Tag Archives: liberty

Negative and Positive Rights

Good afternoon! I came across one of your posts and thought you would be the perfect help. I come to ask for some insight on the basics of what positive and negative freedoms/liberties/rights are and which amendments/articles in the Bill of Rights and UDHR represent the positives and negatives. Thank you for even reading this and thank you in advance if you can help me out!

Right, a number of terms have been thrown out in general so we need to make sure we dealing with each of them correctly.

The positive and negative most simply breaks down into a “to …” and a “from …”. So a positive freedom is one where you have a freedom to (be able to do X) and a negative freedom is one where you have a freedom from (the state or others doing Y that would affect you). This can be further understood as a positive creating an obligation of action in some regard, and a negative creating an obligation of inaction in some regard.

Then there are three further things thrown out: rights, freedoms, and liberties. Before going further it’s necessary to point out that I’m speaking to these ideas in respect to how I understand them to have developed within ‘Western’ political philosophical discourse. It must be recognised that while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights universalises this mode of thinking in many ways, it does so at the same time as also universalising an approach which has developed from African and Asian political cultures, which can be seen through the inclusion of the concept of an inherent human dignity from the very outset. My knowledge on this aspect if the UDHR is much weaker so I’m not claiming to speak to that.

Rights discourse developed from the idea of natural rights, exemplified in Locke’s Two Treatises on Civil Government and were codified in the US Declaration of Independence and the amendments in the constitution which constitute the Bill of Rights, and similarly in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. They’d seen earlier stages of recognition such as in the Magna Carta, but it wasn’t until the late 18th century that they really took root as something people fought and died for across Europe and the Americas. Initially rights were recognised as something endowed by God or a Creator. They are inherent to all human beings (initially just men …) and it is treated as such that each person is retains their rights regardless of whether or not they know of them, they have been breached, they live in a state which does not recognise them, and so on. While rights discourse has largely been secularised (the necessity of a God or omnipotent being has declined) the same recognition of function (that rights are inherent and inalienable) remains. Nominally, rights are those which have been codified in constitutions, legal documents, international conventions however the language within which they exist is phrased in such a way to recognise that if those documents did not exist the rights would continue to do so.

Freedom is the ability to make choices and exert agency based upon one’s own choices without coercion. Liberty is the recognition that this happens within the confines of a political/social grouping, such as a state with its judicial system, where your actions affect others. I don’t know a great deal about positive and negative liberties, but positive and negative rights I have a much better grip on, so I’ll go into more depth on those.

Negative rights therefore compel the state to not do something to you, without compelling you or the state towards a specific action. Freedom of speech, conscience, or religion is a perfect example. You do not have to say something, think something, or believe something. But if you choose to do so the state is compelled not to intervene. Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights states “Congress shall make no law respecting …”.

I would’ve said the other rights in the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) are phrased as negative rights, with the exceptions of 6 and 7 – the right by which the state is compelled to provide a speedy trial, and a trial by jury. They give you the right to something which must be provided for you.

With regards to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a similar approach can be applied looking at each article to assess the framing used as to whether or not they’d apply as negative or positive. So Articles 4 and 5, freedom from slavery and torture, are clearly negative rights. Article 25 is clearly a positive right:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

However, in 1993 the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was passed which states that “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.” This recognises that you cannot have one human right without the other. You can’t pick and choose which rights are applicable: if you prefer only the negative rights, they cannot be fully appreciated, enjoyed, or exercised without also involving the positive rights.

There are also arguments that the separation of negative and positive rights is a false separation that exists only within the framing of the document as opposed to something inherent to the nature of the right itself, which is an approach that I prefer. You cannot have freedom from censorship without the freedom to say what you want. It is the unsaid that at the same time must also be true.

That’s without getting into why I reject human rights as natural or universal. I think they’re a tool within the current society, but not something that exist as an abstract.

Hope that helps?

Abstraction, the tool of enlightenment, treats its objects as did fate, the notion of which it rejects: it liquidates them. Under the leveling domination of abstraction (which makes everything in nature repeatable), and of industry (for which abstraction ordains repetition), the freedom themselves finally came to form that “herd” which Hegel has declared to be the result of the Enlightenment.

Dialectic of Enlightenment – Adorno & Horkheimer

But because the unique self never wholly disappeared, even after the liberalistic epoch, the Enlightenment has always sympathised with the social impulse. The unity of the manipulated collective consists in the negation of each individual: for individuality makes a mockery of the kind of society which would turn all individuals to the one collectivity. The horde which so assuredly appears in the organisation of the Hitler Youth is not a return to barbarism but the triumph of repressive equality, the disclosure through peers of the parity of the right to injustice. The phony Fascist mythology is shown to be the genuine myth of antiquity, insofar as the genuine one saw retribution, whereas the false one blindly doles it out to the sacrifices. Every attempt to break the natural thralldom, because nature is broken, enters all the more deeply into that natural enslavement. Hence the course of European civilisation.

Dialectic of Enlightenment – Adorno & Horkheimer

Enlightenment dissolves the injustice of the old inequality – unmediated lordship and mastery – but at the same time perpetuates it in universal mediation, in the relation of any one existent to any other. It does what Kierkegaard praises his Protestant ethic for, and what in the Heraclean epic cycle is one of the primal images of mythic power; it excises the incommensurable. Not only are qualities dissolved in thought, but men are brought to actual conformity. The blessing that the market does not enquire after one’s birth is paid for by the barterer, in that he models the potentialities that are his by birth on the production of the commodities that can be bought in the market. Men were given their individuality as unique in each case, different to all others, so that it might all the more surely be made the same as any other.

