Sunday, February 18, 2007

What are your rights?

Most libertarians believe people have a certain set of 'natural rights.' Usually these are: life, liberty and property. This set of rights seems somewhat vague to me so, after quite a bit of thinking, I've come up with what I think is a more rigorous set of rights.

For the sake of completeness, I will include the corresponding duty associated with each right.

There are two natural rights and one meta-right:

Right #1: The right of property. Individuals have the right to 'use-and-exclude' their property. They have the right to use their property how they see fit, and they have the right to exclude others from using their property. The corresponding duty is to respect the use and exclusion from other individual's property.

Right #2: The right of contract. Individuals have the right to make mutually binding agreements with other individuals. The corresponding duty is to abide by the agreements you are part of.

Meta-Right: The meta-right is the right of individuals to enforce their other rights by force, and to extract compensation for violations of their rights.

I should expand a little bit on 'property.' First, you can only own well-defined, scarce resources. Second, there are a few 'natural ownerships'; resources that people naturally own. For example, people own their own body. Also, people corporately own fluid resources that they share direct access to. This gives people ownership over resources like the atmosphere they breathe.

I don't pretend that this set of rights are objective or anything; I just assume them. I would love to hear any criticisms of these rights or additions to them.

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