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Articles

A Free-Market Constitution for Hong Kong: A Blueprint for China [PDF], by Alvin Rabushka, Cato Journal, 1989
Discusses the draft of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, expected to be promulgated in 1990 (actually adopted 4 April 1990 and went into effect 1 July 1997), as a "free-market constitution"
"Chapter III of the draft Basic Law enumerates fundamental rights and duties of the residents: equality before the law; the right to vote; freedom of speech, association, assembly, and trade unions; the prohibition of unlawful search and seizure; freedom and privacy of communications; freedom of movement; freedom of occupation; freedom of academic research; the right to legal counsel; and so forth."
America Is No More, by Paul Craig Roberts, 19 Sep 2007
Comments on the lack of concern for constitutional rights under George W. Bush, as evidenced by the tasering of a student at a speech by John Kerry
"Usually when police violate constitutional rights and commit acts of police brutality they do it when they believe no one is watching, not in front of a large audience. Clearly, the police have become more audacious in their abuse of rights and citizens. What explains the new fearlessness of police to violate rights and brutalize citizens without cause?"
Animal Rights Absurdity, by Scott McPherson, 22 Oct 2003
Benjamin Tucker's Liberty, by Carl Watner, Reason, Apr 1979
Examines several of the themes discussed by Tucker in Liberty, e.g., anarchism, natural rights, monopoly, and how his views changed throughout the years
"In the process, Tucker became a convert to Max Stimer's variety of egoism. ... In later years, Tucker exemplified his new position by questioning the supporters of natural rights. '... These two rights—the right of might and the right of contract—are the only rights that ever have been or ever can be. So- called moral rights have no existence.' Thus Tucker concluded that rights begin only with convention. They are not liberties that exist naturally but liberties that are created by mutual guarantee. So he no longer defended property as a natural right but declared that property is a social convention."
NewBook Review: Individuals And Their Rights by Tibor R. Machan, by David M. Brown, The Freeman, Jun 1990
Review of Tibor Machan's 1989 book Individuals and Their Rights
"Rights are a kind of moral claim, based on the objective requirements of life in a social context, although they have been treated by many writers, including Thomas Jefferson, as a kind of endowment. By contrast, Machan defines rights as 'social conditions that ought to be maintained, moral principles pertaining to aspects of social life.' He favorably quotes Ayn Rand’s statement that rights are 'conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival.'"
Democracy Versus Freedom, by Jarret B. Wollstein, Future of Freedom, Jan 2006
"... it is essential to distinguish between electoral and substantive rights. ... Electoral rights give you some say in who governs. They do not guarantee that elected officials will respect your freedom. Substantive rights are the ability to control your own life and property. They are the core elements of freedom."
E.R.A.: A Red Herring at Best, by Charles Curley, 1981
A rebuttal to an Association of Libertarian Feminists discussion paper in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment
"The Equal Rights Amendment carries with it a subtle and dangerous error. Rights are not given in legislation; not even in changes to the Constitution. Libertarians differ on where they do come from but on one point at least libertarians are agreed; rights are not granted by the rulers."
Related Topic: Law
First Freedom, by Tom Palmer, Reason, Jun 1993
Review of Liberty and Nature: An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl
"Exactly why do individuals have rights? The latest to submit a detailed answer are Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl ... This flourishing of individuals as moral beings necessarily requires for each and every one of them that they enjoy self-directedness ... And in order for each and every one to enjoy self-directedness, they must enjoy a protected sphere of autonomy. This sphere is delimited by the concept and institution of rights, which create 'a sphere of freedom' and 'moral territory.'"
Related Topics: Aristotle, Property Rights
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
"He affirmed the natural rights philosophy, the most powerful intellectual defense of liberty which ... had virtually vanished from the English-speaking world. ... 'On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property already exist that men make laws. . . . Each of us certainly gets from Nature, from God, the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property, since they are the three elements constituting or sustaining life, elements which are mutually complementary and which cannot be understood without one another. ...'"
Herbert Spencer: Liberty and Unlimited Human Progress, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Apr 1995
Lengthy biographical profile, highlighting Social Statics and his acquaintance with Andrew Carnegie
"He presented an inspiring moral and practical case for individual rights which he called 'equal freedom.' Everyone should be free to do what he wishes, Spencer insisted, as long as he doesn't infringe on somebody else's equal freedom. Accordingly, he advocated abolishing all trade restrictions, taxpayer church subsidies, overseas colonies, medical licensing, legal tender laws, central banks, government schooling, government welfare, government postal monopolies, and so-called 'public works.'"
Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short, by Sheldon Richman, 2 Jul 2014
Dissects the good and bad parts of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
"A group of politicians cannot legitimately have the power to compel one group of people—employers, taxpayers, or insurers—to pay for things that another group wants. That's immoral, and it violates inalienable rights. ... By what right does someone resort to the aggressive power of government to obtain something he or she cannot or does not want to pay for?"
In Defense of a Free Market in Health Care, by Robert D. Helmholdt, 16 Apr 2004
Explains why government health care reforms will not improve the status quo, recommending instead complete deregulation of the industry and reliance on the free market
"Superimposed on all this mess is the pervasive unhealthy belief in our society that one may by right get something for nothing. But it makes no more sense to claim a right to health than to claim a right to wisdom or courage. However, in an age when people are clamorous about 'rights' without responsibility, they don't want to be told that health is primarily their duty and responsibility. They always forget that one person's government care is another person's shackles in taxes!"
In Pursuit of Liberty, by Jarret B. Wollstein, May 1997
Primer on liberty concepts, including voluntary vs. coercive associations, individual rights, government and possible future improvements in the status quo
"Individual rights is the recognition by others that voluntary association is fundamental and you should be free to live your life in peace. Your rights include: - freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly - freedom of association - the right to defend yourself (including the right to own the means of self-defense, such as guns) - the right to keep what you earn - freedom of enterprise and the right to own property."
Let the Immigrants Stay, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Jul 2014
Discusses the plight of Central American children migrating to the U.S. who face deportation by the Obama administraition
"Our rights can be expressed in many ways, but they boil down to just one: the right to be free of aggression. We have this right not by virtue of being American, but by virtue of being human. It is a natural, not national, right, so these young Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans have it too. Locking them up and deporting them should offend Americans, who claim to believe in the natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Liberty Defined, by Floyd A. 'Baldy' Harper, 4 Sep 1957
Speech to the Mont Pelerin Society; Harper first offers his definition of liberty, then explores "adulterated" definitions, its relation to morals, moral law and basic humans rights, ending with his hope for the cause of liberty
