Apparently, some bad philosophers, like Henry Veatch, quoted in Norms of Liberty, hold that for you to have a right to do X means that it is morally right or even obligatory for you to do X.

What an unusual way of defining rights! On the standard definition, for Smith to have a right to do X means that it is other people’s duty not to interfere with Smith’s doing X, if doing X indeed strikes his fancy. It does not mean that it is Smith’s duty to do X!

Veatch is undeterred:

a person’s rights are strictly conditioned upon that individual’s life, liberty, and property being the necessary means of his living wisely and responsibly and of his becoming and being the person that a human being ought to be. …

his natural rights… cannot be said to entitle him so to live in the way he has foolishly and unwisely chosen to do. (67)

Well, here comes the Spanish Inquisition (presumably with Veatch in charge of it) to make us all live “wisely and responsibly.” Outrageous!


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