us to,” “we are in the right when we defend ourselves and our property.” But Mr. Donald uses the more usual phraseology, and argues on that basis.

    Natural law has objective, external existence. It follows from the ESS (evolutionary stable strategy) for the use of force that is natural for humans and similar animals. The ability to make moral judgments, the capacity to know good and evil, has immediate evolutionary benefits….

    The opponents of natural rights often complain that the advocates of natural rights are not logically consistent, because we continually shift between inequivalent definitions of natural law. … Indeed, the definitions we use are not logically equivalent, but because of the nature of man and the nature of the world, they are substantially equivalent in practice.

    In this paper I have used several different definitions of natural law…. Among the definitions that I use are:

    –The medieval/legal definition: Natural law cannot be defined in the way that positive law is defined, and to attempt to do so plays into the hands of the enemies of freedom. Natural law is best defined by pointing at particular examples….

    –The historical state-of-nature definition: Natural law is that law which corresponds to a spontaneous order in the absence of a state and which is enforced, (in the absence of better methods), by individual unorganized violence….

    –The medieval / philosophical definition: Natural law is that law, which it is proper to uphold by unorganized individual violence, whether a state is present or absent, and for which, in the absence of orderly society, it is proper to punish violators by unorganized individual violence. Locke gives the example of Cain, in the absence of orderly society, and the example of a mugger, where the state exists, but is not present at the crime. Note Locke’s important distinction between the state and society. For example trial by jury originated in places and times where there was no state power, or where the state was violently hostile to due process and the rule of law but was too weak and distant to entirely suppress it.

    –The scientific/ sociobiological/ game theoretic/ evolutionary definition: Natural law is, or follows from, an ESS for the use of force: Conduct which violates natural law is conduct such that, if a man were to use individual unorganized violence to prevent such conduct, or, in the absence of orderly society, use individual unorganized violence to punish such conduct, then such violence would not indicate that the person using such violence, (violence in accord with natural law) is a danger to a reasonable man. This definition is equivalent to the definition that comes from the game theory of iterated three or more player non zero sum games, applied to evolutionary theory. The idea of law, of actions being lawful or unlawful, has the emotional significance that it does have, because this ESS for the use of force is part of our nature.

    .

    Utilitarian and relativist philosophers demand that advocates of natural law produce a definition of natural law that is independent of the nature of man and the nature of the world. Since it is the very essence of natural law to reason from the nature of man and the nature of the world, to deduce “should” from “is”, we unsurprisingly fail to meet this standard. [My boldface. –J.]

    Although many philosophers like to pretend that Newton created the law of gravity, that Einstein created general relativity, this is obviously foolish. Universal gravitation was discovered, not invented. It was discovered in the same way a deer might suddenly recognize a tiger partially concealed by bushes and the accidental play of sunlight.

    In the next section, “History,” James expands on this:

    Natural law was discovered (not invented, not created, discovered) by the stoic philosophers. This was the answer (not their answer, the answer) to the logical problems raised by Socrates. The doctrines of the stoics were demonstrated successfully by experiment, but political circumstances (the Alexandrine empire and then the Roman empire) prevented a clear and decisive experiment.

    “There is in fact a true law – namely, right reason – which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable and eternal.” (Cicero) Cicero successfully argued before a Roman court that one of the laws of Rome was unlawful, being contrary to natural law, creating a legal precedent that held throughout the western world for two thousand years. Although it was frequently violated, it was rarely openly rejected in the West until the twentieth century.

    A philosopher can choose to disbelieve in Newton’s laws, but this will not enable him to fly. He can disbelieve in natural law, but political and social institutions built on false law will fail, just as a bridge built on false physical law will fall….

    Regardless of a few lacunae that bug me personally, I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. It is rich, well-presented and informative. The paper is at http://jim.com/rights.html .

    “James’s Liberty File,” at http://jim.com/ , is a collection of writings on the topic by Locke, Hobbes, Bastiat, Spooner, Aristotle, and others, along with more of his own pieces.

