Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rights and the outcomes when exercised

A right is any action an individual can take. In the wild, an individual has the complete freedom to take any action he pleases.  He can move, speak, throw a stone, burn down the forest, kill deer for dinner, or anything else that can be imagined.

While there are no restraints to an action an individual can take in the wild, there are consequences to each and every action.  The individual can speak all day long and it is doubtful anything will happen to him.  Unless of course, he either scares the animals away he is trying to kill for food or attracts a lion that is looking for dinner.  With this restraint, of course, he could just speak at certain times.      

But, there are other actions that could place him in direct harm.  If he decides to burn down the forest, it has the possibility of destroying the habitat that provides him with shelter and firewood.  If he doesn’t act responsibly and pollutes the water he needs to drink, he will become ill or die.  If he decides he doesn’t want to eat deer meat because of a religious belief; a decision to not act, which is still an act; he could starve to death.

These are rudimentary examples of the actions an individual can take in nature and some of the consequences that may follow.  But, they make clear a couple of things.  First, of all the actions an individual can perform, some have greater negative consequences than others.  Some have outcomes with little impact on the individual’s life.  In fact, some may actually help him learn and deal with the difficulties of life.  Talking to himself after something goes wrong may help the individual learn from the experience.  Others have a much greater impact on the individual’s life and the world around him.  The actions may cause him great harm or even kill him.

When all rights are valued the same, the possible outcomes of the exercise of those rights are not being considered.  Rights need to be ranked according to the possible outcomes, positive or negative.  In the wild, the individual can still act anyway he pleases, but the individual must consider if some acts will be to his benefit or detriment.  Those that are to the individual’s benefit, he may want to do as often as possible.  Those that are to his detriment, he may want to exercise self-restraint.

Second, there isn’t a clear division between rights with good and bad outcomes.  There is an inequity scale of rights.  Even those that have a greater possibility of good can have negative consequences.  When the individual considers the costs and benefits of an action, it may be clear that the chance for a positive outcome is so great, that the risk of a bad outcome is well worth taking the action.  Other actions may have just the opposite conclusions.  It may be that the risk of a bad outcome is so much greater than any benefit derived, the individual may decide not to take the action.  In most situations the line between good and bad outcomes is not a clear dark line but a gradation from good to bad, or a scale of inequity.

In the wild, or in an environment without a community agreement (social contract) the individual does have complete freedom to exercise any right he wishes.  The natural restraint he has is the negative outcomes that will impact him and his environment.