Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Myth of Natural Rights Paperback – June, 1983
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
He begins this short 1983 book by saying, "One of the major political myths of the modern age has been the myth of 'natural rights,' the myth of rights with which human beings are supposedly endowed by nature... The myth of natural rights is an offspring of the related myth of 'natural law.'" (Pg. 1)
He argues that natural rights are "fake" or metaphorical rights, and the same with natural law. (Pg. 2) He contrasts these with "REAL rights," which are those rights "actually conferred and enforced by the laws of a State or the customs of a social group." (Pg. 2) By way of contrast, "natural rights are imaginary rights." (Pg. 3)
He rejects the Kantian notion of a categorical imperative, arguing that if there are no unconditional "musts" or "oughts," there are no "duties" or "moral obligations." To Rollins, "Morality is a device for controlling the gullible with words." More controversially, he suggests, "There are all sorts of reasons why I might refrain from committing murder even when I would like to do it. But murder is not 'wrong.'" (Pg. 8-9)
He also rejects Murray Rothbard's argument (in For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto) for natural rights, asking the question, "Why should one man refrain from violently interfering with the freedom of another man simply because the other man... needs freedom? ... If I can advance my life by violent interference with Murray Rothbard's freedom, why should I care what Murray Rothbard needs?" (Pg. 26-27)
He concludes by dealing with the question of whether the Nazis has a "right" to murder six million Jewish persons. He argues that "if there are no natural rights, then obviously the Nazi regime had no natural right to kill anybody" (even if they technically had a LEGAL right, under Nazi laws). But even given the notion of natural rights, he points out, "What good did (their) natural right to life do them? How many Jewish lives were saved by their natural right to life? The answer, of course, is Zero." (Pg. 40) (Of course, appeal to natural law and a "universal morality" is the basis on which most of us, including the Nuremberg tribunal, condemn the actions of the Nazis...)
No matter if you disagree, Rollins' book is stimulating reading. (And a rejoinder was issued to this book, in the famed sci-fi/conspiratorial writer Robert Anton Wilson's Natural Law or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy.)
Rollins does not flinch before names such as Kant and Rand. He single-mindedly seeks justification for belief in rights granted us by nature or by our humanity. In the process, he entertainingly entertains the arguments of a handful of libertarian and other thinkers, rejecting each as a case of wishful thinking, flawed logic, or plain, unsupported claim-making. Confronted with moral arguments for "natural rights," Rollins, apparently brandishing Ockhams Laser (this is the 20th century), extends his skepticism to morality. Incredibly, unashamedly, he rejects traditional metaethics after he finds it just as lacking as natural rights theories. Common notions of "right' and "wrong" are dismissed along with it. Shocking? Yes. False? Rollins will want to know in what way.
Leave your philosophical preconceptions on your bedside table. Icon-worship this is not. Rollins knocks the caps off the Randian Objectivists early on and never looks back. No moralist, no moral theory is safe by the end of this appropriately black book. Not Utilitarians, not the Categorical Imperative, not your neighbor who says things always turn out for the best.
Rollins' book might be a bit too slim and flip, not to mention unbuttressed by credentials and respectability, to win Best Philosophy Book of the Century. But, what it lacks in pomp and politeness, it repays with interest in honesty, piercing clarity, and, most of all, surprising integrity. Just as surprising, Rollins is probably a libertarian.
If you are interested in political, natural, or human rights, libertarianism, ethics, morality, or why your stolen car stereo hasn't been returned, I dare you to read this book.
David Gordon, normally a pretty decent writer and thinker from the Mises world, has a piece in the Murray Rothbard festschrift 'Man Economy and Liberty' which critiques Rollins' work here. The piece is unbelievably weak and only has one half-way decent critique with the rest of his rebuttals breaking down before even leaving the driveway. James E. Miller also attempts (fails) to rebut some of Rollins' points in a recent piece critiquing Trevor Blake's egoism.
Absolutely recommended. And for realzies I need a copy of the book that has Rollins' other essaies - I cannot find it anywhere!