  • Alisa

    That is an excellent summary, Julie, especially the bolded part.

  • Sonny Wayze

    Here’s hoping Larry Niven got it wrong in “The Jigsaw Man.”
    You’ll need to Bing it – I can’t get the URL to post.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Another very strong paper on the subject of natural rights comes from Prof. Randy Barnett, now of Georgetown Law School, and is entitled “Natural Law and Natural Rights.” His understanding is firmly grounded on the notion that to accomplish a given end (a state-of-affairs, an objective, etc.) one must respect the facts of reality and the associated principles of how people and the universe function. In this paper, he writes:

    …[I]t is a mistake, and an all-too-common one, to equate natural law with natural rights. Natural law is a broader term referring to the given-if-then method of evaluating choices based on the “given” of human nature and the nature of the world. A natural-law approach to ethics uses a given-if-then analysis to evaluate the propriety of any human action. In contrast, a natural-rights analysis uses a natural law given-if-then methodology to identify the liberty or space within which persons ought to be free to make their own choices. It seeks to determine the appropriate social structure within which people ought to be free to do as they please.

    According to this distinction, when discussing moral virtues and vices — or the problem of distinguishing good from bad behavior — the imperative for which is supposedly based on human nature, natural-law ethics is the appropriate term (though such principles are sometimes referred to simply as natural law). When discussing the contours of the moral jurisdiction defined by principles of justice — or the problem of distinguishing right from wrong behavior — which is supposedly based on the nature of human beings and the world in which they live, the appropriate term would be natural rights. Whereas natural law ethics provides guidance for our actions, natural rights define a moral space or liberty — as opposed to license — in which we may act free from the interference of other persons.

    In short, natural-law ethics instructs us on how to exercise the liberty that is defined and protected by natural rights.

    What makes natural rights natural is the type of given-if-then reasons that are offered in support of its conclusions, based as they are on the “givens” of human nature and the nature of the world in which humans live. What makes such concepts rights is the “natural necessity,”35 to use H.L.A. Hart’s felicitous term, of adhering to them if we are to solve certain pervasive social problems that must be solved somehow if persons are to achieve their objectives.

    The paper’s penultimate paragraph ends with this:

    When discussing the contours of the moral jurisdiction defined by principles of justice, or the problem of distinguishing right from wrong behavior, which is supposedly based on the nature of human beings and the world in which they live, the appropriate term would be natural rights.

    I think this prompts a better understanding of the word “rights” in the phrase “natural rights.” We talk of valuables, meaning things which are valuable; of comestibles, those things which are edible; similarly, “right” is an adjective, whence “rights” may be reasonably taken as meaning “those things which are right.

    Highly recommended. At http://www.bu.edu/rbarnett/Guide.htm .

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks very much, Alisa. :mrgreen:

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alisa
    Problem is that one man’s “self evident” is another man’s “I completely disagree.”

    As an aside, perhaps the most famous use of that phrase “self evident” was in the declaration of independence where Jefferson wrote about our self evident rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Having penned the noble words he jumped on his horse and rode back to his farm full of slaves.

    I have been an admirer of Jefferson for a long time and this profound dissonance in the man’s character has remained inexplicable to me for many years. I think the best I can come up with is that Jefferson didn’t really think of black people as real people, but as something perhaps a little above his farm animals, a view that may have been as comforting as it was ridiculous.

    Which, rounding back to the matter of self evident emphasizes my point: self evident surely exists in the context of a pre-existing moral landscape, a pre-existing lens to view the world. And that landscape, that view is far from being universally shared. What may be self evident to you may not be to me, and is far from the universal as we can surely imagine.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Julie
    I will take the time to read the paper you reference this week if I can. I think I would enjoy it.
    However, on this specific point, it is one I have heard argued before:

    “Natural law and natural rights follow from the nature of man and the world. We have the right to defend ourselves and our property, because of the kind of animals that we are.

