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Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness, but Not Property

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Many libertarians, Objectivists, and other defenders of free-market capitalism think property is on the list with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not. And it shouldn’t be.


Your rights are what it would be wrong for someone to stop you from doing. If you have a right to vote, it would be wrong for someone to stop you from voting.

Even the right to a thing is really just the right to actions—the right to gain, keep, use, and dispose of the thing.

Rights are the opposite of the wrongs delimited by the non-aggression principle. So that statement—“Rights are what it would be wrong for someone to stop you from doing.”—is really an abbreviation. The full form is “Rights are what it would be wrong for someone to initiate the direct or indirect use of physical force to stop you from doing.” I’ll usually just use the short form.

Inborn Rights and Civil Rights

Some rights are inborn, timeless, inalienable. Violating them is morally wrong. The rights cited in the Declaration of Independence are of this sort: “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


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