– vs. What Ifs and Mights
like freedom is one of those terms that
means different things to different people. Often, mutually contradictory
things. Perhaps the simplest way to identify a right is to
ask whether its exercise causes a provable harm to
harm a theoretical someone. (Or much worse
I dont like that
and therefore you
shouldnt be allowed to do that).
harm to an actual person.
If such exists
as a result of your actions, then your actions were wrong
because you violated someones rights.
if your actions have caused no harm you have every right
to expect to be left free to proceed. And to be left in peace.
the objection pops up: Wont problems arise if people are left
free to act as they please? Wont people abuse the freedom
to act or act stupidly?
people will. But that should not become the pretext for abusing
the rights of others who have caused no harm.
is bad. Pre-guilt even worse.
taking away everyones rights ever prevented those inevitable
some people from behaving irresponsibly or stupidly?
At any time in any place? This is the question. And
the answer obviously is: No. Because there
will always be irresponsible, stupid even evil people
in any society, under any form of government.
A moments reflection will confirm the truth of this. Irresponsibility,
stupidity evil, even cannot be lawed out
they are. Not on the basis of actual harm done, either. But on the
basis of what if?
In the absence
of speed limits, for example, there will be people who drive
beyond their ability to control the car. Some will inevitably
wreck. Others innocents will be harmed in the process.
This is tragic. But erecting speed limits doesnt prevent
or even significantly reduce such occurrences. What it does
do is take away everyones rights before anyones
rights have actually been violated. It cements the concept of prior
restraint into both law and the public consciousness such
that it becomes acceptable to limit everyones freedom because
of the possibility that someone might act irresponsibly, or stupidly.
In short order everyone finds their freedom of action preemptively
fenced in, their lives under the control of others whose
judgment is by no means superior, but who do possess superior force.
Force thats applied in ever-increasing doses in a never-ending
quest to get a handle on irresponsibility and stupidity by
assuming everyone is irresponsible and stupid and treating them
as such even when theyre not.
This is how
rights real ones are put to sleep. On the basis of
and someone might.
the rest of the article
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automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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