    This seems a shockingly frightening argument to me. “Because of the kind of animals we are”.

    1. Because of the type of animal I am I might chose to copulate with all the females I can, even if they decline my advances, after all, the very nature of an animal is to reproduce as widely as possible. Is this copulative imperative my right?

    2. Because of the type of animal I am, if I am the strongest, I can dominate all the others in the group, force them to bend to my will, make them work for me and give me the fruits of their labor. This is the way it often is in social animal groups like humans. Is that domination my right? Is the natural law “might makes right”?

    3. If I am in a bar and someone looks at me disrespectfully, or says something unpleasant, because of the animal I am I might well punch him in the face. After all, it is a part of the animal that I am to try to maintain my social standing within the group by not allowing others to disrespect me. Is punching the disrespectful also my right?

    I find “because of the animal we are” to be quite a troubling standard.

    However, I do wonder if there is more gold to be found in the principle of “because of the type of society we form.”

    Some thoughts before I head to bed.

  • Alisa

    Problem is that one man’s “self evident” is another man’s “I completely disagree.”

    No such problem exists when it comes to fundamentals: water is wet, fire is hot, animals value life (their own and that of their offspring), humans are social animals who only thrive when part of society (creating the need for moral conventions), etc. (And IIRC, Jefferson was well aware of the moral contradiction which he was living – although you may well be correct about his view of black people). You seem to be conflating men being imperfect in their ability to interpret these simple facts of life and nature (or drawing incorrect conclusions from these facts, or just failing to follow their own correct conclusions out of moral weakness) with these facts not being self-evident to most people. Just because some people might attempt flying off a high-rise roof does not make gravity any less self-evident to most of the rest. (However, when some others do so using some kind of flying device, then gravity is no longer the only factor, and things may indeed become less self-evident).

  • Runcie Balspune

    “Coma”

    It’ll be more like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aclS1pGHp8o

  • Rob Fisher

    It’s the “without anesthetic” point that I find particularly disturbing. (It brings to mind the horror described in the Metallica song, “One”.) Is there any particular reason for this?

  • JadedLibertarian

    Because they’re “dead” Rob. Why would you anaesthetise a corpse? If they do require anaesthesia (and the physical responses of the “corpses”to being cut strongly suggests they do), perhaps they’re not so dead after all? This of course rather undermines the case for organ harvesting in the first place.

    In Japan I believe they now offer anaesthesia during organ harvesting which is certainly an improvement. However if you’re alive enough to feel pain, it’s not unreasonable to assume you’re also alive enough to experience distress at being disemboweled. Even a spider getting it’s legs torn off by the proverbial naughty kid experiences distress. Our quaint attachment to our own bodily integrity is a very low level process neurologically speaking. Huge swathes of the brain could be destroyed and someone will still get upset if you start hacking them up.

  • JadedLibertarian

    On a second look I couldn’t find a reference for the Japan claim. For cultural and religious reasons the Japanese are particularly squeamish about organ transplants anyway, and a number of their doctors are leading figures in calling either for the use of anaesthesia or the abolition of so called beating heart cadaver donation. I believe anesthesia is still a choice on a surgeon by surgeon basis.

    I realise I was a little unclear on my last few sentences of my previous post. My point is that if our criteria for calling organ donation from clinically alive patients immoral is that they have the capacity for some level of distress from the procedure, that is setting the bar very low indeed. Nearly all the brain could be removed and someone will still show distress at physical assault.

    I would go further and argue that it may be immoral in any case, otherwise depriving your victims of consciousness would be a legal defense in all manner of crimes.

    “But your honour, I chloroformed her before I raped her and slit her throat…”

  • Alisa

    Shut up, it’s for the greater good.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Indeed Alisa 😉

    In many respects this problem is easily solved. Provide full anaesthesia as a matter of course, and take organs only from those who provided full and informed consent while competent to do so. This includes discussing the nitty gritty about whether brain death truly constitutes death death. If all that is laid out and folk still want to donate, it’s none of my business.

