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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16595/happy-mother-earth-day-citizen/

Happy Mother Earth Day, Citizen!

April 22, 2011 by

Did you even know it’s International Mother Earth Day today, citizen? Socialist despot Evo Morales and his buddies at the United Nations sure do. You see, in April 2009, they passed a unanimous resolution to celebrate this important event every year.



Freedom Fighter April 22, 2011 at 8:42 am

“Morales and the Bolivian government will table a draft UN treaty recognizing and enunciating the rights of the Earth”
Hey, that’s not fair.How come the earth gets to have rights but not us humans ?

sweatervest April 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

Because humans are evil and disgusting and the Earth is beautiful and magnificent (no, that’s not according to a human, silly, that’s a fact!)

See, the Earth was this wonderful paradise with all sorts of bio-diverse creatures dancing around in a rainbow singing about how awesome and great everything on the Earth is. Then humans came along, invented war, conflict, and badness, and everything went to shit.

We should all be ashamed of ourselves (and forget the irony of supposed evil and terrible man realizing his own evilness in an act that is a complete exception to the supposed evil nature of man!)

Paul Stephens April 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Because corporations have rights above and beyond humans.
I must say, as a Green Libertarian, that this is a very disappointing article, and even more disappointing responses.

I think we already knew that Ayn Rand wasn’t an environmentalist, or an advocate for indigenous peoples. Apparently, she defended the proposition that “might makes right” and any historical conquests and slavery should be recognized by present states and legal systems. Therefore, she obviously wasn’t “green” or a libertarian, either. In fact, she was a Zionist-authoritarian who should never be mentioned in these pages except critically, Am I right?
Or does the fact that she defended her own version of “laissez-faire capitalism” make her “one of us”, since virtually no serious thinkers defend her oligarchic “gangster capitalism”, even when they do defend capitalism and free markets in other ways.

I often find myself defending Rand on hostile sites and commentaries, pointing out that she had only a (Marxist) undergraduate education, wasn’t an academic philosopher, elected to office, or otherwise recognized in any public way. In fact, she was a successful novelist and playright, who claimed to have “invented” a philosophy which is a hodge-podge of many 19th century anarchist, egoist, Romantik views and concepts. She wrote fiction and newspaper columns, and attracted a large cult following. One might well expect Rupert Murdoch to owe a huge debt to her, and to the character of Gail Wynand.

I don’t think the Mises Institute considers itself one of her major fans and supporters, although many of us tried to befriend and support her when she was alive. She is an institution – a cult leader much like L. Ron Hubbard. So, hook your wagon to her star at your own peril – or buy her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – that’s the proper honor and respect for her.

Here’s the Pacifica take on this : http://democracynow.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=7c55dbbfa32e541749065a92a&id=d543978c9e&e=024dcb41de

Matthew Swaringen April 24, 2011 at 12:16 am

I get that you don’t like the Rand references in the article, but what has that got to do with the point that nature can’t have rights? Are you intending to imply you think nature can have rights?

Joe April 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Paul, what is your problem with Ayn Rand? You seem to have a real problem. “I think we already knew that Ayn Rand wasn’t an environmentalist.” What in the hell is a Green Libertarian? Sounds like you need to take a bath.
As for Ayn Rand, she believed in capitalism. If you know anything about capitalism you would know that it is very environment friendly and helps all those indigenous people. Would you rather we go back before the industrial revolution and how see how wonderful Mother Earth was? Do you think all the indigenous people were loving the earth? In England prior to the industrial revolution the mortality rate for children under 5 years old was over 70%. After the IR the mortality rate for the same group had fallen to 31.8%. These are numbers you can live by. So let us get all the indigenous people to quit chopping all the trees down for fuel and killing all of your endangered species. The only thing that is endangered is humans if we don’t understand what Ayn Rand had to say about capitalism.

Vanmind May 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Yeah, Rand wasn’t an environmentalist — but Hitler sure was.

Enjoy Every Sandwich April 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

When does Father Christmas get his rights?

Allen Weingarten April 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

“Enjoy Every Sandwich” but does that sandwich have the right to be eaten, or to become moldy?

Joe April 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I always thought it was Mother Earth and Father Time? They had a baby called Macduff who was “untimely ripped.” No, it wasn’t a six-pack.

J. Murray April 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

I’d ask to see the ballot that Mother Earth cast to prove she voted for the government to be her representative.

El Tonno April 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

Where are my Ewoks?

Gil April 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

On the moon of Endor.

ih April 22, 2011 at 10:10 am

Dear Uncle Mars and Aunt Venus,

You will be happy to know that Mother Earth finally has rights.And that means you are next in line.
For Billions of years Mother Earth has not had her rights recognized,and so through a process of evolution ,she gave birth to the human race,and from that human race she evolved certain beings so superior in intellect,wisdom and flatulence that they could actually represent her and speak for her.And now they are here to serve Justice.

Have your rights been violated? Oh for dam sure.Do you ,or any of the other planets,have access to clean water and air ?No? What a travesty!Our superior beings will represent you as well,and our retarded cousin Pluto,whose very rights were demoted when she was not regarded as a Planet anymore.A violation of planetary egalitarianism. Equal status for equal orbits .Those racist bastards who did this to her will pay for this.

And to those planets in the rest of the Milky way and the Andromeda galaxy,you too will have rights.Our superior beings will not rest until the capitalism that plagues our universe is done with.

Inferior human

Drigan April 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

lol, very nice!

Jason Towsley April 27, 2011 at 8:14 am

Don’t forget “atmospheric re-distribution”. I mean it doesn’t seem fair that the Earth should hog all the clean air. After all, it is less than 1% of the solar system and it uses 100% of the clean air. A travesty! By the way, dibs on being Mars’ representative.

Wandering Cynic April 22, 2011 at 10:15 am

“You see, complaints will be voiced, not by the Earth itself, but by its human “representatives,” consisting of environmental-activist groups and governments.”

Someone explain to me how this is any less of a fraud than some hairpiece wearing televangelist claiming that God talks to him and says that God said you should mail him everything in your bank account post haste.

At least the televangelist is just trying to make a quick buck and doesn’t want to genocide 95% of the earth’s population while driving the world into a second and permanent dark age.

sweatervest April 22, 2011 at 10:33 am

One of the best articles I have ever read here!

William April 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

I second that.

Michael Orlowski April 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

It’s scary that something like this is going on…

Deefburger April 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

This is a very good article on rights. It is also a very good illustration of the quest for power. What is not done too well is the exposure of the bent form of mysticism surrounding Earth and Human existence on it, and the relationship between the bent version and the power grab that point of view represents.

I will explain. The Earth is a living thing. This is true. Yes, it is composed mostly of inanimate matter, but it is also nearly completely covered with the basis of animate matter, water, which is the source of animation. Show me a waterless place, and I will show you a place incapable of producing animate life. Show me a place with water and material for it wo animate, and I will show you a place that may produce animate life.

We are the pinacle of the formation of animate life on Earth. We are, as Human Beings, the ultimate form of animate life on the Earth. Without her, we face possible destruction ourselves. It is not for the Earth that there exists a moral imperative to preserve her, it is our own right to self preservation that the Earth provides a means that best suits the environment in which we evolved. It does us no good to have a right to property if that property cannot sustain us.

