- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Nine-Banded Books; 1st edition (September 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 061519298X
- ISBN-13: 978-0615192987
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,072,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays Paperback – September 15, 2008
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Rollins' book made me think, and it is worth reading by anyone else who likes to think. You don't have to agree; just consider. -- Piers Anthony --Ogre's Den: From the Desk of Piers Anthony, February 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The central argument of The Myth of Natural Rights is that the concept of natural rights, as formulated by Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and serving as the foundation of libertarian theory, is a fiction, a religious idea that has zero relevance in the real, secular world. Rollins' monograph is less polemic than carefully researched academic argument, albeit written with a snarky undertone, free of filler (the primary text of The Myth clocks in at less than seventy pages), and absent the panicked defensiveness that characterizes academic writing. In the opening chapters, Rollins draws a distinction between natural rights, which are "fake or metaphorical rights," and "real rights" or "positive rights," describing the latter as "those rights that are actually conferred and enforced by the laws of a State or the customs of a social group." Contrasting the two groups, Rollins reduces natural rights to little more than wishful thinking on the part of libertarians, mocking them as "bleeding heart libertarians" who conjure up bogus rights out of thin air.
My biggest complaint with The Myth is that the bulk of it is focused not on proving the phoniness of natural rights but on making mincemeat of noted libertarians who base their arguments on the theory. To be sure, Rollins accomplishes his goal with aplomb, tearing Rand, Rothbard, Tibor Machan, and others to shreds, exposing the gaping holes, paradoxes, and pretzel-like mutilations of logic in their writings. In particular, his chapter on Rand rips apart her rationalist, atheist facade to reveal a deeply religious, irrational woman, amusingly dubbing her "Mrs. Illogic." By spending most of his time picking fights with other intellectuals instead of making an independent argument, Rollins limits The Myth's effectiveness as a standalone work. Nonetheless, for those who are looking for an airtight reason to disavow mainstream libertarianism once and for all, or those who're looking for a book on ideology that is unlike anything else out there, The Myth of Natural Rights is a text you should read ASAP.
The middle third of the book is a trio of essays on Holocaust revisionism which displays Rollins' penchant for misanthropic iconoclasm. (DISCLAIMER FOR THE SLOW: While I support the rights of Holocaust revisionists and deniers to speak their minds, I am not a revisionist or denier myself.) In "The Holocaust as Sacred Cow," he lays into "Holocaustorians" who perpetuate falsehoods about the Holocaust and who refuse to debate the subject, comparing them to religious fanatics. The second essay, "Revising Holocaust Revisionism," is by far the most interesting of the bunch, because in it Rollins turns his guns on revisionists for pushing falsehoods and lies, accusing them of having hidden agendas beyond "set[ting] the record straight." At the end of the paper, he declares himself to be "skeptical of both sides," stating that "[n]either side in the Holocaust controversy claims a monopoly on falsehood." The final essay, "Deifying Dogma," is the most boring, as it's nothing more than a point-by-point refutation of the anti-revisionist tract Denying History by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, who made the fatal error of smearing Rollins in its pages.
The remainder of The Myth is devoted to L.A. Rollins' satirical writings. "Lucifer's Lexicon: An Updated Abridgment" is a Samuel Johnson-esque collection of witty, laugh-out-loud definitions (ex: "Blowjob, n. A nice job, if you can get it.") that deserve to be re-published on their own. On the other hand, "An Open Letter to Allah" is simply awful, tenth-rate anti-religious invective delivered in the voice of a Rand-drunk teenager who keeps a copy of The God Delusion under his pillow. "An Ode to Emperor Bush" is a moderately entertaining bit of doggerel, but it lacks the spark that makes "Lucifer's Lexicon" such a wicked read. The book would have been improved if both of these diversions had been taken out.
Aside from its few flaws, The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays is a great read, a well-crafted collection of works by a sadly-forgotten writer. Whether you're interested in shibboleth-skewering essays or satirical shots at sacred cows, you ought to pick this one up.
On a whole, Rollins's book is great. I'm a 20-year libertarian, and it really made me think, and helped me determine why I always had nagging doubts and a sense of unease with the whole natural rights thing that seems to be such a cornerstone of the libertarians' and conservatives' ideologies. I won't go on in much detail, but suffice to say that this book is thought provoking and makes one think about how maleable and relative (yes, relative--sorry to say...to the shock and disgust of the conservatives) the concept of "rights" or "values" or "good v. bad" is. I guess if you're a religious nut, the concept of natural rights will resonate more with you. Otherwise, it just comes down to whomever yells the loudest and most vehemently that "That's wrong!" or "Hey, that's immoral!"
----Murder is not wrong, Murder is not immoral. And the same goes for rape, robbery, assault, torturing children etc." Words from L A Rollins' book on the Myth of Natural Rights. These statements represent pure nihilistic trash.
For someone to seriously hold these opinions shows that the individual is perverse or potentially sociopathic.
Nihilism as L A Rollins expresess it is a posture that no one can afford to adopt in practical life. To maintain as he does that no cognitive criteria can be brought to bear on ethical issues and that it is merely a question of feeling or subjectivity seems to impose a tremendous strain on credulity. Is the ethical principle "Fathers should not torture their children" without any merit? If no ethical distinctions are allowed, social life would be impossible. We do make ethical judgments and we criticize monsters, violent criminals and tyrants and we also praise humanitarians and do-gooders with substantial justification. Rollins' ethical nihilism or amoral egoism is infantile and his persistent denial that there are any moral truths flouts the considerable body of ethical knowledge that is a product of the wisdom of the human race.