Telling right lies

September 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

Kristor has a post up about politically correct use of language and why language is one instrument of power in the political arsenal.  We bandy about concepts all the time, but the words we choose to represent those concepts color our thinking.

Take the term “right,” as in “property right”.  Underneath the language we use is a concept, and different words could – and probably should – be used to represent that concept in our speech.  A right is some particular authority: in the case of a property right it discriminates between the trespasser and the owner, granting limited juridical authority to the latter over the former when it comes to use of the property.  In the case of a right to life the right asserts authority over those who would take the life of a particular person.  In the case of a right to speech the right asserts authority over those who would silence the speaker.  In the case of a right to vote the authority asserts that John Voter – and John Voter alone, discriminate from all others – has the authority to add his particular choices to the ballot tallies in a particular voting precinct in a particular election.

In general, then, a synonym for “right” is “discriminating authority”.   Wherever we can correctly use the term “right” we can just as correctly use the term “discriminating authority”.

The reason “discriminating authority” is a better term than “right” though is because the modern liberal weltanshauung attempts to assert rights while at the same time denying the validity of discrimination.  That is, modern users of the term “right” generally attempt to assert the discriminating authority of rights while at the same time denying the validity of discrimination and authority.

More succinctly the term “right” is an enabler of political lying.  It isn’t impossible to use the term correctly, because it does have a real referent.  But the term discriminating authority, while it has the same referent as the term right, is not an enabler of political lying.

§ 5 Responses to Telling right lies

  • Kristor says:

    Interesting. Also embedded in the notion of “right” is the implication that the discriminating authority in question is *just,* is “right-eous.” A right is more than a mere power or capacity. Indeed, the authority of a right derives from the justice of the power relation it denotes.

  • Also embedded in the notion of “right” is the implication that the discriminating authority in question is *just,* is “right-eous.”

    Good point. So a right is a legitimate discriminating authority, and liberalism attempts to assert that rights are legitimate only when they don’t assert discriminating authority.

  • Gian says:

    A right is certainly not mere power or capacity. Based upon the distinction between “quarrel” and “fight” that CS Lewis drew our attention to in the opening chapter of Mere Christianity, I view a Right as a conclusion of an argument.
    Animals fight over territory, humans quarrel over property.

    Thus in a state of laws, one defends or secures one’s property by laws. And against the outlaws, it is the job of the State to secure one’s person and one’s property.
    It is a sign of imperfection in the state of law, that one is obliged to defend oneself and one’s property by arms.
    The use of arms turns one’s position as into a state of war.
    .

  • […] rights” is much more obviously problematic, because a “right” is an exclusive discriminating authority while the “equal” part demands that, in the name of freedom, we don’t […]

  • […] we’ve discussed many times before, what modern people call “rights” are instances of discriminating authority.  A property owner has the authority to eject trespassers without everyone insisting that he has […]

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