What is bent in the mystisism of giving the Earth a specific right over us is that this natural condition does NOT require a guardian! The condition of our mutual dependence upon the sustained conditions that support our survival as Human Beings is a given! Even as libertarians, we must recognize our dependance on the unique conditions present on our home, the conditions that our DNA evolved within and our own basic design is best suited to. It is not a stretch of imagination or science to realize the importance to our future of the Earth itself.

That said, it is also our domain. WE are the creatures of this world that have the responcability of her care, all of us, equally. We exersize our own natural rights when we take control and exersize our dominion over the properties we as individuals acquire. It is our own natural rights in this that are being threatened.

What was missed in this article, is that the power grab is the creation of positive rights on behalf of the “Earth” which has no need. It is the positive right to the first use of force against other Humans that is the threat. It is not the environmentalist intents of saving and preserving our mother, it is the right to first use of force against us by a few individuals that is unnatural.

We will, in the end, find that we must take care of our property. But to have a few people somewhere far away from our property taking dominion over our individual responsibility over our individual domains is not an action in favor of the Earth, but is instead a removal of the natural responsibility we must all posses if we the People of the Earth are to keep her safe.

A more rational view is to allow all People to maintain their own dominion over their own portion of the Earth that sustains us. We must allow the natural law to act as it has for millenia, and as it does between our natural selves. Property rights are just such a manifestation of the natural rights we already posses. God gave us this Earth and these rights, and it is not the domain of a few People but rather the domain of all People. When that dominion is removed from the People in general, and given the use of force to only a few, then positive rights are unnaturaly attained by those few, and the war is lost before the first battle takes place. The creation of positive rights in Human experience is to deny the natural rights of all others at the same time.

The proper place of Human Beings is here on Earth. The proper relationship between Human Beings is an equal form of dominion over our own space. The creation of positive rights for any means or ends is the corruption of the nature of our being, here on our natural home, Mother Earth.

Power raise by the means of positive rights is unnatural and antithetical to the intents and purposes of natural law. This article rightly opposes this grab for power, but mis-characterizes the important points used to justify the power. It is not the intents to preserve the Earth that are wrong, but the positive rights means that are employed to do it that are wrong and unnatural.

Centralization of the powers of dominion over the Earth is an abomination of the nature and natural laws of the Earth itself, and will, as all positive rights do, come up against the Earth itself and her natural laws and fail. No Human Being in some far flung place can know the trouble the Earth is having right here in MY back yard, or yours. You and I are much more connected to her and much more capable of responding to her needs if we are left to our natural rights to own and control our own pieces of her precious surface.

Daniel April 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

Part of understanding is understanding the thought process that goes on in an environmentalist’s head.

To that end, I have a video that properly conveys said thought process (no, it’s not that 10:10 video)
NB: fowl language

Ohhh Henry April 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm

This is another example, like so-called intellectual property, of government elites inventing out of thin air a completely new, non-existent type of property. Having declared the existence of this imaginary property, they announce their ownership of it (or stewardship to use their term) and demand that the public trade their real property in exchange for the right to infringe or trespass on the government-controlled, non-existent property.

It is an entirely logical process. If one is human then one has the innate urge to acquire the most physical comfort that one can. If one holds a certain amount of power then it will be very tempting to use that power to acquire from other, relatively powerless people the things which give comfort. “It beats working”, as they say. But an overtly violent action is likely to provoke a violent response, therefore diminishing the chances of being able to acquire and enjoy other people’s property. A more safe way of acquiring other people’s property with a minimum expenditure of effort or violence is to defraud them, by pretending to trade for other people’s real property by giving them either something of no value or something which one does not own.

The overall strategy used against the public is a kind of one-two punch, a.k.a. the iron fist in the velvet glove. The public’s natural skepticism at being ripped off in this way is addressed at one level with (bogus) reasoning (“Mother Earth must be paid if you wish to live”), and on another level with either overt or implied threats (“or else”). Using their control of the media and schools they will use the “reasoned” approach at first, until enough people have been brainwashed into believing and regurgitating the party line. When a sufficiently large zombie army has been recruited then the tactics can be switched to violence, in the form of legislation against energy usage, detergents, light bulbs, and so on.

DW April 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I’m starting to really like Ben O’neil’s work. This one, in particular, completely obliterates the insanity of current environmentalism. Bravo!

And people why I refuse to vote on every election

JKS April 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

“…rights can only apply to beings that are capable of understanding and applying moral principles.”
So politicians are out?

Deefburger April 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

@Ohhh HenryPrecisely. It is this assumption of a positive right over others, and the acquiescence of the populous to such an assumption that leads to the acquiring of power. Enforcement is always a prerequisite of positive rights. These rights are not right at all, and are in fact the antithesis of rights.I maintain that the importance of maintaining the structure of life on Earth is mandatory to our continued survival on this Earth. But this is not to be used as an excuse for the implementation of centralized positive rights over other Human Beings. All Human Beings have this responsibility to preserve the property within our individual domains. We should not give up that natural right to any centralized form of it. It is ours to have, and ours to hold, and ours to bear the responsibility thereof, and not the dominion of a few or a reason for the creation of centralized dominion over all other People.Natural law works it’s own balance. I was watching my cat and the neighbor’s cat “balancing” the natural rights to the property they hold in their respective dominions as they saw it. Naturally, with a little tit-for-tat and a bit of tooth and claw, found the limits of their property. They discovered their own balance of power and it lay right there at the fence that separates my property from my neighbor’s property. They did reach this balance by submitting to any central authority. They found this balance through the exercise of their own natural tendencies which are governed by the natural law. They do not know the natural law, but they also cannot escape it or it’s natural conclusions. Both cats wish to survive and to do so with a minimum amount of threat. The balance between their equal natural rights formed naturally at the boundaries of their domains.Peace eventually descended upon the conflict between the cats. All creatures on this Earth compete and resolve territorial differences by the natural laws, naturally. Human Beings are the only ones who can see the laws and recognize limits that these laws represent and resolve conflicts between equal natural rights without the use of tooth and claw. But we are the products of a world of tooth and claw, and we have a tendency to defer the right of tooth and claw to others over us. We do not need to do this any more. We have outgrown and out evolved the need. We are intelligent enough to decide for ourselves how to act, and how to live, without submission to a power greater than ourselves in theory, but the same as ourselves in actuality. A central authority, unless peopled by gods and angels, will still be peopled by Human Beings with no more sense or purpose than our selves.In our past, we thought such higher powers existed and could be assigned to mortal men. Today, we are too evolved to allow such mistakes in reasoning to persist. Yet, here we have another example of some people thinking they have a better understanding and a greater purpose than other people in the same world with the same rights and the same means. Those who buy into this type of thought are relinquishing their own rights and responsibility in this world and are by their own actions reducing themselves from Humans with natural dominion over their part of the world, to animals with Human Masters. It’s a disgraceful misuse of Human existence and a recipe for the subjugation of humans by humans.God the creator gave us all this world to care for. It is against his will for us to give this responsibility up to a few people only and to raise them above ourselves as our sovereigns. It breaks the first commandment. It breaks the second to raise the Earth itself as sovereign over us as well. It breaks the third to be that sovereign person with the positive right over other people to control their existence.We are not cattle or chattel. We are the masters of our own destinies, even if we choose to divorce ourselves from the responsibility of it. We damn ourselves in the here-and-now when we raise a power in another human being and hold them up between ourselves and our natural creator. When we do this to ourselves, we distance ourselves from the very foundation of our being.

Dave April 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Forgive me for not making it all the way through this post. While Morales may be a bit loony, the excessive snark here is uncalled for.