"Basic among human rights would seem to be the right to life itself. ... The right to life as an assumption is evidenced by the way people act. ... If one has the right to life, he then has the right to sustain his life with his own time and means, so long as in so doing he does not infringe on the same right of others. If one has the right to thus sustain his life, he then has the right to have whatever he is able to produce with his own time and means."
Lysander Spooner, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Oct 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from Spooner's birth to 1850-1860, examining his writings on economics, money, banking, mail delivery and slavery
"Natural-rights or natural-law theory, as espoused by Spooner, is based on the idea that justice and just laws are inherent in nature — in the nature of man and of reality. Thus, rights can be discovered and they can be codified through documents such as the Constitution. Rights cannot be created by man or by human agencies such as government. Rather they emerge through reason and in the process of resolving social conflicts."
Related Topics: Banking, Lysander Spooner
On Equality and Inequality, by Ludwig von Mises, Modern Age, 1961
Examines the premise that "all men are created equal" and some possible as well as purported conclusions
"The doctrine of natural law that inspired the eighteenth century declarations of the rights of man did not imply the obviously fallacious proposition that all men are biologically equal. It proclaimed that all men are born equal in rights and that this equality cannot be abrogated by any man-made law, that it is inalienable or, more precisely, imprescriptible. Only the deadly foes of individual liberty ... interpreted the principle of equality before the law as derived from an alleged psychical and physiological equality of all men."
On Liberty & License, by H. Joachim Maitre, Reason, Dec 1976
Discusses commentary by supposedly "conservative libertarians" on Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia and worries about "the amoralism of some of the libertarian movement"
"Radical libertarian thinkers, in rejecting the authority of both State and Church, in not conceding to either the 'right' to grant rights, are left with the task of defining both the origin and justification of rights considered by them basic and inviolable—in particular the 'right to life' and, derived from it, the 'right to property.' They find it relatively easy to refute, as either amoral or technocratic, the notion that 'rights are granted by governments, which also enforce them.' But they have not succeeded so far ... in convincing the intellectual public of the allegedly sacrosanct nature of the individual's rights."
On the Origin and Character of Rights, by William Blackstone, The Freeman, Mar 1981
Selection extracted from Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. I
"By the absolute rights of individuals we mean those which are so in their primary and strictest sense; such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it ... For the principal aim of society is to protect in the enjoyment of those absolute rights ..."
On the Origins of the Modern Libertarian Legal Movement [PDF], by Roger Pilon, Chapman Law Review, 2013
Historical survey of libertarian influences on constitutional and other areas of law, from the mid-1970s to recent decisions
"After all, I thought, wasn't the nation founded in the name of rights—natural rights, which conservatives dismissed as no business for the courts? And wasn't it the duty of the courts, in the name of such rights, to protect individuals against majoritarian tyranny? Still, I paused, because the conservative critique and those questions were arising in the context of ... an intellectual climate that called for greater protection for 'social and economic rights'—welfare rights—both at home and abroad, which hardly seemed consistent with the Framers' plan for limited government."
Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?, by Patrick Henry, 5 Jun 1788
Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention; criticises several clauses of the proposed Constitution and warns about the possibility of a U.S. President becoming even worse than a king
"Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government? Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered? Our Bill of Rights [Virginia Declaration of Rights] declares that 'a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.'"
The Critical Dilemma Facing Pro-War Libertarians, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 14 Feb 2007
Discusses the contradictions faced by U.S. libertarians and conservatives who endorsed or encouraged imperial and interventionist foreign policies
"If a government has the power to arbitrarily take anyone into custody and torture and kill him, how can the citizenry in that society truly be considered free? Even if there is freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the freedom to vote, and even the freedom to own guns, all such freedoms are meaningless if the government has the power to arrest, torture, and execute anyone it wants."
The Drug War's Immorality and Abject Failure, by Anthony Gregory, Future of Freedom, Jul 2006
Discusses how drug use differs from criminal, property-rights violations, the justifications for the drug war and the many areas where it has had detrimental effects on society: inner cities, rule of law, foreign relations, etc.
"What many might not realize, having not been exposed to libertarian ethics, is the nature of the distinction — drug use, in and of itself, is a victimless act, whereas murder, like rape, kidnapping, assault, theft, and trespassing, is a rights violation. People have a right to life, liberty, and property, and to pursue happiness within the limits emerging from other people's equal rights to life, liberty, and property. If not for this, theft would not be a crime."
The Ferguson Distraction, by Sheldon Richman, 4 Dec 2014
Argues that the lack of an indictment on the death of Michael Brown distracts us from the more important "racist police brutality that ravages America"
"The ultimate cause of this problem is that the police are the domestic armed troops of America's rulers — falsely called 'representatives' — and the rest of us are the ruled. They know it, and we are increasingly coming to know it. Most of the 'laws' they enforce against us violate our natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The chasm between rulers and ruled exists everywhere in the country, but it exists on a spectrum from the barely noticeable to the extreme."
The Liberty Manifesto, by P.J. O'Rourke, Jul 1993
Remarks at May 6 dinner celebrating Cato Institute new headquarters
"[Freedom is] not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the 'right' to education, the 'right' to health care, the 'right' to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle. There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."
The Rhetoric of the Environmental Movement, by Ronald Hamowy, Mises Daily, 26 May 2006
"Rights so conceived do not require that others be forced to act in specific ways if I am to exercise my rights but only that they refrain from intervening in certain areas without my consent. Thus, my right to life does not entail that others are obligated to do everything within their power to keep me alive but only that they cannot kill me."
The Rights of the Colonists: The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting, by Samuel Adams, 20 Nov 1772
Hanover College History Department, Hanover Historical Texts Project
"Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature."
What Crisis?, by Scott McPherson, 18 Sep 2006
"... the root of the problem is a total breakdown in our society of any understanding of the concept of individual rights ... Were it otherwise, patients and health-care workers alike would stop making spurious arguments about their alleged rights and accept responsibility for their lifestyle choices — whether it's a patient who needs to find a new pharmacist or an ambulance driver who should find a new line of work."
Related Topic: Health Care
What the Immigration Bill Overlooks, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Jul 2013
Discusses the 2013 immigration reform bill approved by the Senate and how it disregards basic human rights
"First, by nature all individuals — not just Americans — have rights. Specifically, they have a natural right to engage in any peaceful activity, that is, any conduct that does not aggress against other people. Among those rights, therefore, is the right to travel and settle anywhere, so long as no one else's rights are violated. ... Third, the free-enterprise system ... necessarily includes the freedom of business owners to hire whoever is willing to work for them. "