    They won’t do that however. To even admit there’s something to discuss would cause a collapse of willing donor numbers.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alisa
    Certainly some things are evidently true, but the only example you gave which might lead to a right is “animals value life, their own and their offspring.” But what right derives from this? The right to self defense perhaps? But not to a gun or sword to facilitate such. Plus you could also argue that it leads to the right of a cow or chicken not to be eaten, if we truly are deriving rights from the nature of the animal. Does it also lead to the right to pre-emptively take out any threats to me and my children?

    Like I say I don’t see how you can get from these objective facts to anything resembling what we call or think of as rights, and to do so in a manner where the logic doesn’t leak and is indisputable, which I suppose are requirements of what you might call objectivity.

    On the other hand it isn’t hard to see how a chaotic process of evolution, examination, experimentation and memetics could lead to the laws and rights we have today, in fact the very flaws they have almost demand that such a process has taken place.

  • Alisa

    But what right derives from this? The right to self defense perhaps?

    Perhaps? Do you really have any serious doubt as to the validity of such a conclusion?

    But not to a gun or sword to facilitate such.

    Why on earth not? Although in my view ownership of weapons properly belongs within the right to property, not the right to ‘bear arms’, seeing as almost anything can be used as a weapon given the right(/wrong) circumstances.

    Plus you could also argue that it leads to the right of a cow or chicken not to be eaten, if we truly are deriving rights from the nature of the animal.

    No, I could not – unless said cows and chickens are members of “human” society, capable of reciprocity/retaliation under the system of rights governing said society. Remember that this system evolved in the first place so that humans wouldn’t eat each other (metaphorically, if not literally)

    Does it also lead to the right to pre-emptively take out any threats to me and my children?

    Yes, it should.

    Like I say I don’t see how you can get from these objective facts to anything resembling what we call or think of as rights

    The fact that you or I cannot always see it does not mean that most people don’t (or didn’t when human society and the system of rights by which it is governed were evolving).

    which I suppose are requirements of what you might call objectivity

    I never mentioned objectivity, as I consider it humanly impossible. What does it have to do with any of this?

    On the other hand it isn’t hard to see how a chaotic process of evolution, examination, experimentation and memetics could lead to the laws and rights we have today, in fact the very flaws they have almost demand that such a process has taken place.

    Precisely.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alisa
    Perhaps? Do you really have any serious doubt as to the validity of such a conclusion?

    Obviously I believe in the right to self defense, but the question is does the fact that animals value their lives somehow logically lead to the conclusion that they have the right to have it or defend it. There are lots of things that I value that I don’t have the right to, or the right to fight for. The right to self defense doesn’t come from observable facts but by an evolved decision by society, a decision that comes with many caveats.

    Why on earth not? [we we have rights to weapons]

    I think it is evident why not. Many people don’t believe humans have the right to such weapons, so to argue that it is self evident is plainly not true. I think people should have weapons to defend themselves, but I derive that from the evolved process described latterly, not because of some undeniable fact of nature or some projection from the right to defend oneself.

    No, I could not – unless said cows and chickens are members of “human” society,

    When did we introduce the caveat that rights, derived from self evident truths about the animals we are, somehow get restricted to human society only? If cows refrain from killing you are I then they are offering the very reciprocity you demand. So why not? Truth is that we eat cows and chickens because of a evolved moral system that excludes their rights and that has in recent years begun to back away on that decision so that we must, at least, treat them with some respect to their comfort and safety before we kill them (humanely) and eat their bodies or products.

    Again, my argument is not that we don’t have rights, it is that they do not come from some self evident property of nature, but rather are entirely synthetic (to use the wording of one commentator above.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa:
    😆 😆

    “Shut up,” she explained.

    . . .

    Fraser, I think that the substitution of “right” (the adjective) for “rights” (the noun)* clarifies things. Consider the statement to which you raise your objection:

    We have the right to defend ourselves and our property, because of the kind of animals that we are.