Many of us are Environmentalists *and* Economists (with significant Austrian leanings), and despite the battiness and futility of many of the proposals out there to help the earth, there are very few of us who don’t share some of the environmental movement’s goals.

I think it is very important in these discussions to separate goals from means: The Leftist, environmental goals are often quite laudable. I don’t like breathing crappy air. I do like recreating in wild open spaces, and on the drive home through endless sprawling suburban neon, my heart is not much lifted, despite the magnificent demonstration of capitalism in action. I don’t thrill at the extinction of thousands of species, and I don’t like being bathed in government subsidized chemicals on a daily basis.

These are not outrageous or radical concerns for a human being.

The fact that the environmentalists go about addressing these concerns in foolish and counterproductive ways does not mean that the concerns themselves are wrong- it means that environmentalists need to learn more about economics.

Your post here does absolutely nothing to facilitate such an advance in dialogue. The snotty condescension only makes your “arguments” seem weak and callow. Economics is a magnificent study, and it can consume a lifetime. But it is not the only thing in life. We build wealth so that we can get more out of life, and living in a vibrant, clean environment allows us to do just that. Economics for economics’s sake is a descending cesspool, disconnected from the joys of healthy and natural living (if that term doesn’t offend you too much).

It is by integrating economic discipline with the other components of life that gives the study its real value – not as an ends in and of itself.

Please feel free to criticize – and correct – foolish policies implemented by people who don’t yet know any better. But please leave your ego trip at the door the next time you have nothing more to offer than rudeness, condescension, and snark.

Perry April 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I differ with you and would describe his comments as amusing, but truthful. If you read the entire post you would see that he didn’t denigrate being environmentally minded, but only the brand of environmentalism that uses government to mash the human race into subservient slaves.

Dave April 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm


Well, I got as far as his list, which seemed to be where the editorializing turned into satirical reporting. At that point I was put off enough that I had no interest in slogging through the rest.

Interestingly, this is a problem many environmentalists have: their lead-ins are so confrontational and offensive, that people are happy to ignore the rest of their message. You have to take your audience into perspective when you write something like this, and if you turn them off, that’s your problem, not theirs.

Of course if you’re just preaching to the choir, throwing gasoline on a fire, then it doesn’t really matter. But I expect a little more from Mises, and they have met my standards in the past. I don’t think the Austrian school is intuitive enough in the broader public mind to assume its advocates can dispense with the art of persuasion. It may be “correct” and “obvious” once you’ve understood it, but that doesn’t make any difference. Why just write an article for those who already agree with you to pat themselves on the back with? That’s what I meant by an “ego trip.”

Anyway, I’m glad you liked it, and you’re obviously not alone, but I still find what I read to be ugly and distasteful, and, no, I still am not moved to read the rest. D

Daniel April 23, 2011 at 2:00 am

Will you finish it? Pretty please?

My powers of persuasion aren’t very good. I know :(

nate-m April 23, 2011 at 2:20 am

While Morales may be a bit loony, the excessive snark here is uncalled for.

Morales isn’t loony: HE IS A CRIMINAL. He is using loonies to gain power.

Please feel free to criticize – and correct – foolish policies implemented by people who don’t yet know any better. But please leave your ego trip at the door the next time you have nothing more to offer than rudeness, condescension, and snark.

Very few people have any issue with trying to keep a healthy ecosystem.

The problem is when people lie, bullshit, and deceive. They are corrupt and are using ‘mother earth’ concept and gullible fools as a vehicle to implement their political agenda. It’s a blatant and transparent power grab with no true motivation for protecting the environment.

In other words: They are full of shit about protecting the environment. THEY DON’T CARE. Mother Earth is not a entity to them.. it’s a excuse to seize power and profit from out and out corruption. They are trying to create a political environment were they are in power and that is ALL THIS IS ABOUT. I know this, the author of the article knows this, the UN folks know this, the politicians in the USA government, the leaders of the international (so-called) environmentalist groups know this. know this… the only people that don’t realize this are ones that are so naive, ignorant, and/or so blinded by self-righteousness that they cannot see through the paper thin facade. It’s a flaming pile of lies and bullshit wrapped in a paper bag and stamped ‘Protect The Earth’.

It’s not a question of whether or not these rules are needed to protect the environment. The question is how the hell can we level enough vicious ridicule and derision at these UN asshats that their lies and deceit can be laid bare for everyone to see.


The whole international environmentalist movement has been hijacked by criminals, corrupt politicians, hucksters, and gangsters.

TokyoTom April 24, 2011 at 5:20 am

Well said, Dave. I’ve been saying pretty much the same thing about shallow and unproductive criticisms of enviros here over the past five years.


nate-m April 24, 2011 at 5:39 am

I, for one, do not understand the point of having civil discourse with/about frauds and hucksters who are actively engaging in criminal activities.

The quicker these people are caught and their lies exposed the quicker the real ‘enviros’ can get back to doing things that actually matter.

Deefburger April 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

@ Dave

Well said my friend. I agree. I am an environmentalist, and an objectivist, and an Austrian and Libertarian, and a believer in a creator and natural law. What I do not condone is the misuse and abuse of the inalienable rights of all people. Snarky comments and denigrating speech are the tools of unnatural means to power. I refuse to use those tools.

Again, well said and very correct.

Dave April 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for the props, Deefburger. Yes, I think if you have a point, you can make it clearly and with civility. I do like humor, but you can be funny without being hateful. Sneering at your opponents just makes you sound weak and bitter. And that does nothing for your side of the argument or to persuade those on the other side. And in this case, I don’t think anybody living on earth is completely against environmentalism. So there is much bridge-building to be done here, and it shouldn’t be so difficult to do. But this sort of snark does not really help, so thank you for speaking up.

Alex Davidson April 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Ben O’Neill makes some very important points, particularly in regard to the way environmentalism hides the underlying agenda of ending private ownership of land. Alarmingly, that agenda is already well-advanced in Australia. My local council (near Sydney) recently issued a Land Use Matrix “to assist with understanding the permitted and prohibited land uses”. Of the 165 land-uses they managed to think of, only 8 are “permitted without consent” (that’s the council’s consent, not the owner’s consent) – and then only in certain zones. 70% of the land-use/zone combinations are prohibited entirely, along with anything not on the list.

The rationale for this sweeping abrogation of ownership rights is pure mumbo jumbo taken directly from environmentalist literature. Those driving it treat the rest of us with utter contempt and disdain, so I don’t blame Ben at all for the tone of his article. In my experience, criticising and trying to “correct” these foolish policies by arguing with civility and reason alone does not work.

Steve M April 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

First, let me say that this is an excellent analysis of a most absurd topic. Well done.Second, I post this in jest, as jest is all one can really do with a subject matter as this. If we walk down the path of logic that the UN is on with this, I think we can safely assume that at some point, some human will stand trial for crimes against mother earth. If mother earth can stand as a plaintiff, she therefore must also be able to stand as a defendant. Therefore, I hereby accuse mother earth of multiple (let’s say 1 billion for starters) counts of genocide. What other suspects could we have in the crime of earthquake, hurricane, tornado etc… Oh man, I’m laughing too hard to type, I give.

Shay April 23, 2011 at 5:47 am

Mother Earth isn’t dumb; she became a limited-liability corporation way back.

Seattle April 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Since rights are a moral concept, it follows that they can only pertain to things that have some interests and will of their own. In particular, it is clear that moral obligations can only accrue to beings in need of moral guidance and are capable of sufficiently high levels of abstraction to understand and apply moral principles.

