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If rights pertain to humans by nature, could anyone renounce to his liberty, property, become a slave or lose certain rights in some kind of penalty?

What would happen if I accept to be someone's slave but then I don't want to anymore. Being a human, I should be able to be free just because I'm human. Then again, I agreed that I would lose my liberty. Do we respect the contrat or the inherent right in this case?

Or maybe it should be ilegal or not possible to renounce your rights but that would mean you don't have liberty, right?

All in all, what's the Objectivist view on the idea of forfeiting or losing rights?

asked Jun 24 '13 at 19:51

Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

Juan Diego dAnconia

Ayn Rand wrote that "rights are moral principles that define and sanction an individual's freedom of action in a social context." I would say then that since no one can "lose" moral principles no one really loses his rights. But one can expect to be treated as he treats others. If he fails to respect the rights of others, he cannot expect others to respect his. Because that's what's "right."

answered Jun 24 '13 at 20:20

Burke's gravatar image

Burke ♦

edited Jun 24 '13 at 20:25

I hope Ericmaughan43 does not mind me quoting him, but his answer to another question, while unfitting of your example, addresses the essentials of your question. I'll quote him here:

If a person consents to a company using [collected] information [to deliver germane advertisements, offer tailored services, and develop a more intuitive online experience] there is no rights violation. By signing the contract that says the company can do so a person consents to it, and thus there is no rights violation. Remember that rights are not intrinsic--they are principles that arise in a context. Part of that context is that consent can make actions that otherwise are rights violating perfectly fine (it's the difference between sex and rape).

The case is different if the person does not actually consent though, even if there is the appearance of consent through a fraudulently obtained contract. For example some "shrink wrap contracts" can be problematic (these have a little sticker, often hidden, that says "if you open this wrapper then you agree to the terms and conditions"). The problem is that such "contracts" do not always manifest actual agreement by both parties, because the buyer may not have even seen the sticker. This problem was illustrated to me concretely by one law school professor: we were talking about this very problem in class when she said "oh, and by the way, you have all assigned to me all of your rights to all of your intellectual property now owned or later developed." We thought she was crazy. She said "no really, you all agreed to it. We have a contract and everything." We stared at her blankly. She went to the door through which we all had entered and retrieved a piece of paper that had been taped to the door. The paper read "By opening this door and entering this room you hereby agree to the following conditions..." To the extent that companies obtain consent in similar fashion, the consent is not genuine.

However, it is important to distinguish cases like the one in my example (trickery nullifies the supposed consent) from the ubiquitous experience of people simply refusing to read contracts they sign when they have the reasonable opportunity to do so. So, for example, when someone clicks the "I have read X and agree to ...." button when installing software had not been tricked into giving consent, but has decided on their own to be reckless. Here they have consented, albeit blindly, and they should be bound by it.

One thing I want to emphasize in Ericmaughan43's answer above, is his plea to remember that "rights are not intrinsic--they are principles that arise in a context." When the questioner says, "I should be able to be free just because I'm human" (emphasis added), the proper understanding of rights is lost. A serial killer should not be left free to roam the streets and prey on victims simply because he is human. He has left the sphere of social context in which rights exist absolutely. Our right to the pursuit of our own happiness is itself a right made possible only in a context of respect for the rights of others. A serial killer does not share such respect and thus cannot lay claim to those rights. See this question, its comments, and answers for further understanding of contextual rights, as well as the Ayn Rand Lexicon entries on Individual Rights.

answered Jul 04 '13 at 00:33

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

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Asked: Jun 24 '13 at 19:51

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Last updated: Jul 04 '13 at 00:33