John Singleton with Bob Howard, Rip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 216-19, under the heading “Rights”.
Just about everyone accepts the basic concept of individual or human rights. The main difficulty lies in determining just exactly what the concept means. We all have rights. What, then, are they?
Many different rights are often mentioned — the rights to life, freedom, property, equal opportunity, free education, free contraception, a decent wage, adequate healthcare, the pursuit of happiness, and so on. Are all of these valid, or only some of them? If only some, which ones and why?1
There are two essential points to be considered in sorting out those that can be truly said to be rights. Those that are not rights are either privileges or permits.
- Rights are held equally by all individual people and can only be held by individual people. They are not granted to people — people have rights simply because they are people.
- This implies that no person or group of people can violate the rights of any other person or group of people, for if they do, not all people hold rights equally. It further follows that, as each individual person has rights, each person is free to dispose of his or her rights as he or she thinks fit.
These two statements have enormous implications, and give clear cut means for determining what can be claimed as rights and what can’t. They also determine what governments can and cannot do. Perhaps the most important point of all is that rights cannot morally be violated — not at any time, in any way or by any person or group of persons. Private individuals can voluntarily delegate their rights, and/or forfeit them, however.
If all people have rights, because they are people, and those rights cannot be violated, then government don’t grant them, but can only recognise and protect them (that, after all, is supposed to be the primary function of governments), and by so doing, governments obviously can’t violate them. When a government undertakes to provide services or goods to people (for example, “free” contraception, “free” education, “adequate” healthcare, “equal” opportunity) what they are actually doing is granting privileges or permits to one section of the population at the expense of another. Who pays for the education, contraceptives, and health care? Who loses opportunities so that others may be given them? All people are supposed to have equal rights, but if some have their property expropriated to provide privileges for others, then the government is guilty of violating rights. Obviously, our governments do this all the time.
Thus, it is an inescapable fact that in Australia today nobody has any rights at all. What freedom we do have we have, not by right, but by government permission. The only time our rights are recognised is when a government does not have the constitutional power to commit any act that violates them. When the government does have such power, then we are completely at its mercy — just as, if a hold-up man was holding us at the point of a gun, we could only hope that he wouldn’t shoot us. Constitutions are intended to disarm governments and prevent them from acting as hold-up men. However, there hasn’t been a constitution written yet that hasn’t contained flaws that have allowed unscrupulous people to use it as an instrument of coercion.
What is taxation if it’s not theft; conscription if it’s not slavery; government schooling if it is not kidnapping or slavery; war if it is not mass murder; economic regulation if it is not coercion; fractional reserve banking if it is not fraud; and devaluation if it is not a refusal to pay debts? It cannot be claimed that the “wider rights of society” take precedence, or that “the public good” or “national interest” are more important.
Societies consist of collections of individuals. Societies are not separate entities with their own rights. Only individuals have rights, not societies. Nor can it be claimed that we have delegated our rights to the government. We (the authors) certainly didn’t delegate ours, and furthermore, we can’t recall having been asked.
Anyway, even if we did delegate our rights, could it be said that one group of us delegated to the government a “right” to loot another group to give us a privilege? There can be no such thing as a right to education, free or otherwise, or a right to healthcare, or contraception. It would make just as much sense to say we all have a right to a new Mercedes or a triple storey mansion. If we have a right to healthcare, that makes doctors slaves, because if they refused us healthcare they could be accused of violating our rights. If they have to give us this healthcare, why should we bother paying them? Hold-up men don’t pay their victims to stand with their hand up while they rob them — they don’t have to. And if no one pays doctors, how do doctors survive?
The only possible answer would be the socialist one — the State pays them. This puts doctors at the mercy of two sets of masters — the patients and the State. Then it must be asked — where does the State get its money from? Taxation, which is the forcible expropriation of wealth from those who rightfully own it. The same arguments apply to all government services. To say that people have a “right” to them is vicious garbage. They don’t. And to say they do is just a nice emotional rationalisation to cover up straight out thuggery.
The only rights we have are those that do apply equally: the rights to life, freedom and property, for example. (Equal[it]y, in this sense, means that for example, we all have an equal right to own property. It does not mean we all have a right to own equal amounts of property.) None of these rights are recognised by the State. Taxation robs people of part of their life, for in the time that they are forced to work to earn the money to pay taxes, they are slaves. One aspect of the right to freedom is the freedom to voluntary trade, and that obviously doesn’t exist. (It is conspicuously absent from both the Liberal and National Country Party platforms too, a feat which requires for its rationalisation a great deal of mental gymnastics.) The right to property is constantly violated by such things as taxation, land resumption, economic regulation, and so on, ad nauseum.