Uhh, no. This is asserting the conclusion.

Consider the question of “Should this tree be cut down?” You and I would start by considering whether that tree is owned by anyone else and whether that other person wants to have the tree cut down or not. In the case where the tree is our own property, then we consider how well the tree serves our purposes: Whether we could cut it into useful firewood, or whether it makes the yard look nice.

But this is not the only way such a question could be decided: One creature might only consider whether the tree has any bird nests in it. Another might only chop down trees it sees in July.

That the human way is the only way of considering the question is hardly a priori.

Anthony April 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm


If you are arguing with a bird then you are right… if you are arguing with other humans the “human way” is the only possible way to see anything.

Seattle April 23, 2011 at 6:43 am

My objection is toward Mr. O’Neill’s justification, not so much his conclusion. Trees do not have rights, but O’Neill argues this is an inherent property of the trees. It is due to facts about humans, our psychology and morality, that trees don’t have rights.

Eve April 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm

The worship of the earth, and referring to the earth as Mother has its origins in paganism/witchcraft. As much of the Western world attempts to shed it connections to Judeo or Christian beliefs and distance itself as much as possible, it has gone to the polar opposite, recognizing the ‘earth’ as mother/creator. Following this line, the next step is worship, and we are back to paganism. Morales and the UN are attempting to unify the extreme environmentalists with those subscribing to witchcraft, probably for the power enabling ends already noted, which either group may or may not recognize, care about or support. Whether or not the environmentalists recognize this remains to be seen.

Joe April 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Amen to that. You have hit the pagan on the head.

Gil April 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm

If you want to argue that people can degrade the Earth due to the free rider and tragedy of the commons problems then why dicker over the social security problem? Yes, the Baby Boomers may be screwing the younguns but they set up the system before the younguns were born and the younguns don’t like it then that’s their problem.

Daniel April 23, 2011 at 2:04 am


Paul April 23, 2011 at 2:42 am

I agree wholeheartedly with the article, but I do wish authors get rid of the Randian penchant to deride stupid ideas as “mysticism,” which is a specific field that deals with certain states of mind, often associated with drug use and aesthetic contemplation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism

But then, maybe I’m just being uptight. I’ve never heard hog breeders complain about the use of the term ‘hogwash.’ :)

Kyle April 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

So you believe in animism? Not sure what your point is.

Shay April 23, 2011 at 5:37 am

I’m checking the date of this article over and over, being sure it wasn’t posted on April 1. At the moment I am simply unable to believe that there is serious talk of the rights of this hunk of rock we live on.

Steve M April 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm

My initial suspicion was that it came from TheOnion. But, The Onion, The U.N., not much difference.

Deefburger April 23, 2011 at 9:51 am

All life no matter what it is, has a fundamental right to self preservation. But this is a guide to action by the self. But this right exist in all forms of life, and must come to conflict. The right of preserving my human farm and the life I live by it is also my right to cut the tree, even though the tree will, by it’s basic right, act on it’s own behalf and may re-sprout from the remains of it’s roots.

Of course it will. It should. That won’t help me, but I know to expect it.

What is at issue is not the nature of life, the nature of the Earth, or even the nature of humanity. What is at issue is the unnatural use of positive rights to achieve a goal of natural persistence into perpetuity. That goal is preexistent in all forms of life. No positive right need be created let alone employed for it to continue.

Creating a positive right is a purely human endeavor, that only humans can engage in, and only other humans without that positive right will suffer. The Earth will not be saved by the positive right, no matter what the intent. What will happen is the removal of natural rights from the remainder of humanity that does not hold the positive right. This is where evil begins and ends.

The positive right is a right that is held in-equally by some humans, and is a right over the natural rights of those humans who are not the holders of the in-equal positive right. The creation of legislation and a seat of government to hold and wield the legislated positive right, is the creation of tyranny, no matter how benign the current holder of the seat may seem.

All forms of positive right are inequalities. All forms of positive right require the first use of force. All forms of positive right are destructive to the equal rights of all other people. There is only one exception to this form of right, and that is the positive right one has over one’s own domain. Individuals have a positive right to the self, and the self has a positive right to persist. This is the only exception. It is the only form of positive right that is natural and equally held.

All other forms of positive right are a grab for power over others, an extension of the domain of self for just one or a few holders of the right, into and over the domains of others. This is wrong and against the natural law. It is a confiscation of the inalienable rights of man by man. This is where evil begins.

What beautiful and justifiable intents are attached to the act of raising a positive right is just smoke and mirrors and lipstick to hide the evil of the positive right and the power over other people that it represents.

Truly representative government is not possible if that government is holding and utilizing positive rights over the people whom it is supposed to represent. The last part of the illusion of justice is that no positive right when used, can or will effect all people simultaneously.

People were left alone when the positive right to murder Jews was employed, only the Jews suffered.
People were left alone when some were kicked out of their homes.
People were left alone when some were hung.
People were left alone when some were slaughtered.
People were left their wealth when some were robbed.
People were left alone when some were arrested.
People were left alone when the patent was protected.
People were left alone when the copyright was enforced.
People were left alone when the first paper dollar rolled off the presses….

Do you see the problem? The problem is that those who were left alone by the act of using those positive rights, simply escaped for the moment. Unlike natural rights, positive rights only appear when they are used! They don’t seem to matter otherwise. Yet they are complete in their dominion over all people from the moment of their creation, even if they have not manifested in the awareness of all people when they are employed. The existence of them is like a cloud of invisible poison that only descends to touch a few at a time. It is the sword of Damocles, and the never-ending threat.

The ends desired cannot justify the means employed, especially when those means are a positive right and the necessary first use of force. Tu Ne Cede Malis – Don’t create positive rights!

Mr.huh? April 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’ve been surprised at the lack of respect for facts about nature when it comes to environmentalists. Take organic food versus genetically-modified food for example. Almost all scientific studies show that genetically-modified food isn’t any worse for you than organic.

The reason most food has been genetically-modified in the last few centuries is so that more food could be grown on less land, which helps prevent deforestation, thus leading allowing for far more trees to absorb all of that carbon dioxide that’s being pumped into the atmosphere. But people would rather shop at some trendy organic food store so they can feel self-righteous about themselves.

Shay April 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

Organic food is a subset of food that’s not genetically-modified, with restrictions the conditions under which it is grown. There are many foods available that aren’t organic yet still non-GMO. There are also more reasons than health that one might choose organic or non-GMO foods, for example not supporting companies like Monsanto.

Deefburger April 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

@Mr. Huh?

You’ve never tried to grow potatoes in your own yard from the potatoes you bought at the store. The organic ones thrive. The GMO potatoes just sit there and if they sprout, they do not continue to grow. I’ve seen them sit there without growing, because the genes that control their growth can only be provided by one company with a positive right to produce it.

You are a fool if you think this situation is beneficial and solution to world hunger. GMO has not happened over centuries. It has happened only in the last few decades. GMO foods are designed to NOT grow and procreate naturally.

GMO foods will only survive if they are fed the requisite chemicals that complete their genetic program. They are a dead end for anyone but the holder of the patents.

GMO is not a means to a more productive and sustainable future in food production. They are a means to the ends of owning the means of food production. They are the application of a positive right.

Try it some time. Go get yourself some GMO and start a garden with those foods. Good luck Huh?

