February, 1965

he concept of "rights" is literally devoid of meaning.

On the one hand, they have been interpreted as some unalterable, inviolable properties of being human, or of being a social being.

On the other hand, "rights" have always been subject to violation, alteration, reversal by common agreement of enough people.

an we discover what they really are, if anything?

It may be taken as axiomatic that all actions are possible for an individual. The evidence for this is in the meaning of the words: all actions, except impossible ones, are therefore possible.

It may also be taken as axiomatic that all rules or laws are essentially arbitrary. The evidence for this is in the fact that all rules or laws may be changed.

Putting these together it appears that an individual has the ability to do anything from those things which concern himself to those which concern other people. Such circumscription as may be imposed by the society may introduce unfavorable consequences over which he has no control, but can not change the inherent possibilities of his actions, and are therefore only essentially arbitrary pseudo-limitations from outside the person they are neither basic nor fundamental. I conclude then that a person has the "right'f to do anything he chooses.

Am I arguing for criminality, for immorality? No, for I assert that concomitantly a person has the responsibility to place limitations on his own actions. These can be the only true limitations, coming from within him.

What does such responsibility entail? It includes recognition of the direct consequences of the actions one takes, the effects and results on people and things; inclusion of those direct consequences as determinative factors in his decisions about actions; and willingness to accept those consequences. It may include: recognition of the indirect consequences resulting to a person from the essentially arbitrary rules which may exist concerning the action; and inclusion of those indirect consequences as determinative factors in the decision.

And I suggest further: Laws were made to be broken. If man possessed an infallible jUdgment a superior conscience, we might trust his laws but he has not evolved to this yet, and so our laws and rules should be recognized only as approximate guides to actions, as cumulative human evaluations of actions, manifested however only in the indirect consequences which they specify. Laws can never include all possibilities; they may guide us, but should not enslave us.

There are fundamental laws for human actions perhaps; the Golden Rule may be an approximation. It puts together in the same statement the two principal impulses in man's behavior: selfishness and altruism, apparently opposite, but equated in the rule. It places the evaluation of the direct consequences of one's actions in a light which makes it most possible to make them a determinative factor in one's decisions.

(originally published under the name of John Fitz)