February 25, 2006

On Liberty, On social rights

John Stuart Mill does not have a very high regard to "social rights", and yes the scare quotes are in the original.
A theory of "social rights," the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language—being nothing short of this—that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever
He is primarily concerned with the "social rights" proposed by the Temperance movement, but they could be any of the "social rights" that always seem to crop up frequently today when seeking to ban anything. He sums up the doctrine of social rights as follows:
The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard.
This is a doctrine obviously followed by many, and probably most, of the totalitarian regimes of the last century (e.g. the Nazi's Master Race, and the New Soviet Man) as well as to a lesser degree the authoritarians of the nanny state.


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