Onema April 23, 2011 at 11:12 am

Morales despotic veneration of the earth is rooted on centuries of indigenous belief on a goddess called the Pachamama (The Mother Earth). Morales was elected under the banner of indigenous (Aymara, and Quechua) principles, and to form a socialist “plurinational” state for Bolivia (as it is today). Interestingly enough, Morales actually ended the despotic rule of the Catholics through state subsidies. However as it is with statism, a new religion is currently being imposed in Bolivia, and now in the world, the Pachamama.


Deefburger April 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Any form of positive right requires “imposition”. The right is always justified with good intents and or good purposes. But no matter the intents or purposes, the use of a positive right is oppressive and tyrannical by the very nature of the positive right itself. Don’t be fooled by glorious intent when the means to that glorious end is to grant power of force to a few over all others.

Onema April 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Indeed, I agree. Especially when someone like Morales wants to give the earth a “right”. I wanted to point out that he has a religious belief behind his tyranny. Which obviously does not justify it by any means.

Screwtape April 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

An excellent article, Mr. O’Neill. However, you have this repeated typo, “draft treaty.”

I believe you meant “daft,” no?

Bala April 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I am shocked!! A reference to Ayn Rand to define the concept “right”. Is this mises.org or am I living a dream????

That apart, great article, Ben. The best part for me was this

“Those who dream up UN treaties to establish a “Ministry for Mother Earth” are the kinds of people who mistakenly thought that Orwell was writing an instruction manual, not a work of dystopian fiction.”

Thanks for giving me a new signature for my e-mail :)

TokyoTom April 24, 2011 at 6:08 am


Much of what you say makes perfectly good sense – in a vacuum.

But in your dislike of enviros you really do consistently miss the big picture.

There is a global constituency for governments to protect “the environment” because government-created corporations have done a magnificent job of despoiling common and publicly-owned resources (see the Gulf of Mexico, and the TEPCO nuclear power plants in Japan):
The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government – TT’s Lost in Tokyo http://bit.ly/9oBkC7

These corporations have a history of further corrupting despots in the third world – including throughout Latin America – while doing very substantial damage to human health and livelihoods (particularly to indigenous peoples excluded from power).

Morales, who has an indigenous heritage, is playing political games of painting himself as a protector of “Mother Nature” against rapacious foreign energy companies, even has he pushes ahead with projects against the desires of indigenous peoples:

Austrians who want to have an impact on current events really should confront the real problem of governments’ core disruption of free markets via the creation of corporations. The efforts of peoples to rein in the resulting abuses is what feeds the cycle of ever bigger governments, captured by ever-larger corporations.


Dave April 24, 2011 at 10:00 am

Yes this is it exactly. There has been so much to discuss with this post that I haven’t had time to make all the replies I wanted to, but this is really important and gets to the crux of it:

The initial market distortions are what have created a lot of the environmental disasters that Morales & Co. are consolidating power to fight. Most enviros, leftists and even most Republicans are completely unaware of this fact, and so they fight the problem on the wrong end of the equation (or at least the leftists do- the Republicans just let it fester), thus consolidating government power and feeding more industries from tax payer dollars.

Were it not for heavy oil/gas subsidies, nuclear subsidies, chemical subsidies, corn/soybean/alfalfa subsidies, would these industries really be competing with greener alternatives? These are most of the issues enviros complain about, and they’re right to, since they are horribly environmentally degrading.

Another example is, of course, medicine, which is given monopoly status for healing in America and is thus massively corrupt and responsible for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths per year in this country. For those of us who are dedicate to alternative health (not in a faddish way but in a results-based way), the constant exposure to government subsidized environmental toxins causes much of what we experience as disease in this country. Government backed doctors and pharma companies then treat these diseases at ruinous cost. There are plenty of effective “green” alternatives to medical care (though of course there are plenty of incompetent healers, since it is much easier to make a living in the protected medical field than the free-market economically disadvantaged alternative field), but government monopoly grants to medicine make them extremely costly- and of course Obamacare will only compound this problem.

Many of environmentalists’ concerns would be ameliorated if there were an actual level playing field for all fields- green or otherwise. Recycling, efficiency, and working with nature rather than against it are all sound business practices. It is the market interventions that make it appear otherwise. TT is right that true Austrians should be raising these issues rather than sneering at their inevitable consequences.

It is not environmentalists’ fault that they don’t understand economics- it is not taught in government controlled schools. It is up to those who are a little more enlightened to illuminate a public badly conditioned by socialist education schemes. As I have said before, berating and insulting them will not achieve this end. A little understanding can go a long way here, and the self-congratulating tone about how superior we are for knowing more than the hair-brained environmentalists should be dispensed with as soon as possible- not for their sake, but if we want to make a difference, for ours.

Deefburger April 25, 2011 at 10:02 am


Right on brother! The distortions come from positive rights, rights that require institutionalized first use of force. Every form of this right that is created by man is an abomination and leads to more and more “rights” having to be created in order to counter the inequity. Positive rights are unequal rights by definition!!! Conflict and counter legislation in the same form, as positive right, is the only political means available politically to counter balance the original right.

Market distortion, corporate oligarchy, statism, monopoly, and cartels are the result. People are forced, literally and figuratively, either by gun or gun-point, or response to the changing conditions of reality to do things differently in order to get around the positive right and the rights holders.

Every form of natural right, whether it be of trees, animals, the Earth or most importantly Human Beings are systematically eaten away and threatened by the positive rights created. Positive rights are simply POWER created out of nothing but belief and weaponry, by liars, thieves and tyrants.

Martin OB April 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

I agree with much of the article, but I’m tired of reading sloppy argumentations as the following one by ruthless advocates of animal cruelty, not just objectivists:

Though this reasoning applies most clearly to moral obligations, rather than rights, we can actually say more than this. In fact, moral obligations are merely the obverse of rights: if A has a right to do X, and this right is enforceable against B, then it follows that B has a corresponding obligation not to forcibly interfere with A doing X. There can be no rights without corresponding moral obligations, and there can be no such thing as an entity having rights without corresponding moral obligations.[7] Since it is senseless to ascribe moral principles to beings that lack consciousness, it is therefore senseless to ascribe rights to these entities.

This is clearly fallacious. If A has a right, then B has an obligation. So far so good. Then the author acts as if he has just proved that for A to have a right, A must have some obligations. He jumps from “there can be no rights (of A) without correspondent moral obligations (of some B)” to “there can be no rights (of A) without correspondent moral obligations (of A)”.

Anyone who is interested in the putative rights of non-human entities should read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. Most would probably reject his boldest conclusions, but he forcefully dissects fallacious reasonings like this one. And, he would agree with the gist of this article, because planet Eearth indeed has no consciousness, no interests and therefore no rights.

Gil April 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

I would agree with you in that it to define humans being special because they’re sentient means humans who are not sentient (i.e. profoundly mentally disabled) cannot be afforded human rights. Or just because a creature isn’t human it is morally permissible for it to become a plaything for humans. However, the life-sustaining abillity of the Earth is but a mere shell. Go a few miles under the crust and Earth is no different from any other rockball orbitting a star. Considering that wrecking Earth in the hope that space travel technology will be available for us to find a new world is as fallacious as a young smoker presuming lung cancer and emphysema will curable when they are old. So what if some people subscribe to some sort of Animism? Those who subscribe to a God-based belief that if it’s okay if the Earth is wrecked and humans are extinct because it will usher in Judgement Day as God would have no reason to keep the Universe running are just as dangerous.

