The Concept of the “Right”


The language of “rights” surrounds us in modern discourse. It is a central aspect of Liberalism and, because of this, is frequently confused in the same way Liberals confuse other language (both intentionally and unintentionally). Unfortunately, many non-Liberals confuse this concept as well, sometimes due to their ardent anti-Liberalism.

  1. Demonstrating the clash between “rights” and neutralism (and other Liberal Language)
  2. Exploring the differences in rights as they are used in disputes between people and as they are used in disputes between people and the government
  3. Illuminating the reality of the illusion that is the alleged difference between “positive” and “negative” rights

The Ontology of a “Right”

The first question with a post like this is to actually examine what a “right” is.

The First Liberal Lie: The Clash Between “Rights” and Neutralism

But we’ve taken a step too far to begin with. Why do we even talk about rights? Where do they come from, originally? Rights, as with all political constructs, are only meaningful in a political context (i.e. where more than one person exists). And a right, as we noted before, is a concrete instance of discriminating authority: it binds everyone beyond the right-holder to obedience.

A Brief Aside: Distinguishing Between Different Kinds of Rights

We have so far been focusing on the usage of rights in personal autonomy with regards to other people. In other words, we have been focusing on the usage of rights to resolve disputes between individuals within a polity. We have demonstrated how Rights in this context demand not only a morally substantive worldview but actually making strong moral claims, directly contradicting the neutralism that drives so much of Liberalism.

The Last Delusion: Negative “versus” Positive Rights

We have demonstrated the complete lack of substance within any claim of “neutralism”. But now, we approach another dogmatic and rather odd claim of some Liberals, especially libertarians: the alleged distinction between “negative” and “positive” rights. I aim to demonstrate that this distinction is entirely illusory, based wholly within disagreements over morality expressed in slippery language.

  1. The idea of “negative” rights, generally to at least Life, Liberty, and Property


I believe I have accomplished my aims in writing this post, and I think I have laid out a compelling case for why the very concept and ontology of rights undermines Liberal neutralism as well as the Liberal distinction between “negative” vs “positive” rights. I may return to this topic in the future, but I believe this is a meaningful start.

Building Post-Liberal Theory. 🌲 🏴‍☠️.