Any special interest group seeking to gain political, social or economic advantage in society tend to rely on an argument referring to their own groups’ inherent “rights.” The bourgeoisie violently and persistently defends its “right” to own the means of production. Homosexuals demand the “right” to marry one another. Child pornographers defend their degeneracy as a “right” of freedom of speech. The list goes on, and on.
“Rights,” can be understood as having two principle components, summed up as:
- Entitlements allowed, or permission to do X or Y (free speech rights, property rights, human rights)
- Protections against X or Y (civil rights, rights against illegal search & seizure)
Rights are also subject to sub-categorization, which describe their origins, universality and how they impact/determine relationships between individuals and the state or other community at large or between individuals. These include, “natural rights,” “legal rights,” “moral rights,” “individual rights,” etc.
But properly speaking, the notion of universal, inherent and inalienable “rights” derived from nature or man’s possession of rational agency are extremely problematic. These include the “human rights,” as defined by the United Nations or the United States (which sees itself as the moral arbiter of the world’s population).
Claims to universal or natural rights necessarily depend on a reference to the unknowable, and in themselves are quite arrogant. To declare authoritatively that “human rights” exist is as dubious as claiming that “God exists.” Such claims easily fall victim to doubt when tested empirically. They rely not on our empirical observations of the natural world (which in itself is sub-par and excessively flawed); but instead, resolve to make unknowable, unmeasurable and unverifiable claims about a natural order or system.
Furthermore, “rights” have become a useful political weapon in the hands of the liberal bourgeois elite and imperialism. The prominence and rise of rights in the Western political discourse, particularly of the individual, came about as a result of the rise of the capitalist wage-labor system. Private ownership of the means of production, the cornerstone of the modern capitalist system, was the basis and determining factor for the codification and assumption that said ownership was vested in “rights.” Nowhere else has this so-called “right” assumed a quasi-religious standing than the United States of America. In the US, the right to ownership of private property is assumed as natural, and inalienable.
But despite the repeated and passionate claims of proponents, this cannot be said to be truly “natural.” Instead, it’s merely a right derived from experience and recognized by the bourgeois state.
Similar problem emerge in the realm of “human rights.” The United States, which dominates the United Nations Security Council,” has made “human rights” the grounds for justifying myriad international military actions and punitive measures against countries deemed “hostile” to US (read capitalist) interests. NATO’s criminal campaign against Serbia and President Slobodan Milosevic was framed as a war against so-called human rights abuses. After it was discovered that there were indeed no “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq, the US couched its criminal invasion as a humanitarian effort to “relieve” the Iraqi people of the systemic “human rights abuses” and “tyranny” of the administration of President Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party.
The US, backed by hundreds of imperialist-apologist non-government organizations, used so-called “human rights” to call for an international military invasion of Sudan after perpetuating myths of a so-called “genocide” in the country’s Darfur region.
Thus, it becomes abundantly clear that “rights” have become nothing more than a useful political tool for the most powerful countries (the United States) to impose their will upon others and provide a causus belli for criminal military actions to pursue the most base economic interest.
Rights can thus be assumed to be of intrinsic, not inherent, value. In the end, rights themselves are defined not by nature, but only by the authority of the sovereign state capable of enforcing and dictating them. Liberals’ cynical attitude in the application of rights betrays their self-proclaimed commitment to upholding them.
In conclusion, rights don’t exist. Gays don’t have the “right” to marry one another unless the state defines said rights to exist in a legal fashion. The same can be said for the capitalist and the religious minority. At the international level, rights only exist insofar as there is a sovereign power capable of enforcing them. Unfortunately, the United States has assumed that role, though it’s quickly being eroded by the rise of a new power, the People’s Republic of China. These rights exist to serve US economic and geopolitical interests, but otherwise have little value beyond that.