Martin OB April 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I’m not sure what you are objecting to. I agree with the main point of the article in that, regardless of how “green” your preferences are, it’s always about the preferences, interests and rights of human beings, and *maybe* non-human sentients, but never the rights of a ball of minerals. And it may well be the case that the left is advancing these bogus Eearth rights with an anti-capitalist agenda. You can be all the “green” you want without believing in this superfluous and suspicious Gaia thing, which should be stopped in its tracks.

The views you are attacking, the hand-waving about pollution, habitat destruction, resource depletion and other side-effects of human industry, are often voiced on this site, and I also oppose them to some degree, but not so much in this article, in my opinion.

Deefburger April 25, 2011 at 10:08 am


The same paragraph set me off too! He starts with A having a positive right over B, and then says A has the power of enforcement… How much clearer can it get? He cites this as part of his justification for his contempt of the actions of Morales and company and tries to defend it by attacking the intents! If you have power to enforce, then intents are only the paint job on your TANK!

Reject positive rights, they MUST contain the enforcement in some way.

Kyle April 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm

State of the Planet Address, 2020

Distinguished members of the United Nations Intraglobal Panel on Climate Confidence, members of the Political Bureau of Environmental Affairs, herbivores, omnivores, honorable flora, fauna, microbial life forms, and residents of the United States…

We stand here now, on the tenth anniversary of our sacred refounding, persons of diverse colors and genders – men, women, transsexuals, hermaphrodites all – united in one vision to bring forth from the bowels of history, one utopian dream, one audacious hope for all life on this planet, to usher in the progress of real change.

Together as one, looking forward to a brighter tomorrow, one of darkness, one of… collapsing industrial infrastructure, abandoned oil refineries, and out-of-business coal plants, until one day, one glorious day, America’s Atlantic seaboard will resemble a night satellite picture of the grand experiment once known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. May it rest in peace.

There are some who will doubt us. Heck, some may even mock us a little. But it is the calling of each and every generation to get behind the people and to push forward repeatedly until they are excited enough to get beyond the quaint and antiquated ways of their ancestors, to dismiss the old pieces of paper that enslave us to the past, so that we may accomplish the historic task of fundamentally transforming this world the way that we, as one people, see fit.

To realize our grand vision of a post-industrial society demands the complete replacement of our economy of yesterday with a leaner, greener one. That is why I propose a bold new energy strategy for the United States, one that you think you might have heard before but is actually a little bit different this time – one incorporating windmills, waterwheels, and yes, even steam power. We must get beyond the old way of thinking that says nuclear energy is the way of the future. We must not fall prey to the temptation that argues that drilling offshore and on American soil are solutions to our ongoing addiction to foreign oil. We must forgo even the empty promise of natural gas, which, though our critics claim it is a “clean” source of energy, is yet just another form of the poisonous carbon gas we can ill afford to be monkeying around with.

If I might respond to those who say that they have freezed their keisters off since the onset of the so-called “Little Ice Age,” which I might point out is a direct consequence of the now over-fulfilled consensus of manmade global climate change, no one said it was going to be easy. But if we can get the markets, the banks, and the entrepreneurs to get out of the way, our government can accomplish anything we set your minds to.

Right now the government is dispensing billions and billions of dollars in grants to companies to develop energy technologies that might be called too “inefficient,” “expensive,” or “unreliable” to cut it in what is left of the marketplace. But I’m not going to accept that way of thinking. We might have had a little rocky period, a decade-long recession that is undoubtedly the fault of my predecessor, but the economy is well on the way to recovery. Now there have been some grumblings about a ‘jobless recovery,” which has led to persistent unexpectedly high unemployment of say, fifteen to (unintelligible) percent – but help is on the way.

Just this year, we hope to create or save tens of millions of jobs by hiring all the young, enthusiastic people of our nationwide mandatory GreenCorpse…ummm, I think there might be a typo there…to promote our green jobs programs, to pick up the litter that plagues our highways and national parks, and simply by not crushing what little industry remains left. Those companies who want to continue to do business are going to have to do it according to our terms, and hell, if they kick a little back to a Democrat in need, they may even be allowed to keep a greenback or two.

Now some have called this fascism. Let me be clear. A meek and conservative form of fascism was tried under FDR and it failed to reach the kind of results we are looking for. No, we are looking to create a new form of superfascism that not only incorporates all aspects of the national economy, but looks to fuse it all together under the umbrella of global governance, while meeting the challenges of addressing the spectre of climate change. Let me now speak to this crucial issue, which is of such vital importance to ourselves, our children, the planet, and of course, polar bears.

To those who think we can continue the status quo of climate change, let me just say that the time for delay is over. If we are going to overcome this perpetual crisis, we are going to have to think big. That is why why we must once again raise the global carbon tax, to regulate excess temperatures out of existence. We might even see a day when the world’s temperature is permanently set on a slightly warm but temperate 72 degrees. Of course, we can argue whether or not it should be 68 degrees. Democracy can be messy.

Our critics will say that we are dreaming impossibly big dreams. They may say they’re humongous or even ginormous. But let there be no doubt. The failure of their imaginations must not lead to the crisis of our consciences. We must move forward, with all the certainty of a moral crusade, to lead the world to complete climatelessness and environmental homeostasis by the end of this decade. The consequences are too grave to neglect. The death of the old order, and the rebirth of a new dawn, with or without man, requires courage and sacrifice. These are extraordinary times.

All species, since the beginning of time, have struggled with the ever-present threat of climate change. We human beings, along with the complete effort of all animals, from the three-toed sloth to the ring-tailed bandicoot, from the humpback whale to the duckbill platypus, must now work together to make worldwide climate equality a reality.

Ben O'Neill April 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Hi everyone,

Thanks for showing an interest in my article. Thanks for all the comments/praise/critiques you have offered. I will try to respond to some of the issues raised, with apologies if I missed any important points.


The tone of my article: Some of the commentators have objected to the tone of the article, since I poke quite a bit of fun at the ideas I am critiquing. Some have also suggested that this detracts from the persuasiveness of the argument. I’m not really convinced by this, but will take the suggestion on-board (at very least to note the adverse reaction of those that are making this critique). I think that the arguments in the article stand or fall on their own merits and I also think that the Earth-rights doctrine being critiqued in the article is sufficiently ridiculous that poking fun is an appropriate response.

Please bear in mind that satire can be a powerful weapon against tyranny, and there is certainly no necessity to “play nice” in the face of tyrannical ideas. Please also bear in mind the consequences that would actually occur if the Earth-rights doctrine was ever consistently implemented ―bearing this in mind, I think that it is the environmentalists being hateful, not me. In fact, I would say that it is a good idea to use an appropriate level of ridicule in discussing foolish and evil ideas, so long as this augments the underlying argument against those ideas, rather than replacing it.

Environmentalism: Whenever I write an article critical of the philosophy of environmentalism, or its manifestations, I invariably run into an objection which claims that the people/ideas I am critiquing are merely crazy fringe ideas, and are not representative of most “environmentalists”. This usually involves the implicit suggestion that environmentalism is merely synonymous with “concern for the environment”, or something similarly benign, and that I am therefore being unduly harsh on people who are merely concerned about their environment.

