Are Rights Natural or Purposeful?

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If you’re someone who believes in property rights, but only understand them as natural, as just a given, then you’re at a fatal disadvantage for understanding the problem of social order.

Rights are not natural. They are purposeful. Understanding them in this way is how you know that might does not in fact make a right. To believe such a thing is completely incompatible with the purpose of rights to begin with.

The main purpose of rights is to avoid conflict over scarce, rivalrous resources and to mitigate disputes over those resources peacefully, ie, through arbitration and law – a means to distinguish between the thief and the stolen from, the aggressor from the aggressed. To say that might makes right, is to set up a legal and ethical order, that has no such distinction, which means your inability to keep your property forfeits your right to restitution. This is antithetical to the purpose of property rights to begin with.

There’s another aspect to property rights that facilitates a conflict free way of initiating claims, ie, the establishment of the burden of proof. To say that rights are natural first and foremost is NOT a rigorous account of rights. We know this because of the sheer amount of disagreement on what the term natural even means. I blame certain aspects of philosophy for driving the motives of advocates of property rights to erroneously establishing a philosophical *origin*.

Where such an origin was not only NOT necessary, but that the establishment of one creates conflict where there need not be. To require an origin is nonsensical.  The only origin for rights is in its purpose.  Requiring a philosophical origin puts the burden of proof on first users/current possessors to justify their claim, rather than putting that burden of proof on the non possessor making the claim.

This is problematic. If you’re a first user/current possessor of a resource, there’s no one there to justify your claim to by virtue of the fact that by being FIRST, there’s no one else there. If a non possessor comes to you and claims that he has been wrongly dispossessed and demands to see proof of ownership, or else you forfeit your right to him, means that ANY non possessor WITHOUT having any proof of prior possession, can take what is yours simply because you lacked evidence outside of the fact that you are the current possessor.

This is why all philosophical appeals, ethical appeals, and even the use of force to get back what belongs to the dispossessed, is the sole burden of the dispossessed.

Property rights are purposeful.  Ethics are derived from property rights.  Law is derived from ethics.  A legal order is that which conforms to law.