Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rights or Commodities?

In most of Western Civilization, there is confusion about what constitutes a 'Right'. Many times, what some people call their rights, are merely commodities, or privileges provided by a social collective. Let's analyze what makes something a 'right', vs a commodity.

A right is something inherent.. it is part of your nature as a human being, & is something you own, either by birth, or from working. Here are some of the elements of a Right:

1. A right is something you have, as an individual.
2. Someone can take or violate your rights, but you can also defend them.
3. Your Rights are not dependent on the involvement or labor of another.

During the Enlightenment, Natural Rights were defined as life, liberty, & property. Here are some examples of Rights, that belong to every human:

1. The Right to Life. You are born a free human, & have the right to live.
2. The Right to expression. You have the right to speak your opinion, & express yourself.
3. The right to belief. You can believe in whatever ideology you wish, & live whatever worldview you choose.
4. The right to property. You have the right to use, keep, & dispose of your property, that you have worked for, as you see fit.
5. The right of Liberty. You can choose your way in life, & make decisions regarding your future, your property, & your beliefs.

There are limits with individual rights, when they affect the rights of others. So any individual rights are always mitigated by the rights of others.. there are no universal rights. They are always interdependent with other people's rights. For example, your right to free speech ends at yelling 'fire!' in a crowded theater, or inciting riots, or slander.  And, as always, power is always the final arbiter of any human disputes, & individual rights will require this power to secure them.

Now, let's look at Commodities, & see how they differ from Rights. At the very core, there is little difference between a commodity & a privilege, & the distinction could be binary, just between rights & commodities. I have included 'privileges' as a subset of Commodities, as they are something provided by a collective social system, for the benefits of the citizens.

1. A commodity is something that another person creates, that is used as an exchange for other commodities.
2. A commodity must be worked for, by someone, to exist.
3. A commodity can be bought & sold, & is usually something tangible.

Here are some examples of commodities:
1. Food.
2. Clothing.
3. Housing.
4. Utilities.
5. Transportation.
6. Consumer goods.
7. Employment.
8. Health care.
9. Justice.
10. Protection.
11. Infrastructure.

All of these things require the labor of someone, to create them. None are inherent to anyone, but require the intelligent labor of another. SOME of these things can be provided as privileges, to a collective, if the collective wishes & can afford it. Items like Justice, Protection, & Infrastructure are commonly provided privileges by the collective social process. Any of these things COULD be provided by the collective, as a privilege to the citizens, but the cost & consequences should be weighed carefully, to see if it is a wise or viable action for the society to make. But none of these are inherent rights, as they require the active, intelligent labor of another to create them.

One of the problems in an affluent society, is the blurring between Rights & Commodities. Some people begin to believe that certain commodities are owed them, as an inherent right. They begin to believe that the world 'owes them a living', but this is usually an adolescent fantasy, that they outgrow. The problem really begins when this adolescent fantasy becomes a mainstream political belief, & is institutionalized. Instead of outgrowing the fantasy, they become entrenched in entitlement, & believe that they are owed all the commodities of life. But this is a skewed & distorted view of life. Usually, Reality educates people & they become aware of the need to work & earn their own commodities of life, & not consider them an entitled right. But some institutions & human circles become entrenched in entitlement, & begin to believe that all commodities are rights. You see this most commonly in areas where there is abundance, & a disconnect between the needs of survival & human labor. When affluence & easy money flows in a culture, many of the citizens lose the perspective that someone has to work to provide these things. Life comes easy for them, & they think it is that way for everyone. They live in a disconnected fantasy world, away from the struggle for survival that most humans have had, for all of human history.