First, concern for the environment is rational, and literally everyone (myself included) has concerns of this kind. Rational concern for the environment should identify who the environment is of value to, and judge environmental issues on the basis of the needs of conscious beings that are using it. The philosophy of environmentalism does not do this. It is based instead, on the idea that the Earth has inherent value (i.e., value apart from a valuer) and that it must therefore be “protected” not for the benefit of anyone else, but for its own “benefit”. The Earth-rights doctrine and other environmentalist ideas all involve the underlying belief in inherent value, which is a serious philosophical error. Its consequences are spelled out in the present article. This belief can be found explicitly in the foundational literature on environmentalism (e.g., in deep ecology) and is also noticeable running through many of the arguments that environmentalists make.

When I write papers critical of environmentalism, I make it clear that it is the idea of inherent value in nature that is the problem, not concern with the environment. As to people who are merely rationally concerned with the environment, but call themselves “environmentalists,” I would say that they are missing the real nature of the philosophy that they are ascribing their allegiance to.

On my citation of Rand: There seems to be quite a bit of hostility to Ayn Rand on this site, but I rarely read any thoughtful critique of anything she actually wrote or believed. If you think that Rand is wrong about something that I have cited her on in my article, please explain why you think she is wrong, and what the correct position would be. A sneer is not an argument.

Seattle: Thanks for your comment. I think you have misunderstood what I am saying here. The reason trees do not have rights is because of (a) the nature of rights; and (b) the nature of trees. It is not one or the other, but their combination that allows us to determine that trees do not have rights.

Paul: Thanks for your comment, and thanks for your kind words about the article. I don’t think it is a stretch to describe the belief in the will and interests of a big ball of minerals as “mysticism”. Though Rand does indeed use this term, I don’t think that it is an idiosyncratic usage.

Tokyo Tom: Thanks for your comments, and thanks for showing an interest in my articles. I think there is perfectly good reason to critique corporatist policies of governments, and other disruptions to the free market, but that would be another article. (And in fact, there are plenty of articles on the Mises website like this.) If the real problem is that governments are allying with big corporations to ruin the environment, then it certainly does not make sense for government to be put in charge of protecting the environment, and hence, your points would only strengthen the argument in my paper.

As to my allegedly missing the big picture, I would say that you have it backwards. The particular market distortions and corporatist machinations that lead to environmental damage are the small picture, whereas the underlying philosophy of environmentalism that is used to justify power expansion by government is the big picture. In a battle of ideas, the philosophies used to support statism are the big picture.

Martin OB: Thanks for your comments. You are correct that the cited passage does not prove that rights and obligations must inhere in the same being. A proper demonstration of this would require further justification to go from “B has an obligation” to “A has an obligation” (I think this would best be justified by the purpose of moral philosophy and the so-called “golden rule” of ethics). The paragraph you cite is intended only as a brief outline of the argument, since the focus of the paper is on Earth-rights, not animal-rights, and so all that is needed is to focus on conscious versus non-conscious things. (Incidentally, there is no error in logic in the passage you cite. The third statement makes two separate assertions; it does not claim that the latter is logically implied by the former, without any further premises.)

If you read the footnote to the paragraph you cite, you will see that it says: “The issue of moral obligations to conscious nonrational beings (e.g., animals) and rights accruing to those beings is beyond the scope of the present paper and is more involved than we have space for here. What is relevant here is that nonconscious beings cannot accrue rights or moral obligations.” The reason I did not go into further detail on this issue is that it is unnecessary for the purposes of critiquing the Earth-rights doctrine, and a proper discussion of this would have taken the paper off-track. Animal rights is a sufficiently complicated subject in philosophy to warrant a full article on it, so I have made an effort to try to delineate it as best I can from the present argument on Earth-rights, while still giving a good outline of the nature of rights.

(For the record, I am sceptical of the animal-rights claims I have heard, and unconvinced by the arguments behind them (e.g., the marginal humans argument), though certainly open to being corrected if I am wrong. If you are concerned about sloppy argumentation, please note that disagreeing with the existence of animal rights does not make one a “ruthless advocate of animal cruelty”.)


Thanks again everyone.


Bala April 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

“There seems to be quite a bit of hostility to Ayn Rand on this site,”

Why does this sound like you haven’t seen this ‘hostility’ before? Frankly, I’ve seen nothing but hostility to Ayn Rand on the comment boards of mises.org.

“but I rarely read any thoughtful critique of anything she actually wrote or believed.”

Good point. I hope this provokes some detractors to put up some serious critiques (not the puerile ARCHN variety that can be demolished in just 2 lines each).

“If you think that Rand is wrong about something that I have cited her on in my article, please explain why you think she is wrong, and what the correct position would be.”

Now! That’s asking for too much. I’ve been asking a number of people out here (for months) to DEFINE the concept ‘right’. You are the first person who has come along and who do you refer to? Rand. I am happy to see that but I also wonder why all the people who pounced upon me when I tried to do the same are refusing to pounce upon you.

“A sneer is not an argument.”

Yes, but it is an invitation to an argument long ignored. Thanks for triggering it again.

p.s. If you noticed any sneer in what I said, pardon me. It was not directed against you. I was just appreciating what you wrote.

Deefburger April 25, 2011 at 10:21 am


Hello old friend! I think I can give you the definition of “rights” you wish to hear, and in my opinion, it is the only area of Rand’s work where I think she missed the point.

Basically, they break down into two categories, positive and negative, and between those two categories, the positive form is dependent upon first use of force, and the negative is dependent upon self-preservation. Self and personal domain are the only exception to the positive form and are the only positive form that exists equally. All other forms of positive right are a declared right to enforce against any others.

Ben missed the point that no matter what rights environmentalists conceive the Earth or any other entity may have is only an idea until enforcement enters the scene….Until then, it is only a toothless tiger.

Tyranny begins and ends with the first use of force.

Bala April 25, 2011 at 11:23 am


I am not sure how you came to this conclusion

“it is the only area of Rand’s work where I think she missed the point.”

and then say this

“Basically, they break down into two categories, positive and negative”

because Rand has not omitted this. She clearly states your conclusion

“Tyranny begins and ends with the first use of force.”

in no uncertain terms though in different words.

As I understand Rand, she said that “rights” are a moral concept defining and sanctioning man’s freedom of action in a social context. She also said that “rights” are a recognition of a condition of existence essential for the survival of man qua man, i.e., as a rational animal with a volitional consciousness. She starts from “life” as the fount of all rights and the “right to life” as the most basic of all. She makes it clear that “rights” being a moral concept, only a rational animal with a volitional consciousness which therefore has the capability to form moral concepts can have rights. She also makes it clear that the meaning of the “right to life” in a positive sense is that man is free to act as per the direction of his mind and in a negative sense is that no man may initiate force against another man to prevent him from following the direction of his rational mind.

I fail to see how Rand missed the point you say she missed.

Deefburger April 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Yes Yes! But she failed when it came to the positive rights of Patent and copyright. But that is a whole other discussion!You very clearly and eloquently cited all the other correct points she did make! Well done!I would like to say though, that even though “rights” are a moral concept in men’s minds, they are recognition of metaphysical objects within the reality that the rational mind can percieve. The natural negative rights are pre-existent to the observation by man. They have been in effect long before man gained the rational ability to recognize them. And when the assumption that only man can have them is dismissed, one can begin to see how these natural forms exist in a fundamental way as the one form of fundamental right, namely self-preservation. Only man creates the positive right over man and only first use of force can effect a manifestation of the ideal of the positive right in the reality of man.The patent and copyright system is based upon the first use of force against those who are perceived to have violated the positive right in the rights holder. The only time in the natural world where that right is manifest in reality is when the law suit is received by the supposed offender! It can’t be seen otherwise. But the ideal itself is visible metaphysically to all “eyes” and minds who wish to view it, if they can find it.But this is off topic in a way, and I would be very happy to argue this with you privately.Back to the topic. It is assumed by many that Rand is anti environmentalist. Bad assumption. She was anti-state positive right. If environmentalist or any body else chooses first use of force over others as a means, then she is in opposition. (The exception in patent and copyright is an error in the metaphysical conceptualization of metaphysical space and it’s nature and I forgive her for that flaw! The true nature of the generalities and where they are has not seen much in the way of scientific inquiry over the years.)In short, I agree with all of the points made in your response.

