Re: sentient rights (was RE: Battleground God)

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Fri Feb 22 2002 - 11:37:19 MST

"Damien R. Sullivan" wrote:
> >Thus illustrating the primary divide between extropians and
> >left-transhumans.
> >Rights are not social fictions, they are codified expressions of
> You think the right believes in natural rights, and the left doesn't?
> Look at the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The left believes deeply in
> inherent human rights. Not entirely the same rights as the right (for
> whatever value of 'right' might apply to extropians), but rights.

Well, the left transhumans seem to be far more BORG oriented, and as
such put their fictional rights of society above the rights of

> Conversely, the Culture and MacLeod's Solar Union don't believe in
> inherent rights; they're both materialist to a high degree, and are
> 'left', although not obviously statist. I admit I can't easily think of
> fictional 'right' societies which don't believe in rights yet are
> pleasant to live in. (The Draka and the Chosen meet the first two, but
> aren't pleasant.)

Well, I don't think much of Ian Banks' political intelligence.

> Hmm, maybe that makes sense. If you believe in selfishness as a good,
> you need ingrained rights to balance that and have a decent society. If
> you believe in generosity and helping people as a good, the decent
> society shows up automatically.

Not so. Codifying compulsory generosity and cooperation makes for about
the worst society an individual could experience.

When selfishness is a voluntary good, the golden rule becomes custom
rather than law out of self interest and not because the state has a gun
to your head. This is why a society like the US, which is among the most
selfish in the world, also contributes more to humanitarian causes than
any other, and not just as government expenditures. Private citizens and
groups in the US contributed something like $280 billion to charitable
works in 2000 alone.

Because emphasis of selfishness makes individuals more productive,
individuals are better able to afford charitable giving to causes that
they choose themselves.

This is a point which I tried to make at Extro5 but I'm not sure how
many actually understood it: virtuous behavior is only virtuous when it
is voluntary. Compulsory virtue is nothing but hell on earth.

> I have, though, known 'right' people who didn't believe in rights. Like
> I said, I was one, and was influenced by one.

I do recognise that there is a difference between the existence of
rights and their recognition by people. Objective truth always exists
irrespective of our ability to observe it and understand it. Whether
people draw up a social contract or not is really irrelevant to the
question of the existence of natural rights. Rights exist as a result of
nature, not because some people choose to grant them.

If rights only exist as people recognise them, then fascism and other
forms of totalitarianism are as perfectly acceptable and morally
equivalent forms of government as democracy or republicanism. While
statists of this sort certainly exist on the right as much as the left,
I don't consider their opinion to be anything worth emulating.

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