    To “unpack”:

    “We are right — that is, not wrong, bad, or evil — to defend ourselves and our property against those who would arrogate them to themselves, because it is our nature as animals to attempt to survive, and ‘based on the nature of human beings and the world in which [we] live’ [to quote Randy Barnett above], our survival sometimes depends upon such defense of ourselves and our property.”

    This phrasing also stresses, I hope, that it is defense as such that is the issue, and defines the group against which or against members of which would arrogate, that is, take over for their own purposes and without our leave, our capacity to survive as human beings (Miss R.’s “Man qua Man), with all that that implies.

    Note that whether one uses James’s statement directly or my “unpacked” version, a woman (or man) is in the right — “has the right” — to defend her- or himself against the predations of others, including those of unbridled carnal lust. (Note also that all of us at times lust after things which are not ours by right, and that most of us, most of the time, manage not to act unjustly to gratify that lust. This is true even where a powerful restraint of some of these lusts is the fear of torture or murder by the mob or the regime, whether it be done by nakedly totalitarian regimes such as that of Leninism-Stalinism or of Shari’ah-following regimes, or even of our own Mob/Outfit/Mafia or of the mobs of the French Terror. Even so, there can be no doubt that there are acts that many people under such regimes would not commit because of Conscience; however trivial such an act might be. Not everyone is Grima Wormtongue, nor yet Beria, in every situation.)

    Although the degree to which a given quality or potential is present in a given person certainly varies, and also varies in a given person in a given situation at a given time, I do not see that the human male is anything like “universally” “driven” by his “human nature” to rapine or even undiscriminating desire (of either females or property). It is also part of our human nature to allow our sense of the world to affect how we act, and to control ourselves at least to some extent with that sense as a mediator of the urges of the Id, not to get all Freudian. This is true even in the worst of societies, such as those based on the most evil extremes of Shari’ah.

    (Let me point out that many plants are able to survive in environments which are inhospitable (up to a certain degree) to the particular species, however stunted, malformed, and weak such a specimen plant may be. So it is with humans: some or even many of us may turn out to be psychologically weak, stunted, damaged or malformed, but some spark of humanness does remain in most of us. We cannot indict human nature as such because a few, or even many, of us behave in many ways as if we had no basic sense of right and wrong in our treatment of others — or of ourselves, for that matter.)

    .

    *Natural “rights”: that which is naturally right.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, October 10, 2017 at 4:33 am:

    Excellent comment, quite so. *applause*

    .

    Except (this is me [sic], after all) one little quibble with your last sentence: I don’t think that either bungee-cords or ultralights or whatever make gravity less self-evident to most people with any intellectual maturity or sophistication. To a five-year-old or, say, a Hottentot (no disrespect) it more probably seems like magic. “Mommy, why doesn’t that lady fall and go ‘Sploosh!’?”

    (Answer: “Because. –Shall we get a hot dog?” 😉 )

  • Alisa

    Obviously I believe in the right to self defense

    What you or I believe is not part of this discussion, Fraser – the discussion is about how the rights we have (or currently believe we should have) evolved, why, and for what purpose.

    Many people don’t believe humans have the right to such weapons, so to argue that it is self evident is plainly not true

    You quoted me only partially, plus added a parenthetical that was not there in the first place. I can only address this if you go back to that part, re-read it and the bit to which I was responding. BTW, the same goes for the cows-and-chickens bit.

    When did we introduce the caveat that rights, derived from self evident truths about the animals we are, somehow get restricted to human society only?

    We never introduced it (although obviously various people have been trying to do so over the years), the reason being that early on human society was only concerned with its own survival. The reason for that, in turn, has been stated earlier: (most) humans are social animals who only thrive as part of human society. Cows and chickens are not part of that society, they are food. Wolves and lions are not part of human society either – they are predators. Humans are the only species in the society of which most other humans thrive, but they can also act as both food (metaphorical or literal) and as predators. Of course that is true for most other species, but humans are the only ones who have been able to create a system under which ‘man eats man’ is no longer acceptable. We were able to evolve into something more useful and more conducive to our thriving as a species.

    Again, my argument is not that we don’t have rights, it is that they do not come from some self evident property of nature,

    I understand your argument, but I am yet to see sufficient support for it.

    but rather are entirely synthetic

    Nothing is “entirely synthetic” in this sense – polyester is made of oil, which is perfectly “natural”. The same goes for human morals, rights, social constructs and laws. Both are man-made – but at no point have I been arguing otherwise.

  • Alisa

    “Shut up,” she explained.

    Works every time, Julie 😀

  • Alisa

    I don’t think that either bungee-cords or ultralights or whatever make gravity less self-evident to most people with any intellectual maturity or sophistication.

    It is not gravity that becomes less self-evident, what does is the strength of the rope/the amount of fuel/the state of repair of the engine, etc. As in ‘gravity is no longer the only factor, and things may indeed become less self-evident’.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Actually (as I think everybody here knows, so just sayin’), the (American) Bill of Rights contains Amendments that seek to protect pre-existent (often called “natural”) rights from the predations of government. The 2A’s “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” is one such. It doesn’t grant the right; it exists to protect that right from any governmental attempt to limit it, and it actually assumes the right(ness) of self-defense, whether that of a group, such as one of the several States, or of a single individual. (Historically, the right of individual self-defense was fraught in England.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Alisa, in that case I can only plead that I lept to a conclusion before attaching my bungee cord. :>(

  • Alisa

    😆 😆 😆

  • Cristina

    Since…good has the nature of an end, and evil, the nature of a contrary, hence it is that all those things to which man has a natural inclination, are naturally apprehended by reason as being good, and consequently as objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance.

    Summa Theologiae, Prima Secundae, 94, 2.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Natural law is the system of universal, practical obligatory judgements of reason, knowable by all men as binding them to do good and avoid evil, and discovered by right reason from the nature of man adequately considered.

    Bernard Wuellner, Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1956), pp. 68 – 69.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————-

    The rights of all men are limited by the end for which the rights were given.

    Celestine N. Bittle, Man and Morals: Ethics (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1950), p. 29.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————–

    For the moral law cannot grant that which is destructive of itself.

    Thomas J. Huggins, Man as Man: The Science and Art of Ethics, rev. ed. (Milwaukee, Bruce, 1958), p. 231.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Interesting quotes, Cristina. Thanks.

  • Cristina

    You are welcome. 🙂

  • Rob Fisher

    JadedLibertarian I agree with almost all you said. But consider the following deal: we’ll harvest your organs once we are sure you will never recover from what looks like a coma but under a general anesthetic just in case. Now I might agree to that, since in practice I’m probably better off dead and why waste good organs, and the general anesthetic means I won’t suffer the torture of having my insides ripped out. That seems like it might be acceptable and practical.

    Lying to me about the procedure and threatening to do it without safeguards I might like will have me opting out.

  • Rob Fisher

    As for rights, I have the right of ownership of my body and everything I make with it, because that seems about right to me and I say so. If you violate what I say is my right, I’ll think you are an asshole. Whether that is of any use in practice depends on who is holding the gun.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Indeed Rob, I proposed something similar in my last post in this thread. It isn’t actually necessary to solve the moral conundrum of organ donation. It is only necessary to come up with a system that ensures that the owners of those organs are happy with the arrangements. For this to work there has to be full disclosure of what exactly organ donation involves, which is currently lacking.

  • Mike walsh

    I disagree. Brain death is more a reaction to new medical technology. The fact that a heart once stopped can be restarted wasn’t proven until the 1940s. Modern support tech can keep the body functioning for a time even after the brain has deteriorated beyond any hope of recovery. This happened parallel with the capability to transplant organs, not because of it.

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