Dialectic of Enlightenment – Adorno & Horkheimer

The principle of immanence, the explanation of every event as repetition, that the Enlightenment upholds against mythic imagination, is the principle of myth itself. That arid wisdom that holds there is nothing new under the sun, because all the pieces in the meaningless game have been played, and all the great thoughts have already been thought, and because all possible discoveries can be construed in advance and all men are decided on adaptation as the means of self-preservation – that dry sagacity merely reproduces the fantastic wisdom that it supposedly rejects: the sanction of fate that in retribution relentlessly remakes what has already been. What was different is equalised. That is the verdict which critically determines the limits of possible experience. The identity of everything with everything else is paid for in that nothing may at the same time be identical with itself.

Dialectic of Enlightenment – Adorno & Horkheimer

The doctrine of the equivalence of action and reaction asserted the power of repetition over reality, long after men had renounced the illusion that by repetition they could identify themselves with the repeated reality and thus escape its power. But as the magical illusion fades away, the more relentlessly in the name of law repetition imprisons man in the cycle – that cycle whose objectification in the form of natural law he imagines will ensure his action as a free subject.

Dialectic of Enlightenment – Adorno & Horkheimer

This has to be a troll blog. This is so ridiculous it’s almost genius. Keep channelling Dada.


I love shooting down the radical Christians I know on the Israel issue with some very simple arguments and pictures.

My first argument is that Israel is actually more properly titled IsraHell.

Me: Jewish people worship Yahweh right?

Christian: Yes

Me: Not David?

Christian: Yes

Me: So why isn’t a Menorah on the Israeli flag instead of a ‘star of david’?

Christian: Um?

Me: Is it a star of david on the Israeli flag?

Christian: Yes

Me: Or is it a pentagram?

Christian: What? You’re Crazy!

Me: Oh am I?

Israeli Flag

Looks a lot like a pentagram to me!

The Jewish flag should have a Menorah on it, not a pentagram!




My brother surprised me with this Anarcho-capitalist flag for our house! What more would two AnCap brothers need hanging on their wall? Since one was impossible to find he had this one made! So stoked!

Going to hang it next to our framed Rothbard portraits. More pictures to come.



How sweet.



I am, within the confines of reason, elated to announce to you that Libertarianism: A Novel has finally been completed and may be found at the above link. This long-awaited aesthetic treatise on the philosophy of FREEDOM and LIBERTY, with a special introduction by none other than Ludwig von Mises, should serve to clarify the various misgivings of those who would seek to castigate individual self-determination and the glory of the free market. Consider this as a warning: to approach this text as anything other than a TRUE INDIVIDUAL one must be willing to risk all of one’s systems and values. The truth is not political, it is just correct.

Special thanks to Sam Stein for cover design/layout, and to Evelyn Pappas for putting me in touch with Ludwig von Mises.

Sharing of the text is encouraged and indeed almost obligatory, though not without the proper adjustments to allow for perpetuation of the free markets whose praises every word contained herein can be said to sing.


Capitalism is the enemy of individual freedom.



from one of my favorite blogs:


Capitalists often cite individual freedom as a positive attribute of their system. Why is it that a system that produces mindless and bland conformity (as we all know from our experience of life) gets to pose as the champion of the individual? 

It’s down to some basic fallacies. The capitalist says “you can go out and be whatever you want, do whatever you want, follow your dreams, work hard to achieve them!” etc. What they actually mean, however, is that you can go out and earn money however you want. Of course, we all do want money, because under capitalism, we’ll starve without it. So this supposed ideology of the individual begins with everyone wanting exactly the same thing. 

This ‘freedom of the individual’ then boils down to choosing between the jobs available to that individual, or starting their own business, or starving. Hardly anyone is lucky enough to have a job that no one else does. That choice generally leads to conformity, doing exactly the same thing as many other people, every day, in the same place, with the daily humiliation of having to pretend that this is what you actually wanted.

Some ‘lucky’ workers will be able to follow a ‘career path’ in which this mapped out, preordained, conformist work lasts continuously until they are old, with the financial remuneration slowly but steadily increasing over the decades.

Or, you can start your own business, and ‘compete’ in the marketplace. This is the capitalists favourite choice, the one that really seems to sell the ‘individual freedom’ line. The problem is that competition implies conformity. You can only ‘win’ if you are all playing the same game. There’s a tiny amount of people who have had a genuinely unique business idea, but the rest are all doing exactly the same thing as their competitors, but they are trying to do it slightly better, or cheaper, or faster.

Despite the capitalist rhetoric of ‘risk taking’ that option is really only available to the rich, for whom it’s not a real risk at all. The small businessman, given a choice between conforming to market norms and the possibility of homelessness, almost always chooses conformity. So, that’s a dead end for individualism too.

None of the choices that capitalism offers the individual avoid conformity. For all their lies about freedom and liberty and individualism they produce a robotic and lifeless society, which in Emma Goldman’s words;“condemns millions of people to be mere nonentities, living corpses without originality or power of initiative”

Capitalism is the ideology of the uniform, the time card, the name tag and the stop clock. It’s the ideology of boredom. It is standardised, predictable and dull. It is the enemy of creativity, free expression and self determination. For all its bullshit about liberty, capitalism is the mortal enemy of individual freedom.

I’ll just leave this here

Not that I believe in the existence of “individual freedom” at all, this is a nice thought piece about the contradictions of capitalist rhetoric.