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Fellow Patriots, they keep chipping away at our rights!, by Chuck Asay, 6 Jul 2006
Government Politicians, Who Never Ever Lie, by Ted Rall, 22 Jul 2006
Rights, by Clay Bennett, The Christian Science Monitor, 2006

Books

A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State
    by David Kelley, Cato Institute, 1998
Contents: The End of Welfare As We Know It? - What Is a Welfare Right? - The Emergence of Welfare Rights - Economic Freedom and Economic Risk - Welfare and Benevolence - Community and Contract - Conclusion
Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality
    by Thomas Sowell, 1984
Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty
    by James Bovard, 1994
Putting Humans First: Why We Are Nature's Favorite
    by Tibor R. Machan, 2004

Videos

Schools of Thought in Classical Liberalism, Part 5: Natural Rights, by Nigel Ashford, 9 May 2012
Short video, with transcript; discusses the answers to the question "What is the proper role of government?" from the viewpoint of Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick
"Both [Rand and Nozick took] the so-called natural rights approach. So they believed that natural rights is the correct approach to deciding political questions. America has a strong tradition of natural rights going back to the American founding. ... So ... they believe in a minimal state solely designed to protect us. So the state should provide a military to defend us. It should provide a police to defend us against criminals. It should provide a court to avoid conflict between people. And that is it. There's no justification for any form of government beyond that, such as a welfare state."
Related Topics: Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand