Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Positive rights are positively wrong

OLS hero and George Mason University economist Walter Williams had a great article in Capitalism Magazine about a week ago.  It deals with the distinction between the concepts "positive rights" and "negative rights".  This is a hugely important issue and much too complex for deep discussion in a web post.  Nevertheless, Williams, as always, brings understanding within range:
One of the oldest notions in the history of mankind is that some people are to give orders and others are to obey. The powerful elite believe that they have wisdom superior to the masses and that they’ve been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Their agenda calls for an attack on the free market and what it implies — voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people acting voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they should do. Therefore, free markets are replaced with economic planning and regulation that is nothing less than the forcible superseding of other people’s plans by the powerful elite.

Because Americans still retain a large measure of liberty, tyrants must mask their agenda. At the university level, some professors give tyranny an intellectual quality by preaching that negative freedom is not enough. There must be positive liberty or freedoms. This idea is widespread in academia, but its most recent incarnation was a discussion by Wake Forest University professor David Coates in a Huffington Post article, titled “Negative Freedom or Positive Freedom: Time to Choose?” (11/13/2013). Let’s examine negative versus positive freedom.
 In the rest of the article, Williams explains how accepting positive freedom/positive rights is morally equivalent to endorsing slavery, and how negative rights are the only true rights available to mankind.  Great article.