None of these rights can be construed to mean more than freedom of action either. The right to life does not mean that someone else should be forced to provide us with food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities. That would be obviously inconsistent, because it would violate the right of freedom, and rights must be held equally. The right to free speech does not mean that newspaper proprietors should be forced to provide us with pen, paper, and newspaper space; or that television network owners should provide us with time. The right to property does not mean that someone else should be forced to provide us with it.
What these rights do mean is that we should be free to try to acquire them, through our own effort and with the voluntary co-operation of others. Nobody has the right, as some are claiming now, to an “adequate living wage”. The factor that is always forgotten in these claims is: where does the money come from? In practice, such claims mean that “we demand that other people be forced to support us”.
Where people do delegate their rights are in such things as voluntary euthanasia (suicide, incidentally, is simply a person exercising his right of ownership of his/her life — every person has the moral right to take their own life, but only if they have no contractual obligations left to fulfil), the appointment of agents to carry out certain tasks, and through all manner of voluntary contractual arrangements. A sadist-masochist sexual relationship, for example, does not involve any violation of rights if all partners consent to it.
People forfeit their rights only when they violate those of others. We can’t violate rights and then turn around and insist that our own be respected (see Crime; Justice). By our action of violating rights we indicate that we do not respect them. It would be gross hypocrisy to then insist that our own were respected — after, that is, it has been established that we were guilty of the violation of the rights in question.
The issue of rights is a crucially important one, and, currently, an incredibly confused one. If we could firmly establish the principle of rights in our society, we would have the necessary rules for resolving most, if not all, social conflicts. Needless to say, that’s something we could all desperately use right now.
- For a serious philosophical discussion of the concept of rights, see: Nathaniel Branden, “Ethical Egoism: A Reply to Professor Emmons,” The Personalist, Spring, 1970, pp. 196-311; and “Ethical Egoism — Continued,” The Personalist, Summer, 1970, pp. 305-313. Tibor Machan, “A Note on Emmons’ Random Observations,” The Personalist, Winter, 1971, pp. 96-106; and Human Rights and and Human Liberties, Nelson-Hall, Chicago, Ill., 1975. Eric Mack, “How to Derive Ethical Egoism,” The Personalist, Fall, 1971, pp. 735-743. ↩
- Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
- Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
- Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
- Singo and Howard on Compromise
- Singo and Howard on Monopolies
- Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
- Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
- Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
- Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
- Singo and Howard on Drugs!
- Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
- Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
- Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
- Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
- Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
- John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard on Aborigines
- Singo and Howard on Conservatism
- Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
- Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
- John Singleton changes his name
- Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
- New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
- Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
- Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
- Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
- Singo and Howard on Rights
- Singo and Howard on Crime
- Singo and Howard on Justice
- Singo and Howard on Unemployment
- John Singleton on 1972's Cigarette Legislation
- Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
- Workers Party Platform
- Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
- Singo and Howard on Business
- Singo and Howard on Discrimination
- Singo and Howard on the Greens
- Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
- Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
- Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
- Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
- Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
- Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
- The last words of Charles Russell
- Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
- Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
- Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
- Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
- "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
- Introducing the new Workers' Party
- Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
- Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
- Voices of frustration
- Policies of Workers Party
- Party Promises to Abolish Tax
- AAA Tow Truck Co.
- Singo and Howard on Context
- Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
- Singo and Howard on Apathy
- Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
- Singo and Howard on Decency
- John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
- A Farewell to Armchair Critics
- Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
- Bludgers need not apply
- New party formed "to slash controls"
- The Workers Party
- Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
- The great consumer protection trick
- The "Workers" speak out
- How the whores pretend to be nuns
- The Workers Party is a Political Party
- Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
- My Journey to Anarchy:
From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
- Singo and Howard on Young People
- Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
- Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
- Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
- Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
- Singo and Howard on Consistency
- Workers Party is born as foe of government
- Political branch formed
- Government seen by new party as evil
- Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
- Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
- Singo and Howard on Licences
- Singo and Howard on Gun Control
- Singo and Howard on Human Nature
- Singo and Howard on Voting
- Singo and Howard on
- Singo and Howard on Education
- Singo and Howard on Qualifications
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
- Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
- A happy story about Aborigines
- John Singleton on Political Advertising
- Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
- Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
- How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
- The Discipline of Necessity
- John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
- Libertarians: Radicals on the right
- The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
- Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
- Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
- Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
- The impossible dream
- Why can't I get away with it?
- The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
- Time for progress
- The loonie right implodes
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
- Censorship should be banned
- "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
- John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
- Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
- Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
- John Singleton defends ockerism
- Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
- The Census Con
- Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
- Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
- Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
- John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
- King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
- Save Parramatta Road
- 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Singo and Howard on Unions
- Singo and Howard Smash the State
- Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
- Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
- A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
- Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
- Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
- John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
- Thoughts on Land Ownership
- 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
- The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
- Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
- The mouse will roar