Love of personal liberty demands respect for the same capacity in another.

Freedom is the progeny of selfishness. The individual selfishly protects those things which, through his labors, have becomes his own. And chief among these objects is his soul. Man jealously guards his own freedom, taking offense even at the perception of another’s lack of respect for his sovereignty. And no wonder the individual bristles at another’s intrusion into his private affairs, for it is freedom that delivers men from the circumspection of his brethren. It is freedom that makes man sovereign and renders his judgment the sole font of legitimate authority in his life. Any application of force—the coercive attempt of one man to yoke another to his judgments—not only abrogates freedom but the sovereignty that is the provenance of that freedom as well.

But though freedom sets man free from the influence of others, it does not subjugate others to his influence. Freedom gives man the requisite sovereignty to pursue his own ends but not the authority to impose those ends on others.

Rights are reflexive. If a man loves some freedom that gives him the capacity to pursue a self-selected end, selfish desire dictates he respect the same capacity in all his fellow men. To do otherwise would cut against his own interests.

If man uses the certainty of his convictions as a cudgel to force others into accepting his way of thinking, he establishes a precedent that erodes his own sovereignty. If he can exercise such force over others, his own autonomy is eroded. For he has undercut the autonomy of others, and given the opportunity, they may use the same reasoning to credibly command him.

Thus, it is selfish interest in one’s own sovereignty that demands respect for the rights held by other men.

Rights are reflexive: any capacity of the self which the individual holds in high personal regard must be regarded in others, even if that capacity is put to uses the individual finds distasteful.

All content protected by copyright. The Politics of Discretion, 2016.