Deefburger April 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Crap! I edited my post to correct an error and lost my formatting again!

Martin OB April 24, 2011 at 10:08 pm


Thanks for your detailed response. As I said, I agree with much of your article and I see it largely sidesteps the issue animal rights.

On my part, I’m not impressed by the rebuttals of animal rights I’ve read so far. For instance, Shawn E. Klein’s insistence that Peter Singer’s arguments depend on utilitarianism, or his rebuttal of the marginal humans argument, where he takes what a permanently comatose patient “would be” if they had been more lucky. Even if you accept that the rights of an entity depend on its prospective usefulness (which I don’t), an entity’s actual rights would depend on its actual prospective usefulness, not on some counter-factual variant.

Now, if I may do some hair splitting of my own, I didn’t actually say all those who deny the existence of animal rights (as you do) are ruthless advocates of animal cruelty. I said that the kind of argument you used is often used by those who ruthlessly defend animal cruelty. Really, what I had in mind is some philosophers who uphold traditional Spanish bullfighting in all its barbaric glory.

Kyle April 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

In my opinion, the argument against animal rights (and moral obligations) and on behalf of human rights boils down to a broader metaphysical commentary on good versus evil; creation and life versus destruction, harm, and death.

I’m not a professional philosopher, so I’m just musing on the fly here. As humans, it seems like our abstract thoughts tend to rationalize or conceptualize our fears and passions. While science solved the problem of universalization as to the procedures of discovering objective knowledge epistemologically; science is prostrate in the area of ethics, or how to universalize rules on how to use that knowledge; and by extension, how sentient beings should (this is an important word) relate to one another. Ayn Rand, despite the spurious accusations to the contrary, broke new philosophical ground by attempting to ground ethics to ontology; hence the title of her philosophy – Objectivism.

Much of the misapprehension of modern philosophy is that many people confuse two separate issues: What is true and what one agrees with. Philosophy is about seeking truth, not about seeking what one agrees with. The tools for seeking truth are logic and rationality; they are a priori – they precede the nitty-gritty variability of the “real” world. So when we start getting into categories, breaking down life in seemingly arbitrary fashion, this signals to many a weakness in the argument, and perhaps we are not at a sufficient level of abstraction. When one attributes “rights” to a capacity for abstraction, many will bridle. They believe they do not have to believe this is a ‘truth,’ and therefore will reject it.

So we move out further in abstraction and attribute “rights” to those things that are alive. But we see the absurdity immediately; many creatures do not possess the capacity to appreciate rights or moral obligations. They have no capacity for willful action: they passively react to stimuli. They do not make rational choices; in other words, they do not strategize to maximize their odds of survival or to seek pleasure and avoid pain. They are instinct-driven. We can attribute these creatures with “rights” not to be harmed; but it imposes the moral obligation on those actors who are able to appreciate such rights: human beings who have the capacity to respect their moral obligations not to impose harm on other creatures. Presumably these moral obligations are codified by law, and entail punishment for their violation. We seemingly uphold life and reject harm and death.

But we have failed to answer a vital question: Whose lives are we upholding? Are some creatures lives’ ultimately dependent on others lives? If so, is there a mutual relationship that means that if we bestow rights upon some creatures, thereby protecting those creatures’ lives by color of law, that we are denying other creatures the ability to sustain their own lives? And as such does our law seemingly upholding “life” writ large actually imply selective death; namely, of those presumably ‘predatorial’ animals, or even grass grazers? In such a moral system, only plants and algae would benefit. Oh yes, and governments.

Governments would thus become the arbiters of all life on the planet – resolving endless claims of infinite species against the only creature morally capable of acknowledging the violations: Mankind.

Kyle April 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

To continue my thought, briefly, in practice, “rights” protect human beings from predators, whether legal-criminal or illegal-criminal (government-sanctioned or non-sanctioned thieves, murderers, etc.). Governments are using a false analogy to extend rights to protect animate and inanimate objects from “predatorial” humans. Humans are necessarily predatorial creatures. By extension, they compete for food with other predators. Thus, environmentalism is anti-humanistic at its very core; in other words, it argues there is nothing special about humans, and are merely akin to all other animate and inanimate universe that can be manipulated by those who have the power and the will.Those human beings who seek to preserve their own lives should reject environmentalism, and support the individual rights of man, which accrue to human life. We should respect those environmental initiatives that can be demonstrated to have adverse impacts on particular human beings; who in turn must personally demonstrate in court that their person or property has been violated by a third party. And the burden of proof should be on the accuser that the harm is to such an effect that ones health or well-being have been directly and appreciably threatened. Since millions of human beings’ lives rest on industrial technology, an appropriate remedy is not to inflict damage on the industrial infrastructure that individuals rely on to support their lives. This is a long-discussion in itself concerned with externalities; but ultimately, no “environmental” solution must be tolerated that dispenses with private property.

Eve April 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

No doubt the current administration in DC will throw its full support behind all this malarky. After all, there is more oil under the USA than all the oil of the Arab nations combined, but it will just sit there because the administration isn’t granting any drilling pemits; 1 since Mr. Obama-I respect the office but not the man-took the reins. If we utilized our resources, it might mess up a bit of ole ‘mother earth’, making not just a few environmentalist unhappy, but the USA would be pretty close to being self sufficent concerning oil/fuel. (FYI, one month ago, gasoline in the Arab nations was 8 to 10 CENTS a liter….just think about that for a minute.) This would not be helpful to the plans of some to institute a one world gov’t, for which the UN is being groomed-as a front, of course. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just reality oriented.

Ben O'Neill April 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Thanks again for the further comments guys.

Bala: Thanks for your agreement. No sneering detected. (And I should mention that Roderick Long’s articles provide some welcome counter-examples to the often content-free sneers at Ayn Rand and her philosophy that appear on this site. If you are looking for some good articles on Rand, from someone who disagrees with her on several issues, you can find them on his website.)

Martin OB: Fair enough. It sounds like we disagree a bit on the persuasiveness of the animal-rights case, but as you say, the present article really sidesteps this issue.

Thanks again everyone.

Jason Towsley April 27, 2011 at 9:03 am

I would like to say that I thought Ben O’Neill’s article was well written and civil. I thought he used humor, as he stated, to augment his argument not replace it. Maybe that is because I am used to more political sites that tend to devolve to name calling with no real contribution. All that being said, I have a question. Why are humans set apart from other animals on the planet? It would seem that most environmentalists believe that ants or trees or lions are all part of the Earth. Why not humans? We were created by and live in the same environment (Earth). Shouldn’t all we do also be considered part of the ecosystem. I am not saying that I believe this, I am just curious what the arguments are against it. I hope they are not because we are sentient and have the capability for morality. If that is the case, it seems to be the best reason Mr. O’Neill had in his article to point out the absurdity of giving rights to living but non-sentient life.

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