Mythical Beast: The Natural Right Whale
In the state of nature there is only one natural moral law: “The Law of the Jungle,” an expression that means “every man for himself,” “anything goes,” “might makes right,” “survival of the fittest“, “kill or be killed”, “dog eat dog” and “eat or be eaten”. The law of the jungle works according to the principle of reciprocal maintenance: one kills something and eats it, and later one is eaten by something else in return. THERE IS NO OTHER LAW IN NATURE, save the laws of cause and effect, despite the wishful thinking of old-fashioned philosophers and theologians.
Bellum omnium contra omnes, meaning “the war of all against all,” is the description that Thomas Hobbes gives in Leviathan (1651) to human existence in the state of nature. Unfortunately, Hobbes goes on to postulate a whole series of imaginary “natural laws”, by which he means precepts, or general rules, “found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that by which he thinks it may best be preserved.” (Wikipedia/Natural Law/Hobbes)
According to Hobbes, there are nineteen such precepts or “laws.” But there is nothing more to his nineteen “laws” than a weak attempt to quiet the cognitive dissonance evoked by the “the war of all against all.” The same applies to the “natural laws” and/or “divine laws” made up by other pre-scientific philosophers such as Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, etc.
Besides the survival of the fittest, the only other true category of natural law consists of those laws of natural cause and effect such as the law of gravity, the laws of momentum, the laws of thermodynamics, etc..
Economists and philosophers who find in nature any other sort of natural, moral, or divine laws or any kind of natural rights are just making shit up.
For example, there is a libertarian school of thought which claims that “the natural right to private property is the foundation from which all other natural rights extend.” (Wikipedia/Private Property)
Sorry, that does not compute.
In the state of nature there is no right to private property–no right to any kind of property at all– save by possession, secured solely by force or cunning, against any act of adverse possession by another. In the state of nature, possession is not “nine points of the law” but all ten; and retaining that possession is aided not one jot or tittle by any kind of natural right or law–in nature it is all a matter of deception, persuasion, or brute force–nothing else! Aside from such natural possession, any form of private property is a creation not of natural law or natural rights but of the social contract, from whence then may follow positive law, common law, statutory law, civil (political) rights, legal rights, and all other forms of legal contract. We don’t depend on nature or God for our rights— we depend on each other–on our human capacities for empathy, reason, justice, responsibility, etc.
The belief in natural law is an irrational belief. The belief in natural law is really a belief in divine law, a belief that one is entitled to ones property, liberty and privilege by the “Will of God” (of which nature is simply a dim reflection). The belief in the natural right to private property is a rich man’s belief–the belief of those who already hold wealth, status or power– in the most ancient, divine, and supernatural principle of manifest destiny, the divine right of kings and lords, the natural and predestined right of the haves over the have-nots. Or it is the belief of those who pretend to such a position in their own self-deluded minds; or of those poor, naive sheep who are brainwashed from the pulpit. Such a belief is so deeply embedded in the irrational, magical psychology of dominance and privilege that the rich and the imaginary-rich wannabes can go about their business unmoved by the misery of suffering masses around them, masses which may starve at their feet while those in God’s true favor sip champagne; for it is all a matter of the natural/divine “order” that to the haves go the increase and from the have-nots even that which they have shall be taken away.
The belief in natural law is a purely self-serving belief system that arises after the fact of a psychological identification with an in-group or a privileged class. The belief in natural law is an evil pathology. It is part of an irrational psychology of magical superiority and entitlement. It is a primitive, ignorant, and perverse superstition unworthy of civilized mankind. That is the reason that the weak of mind and spirit cling to it not as a royal staff or a scepter but as a crutch. That is why these pitiful, parasitic, and dangerous aristocrats of “nature” wish to hold their imaginary and superstitious natural/divine law above the laws of men.
And that is why the artificial laws of men are the true glory of mankind and our only rightful claim to the title of “the crown of creation”.
While I’m at it, I might as well burst another fantasy bubble: There is no natural right to life. There is only the natural, existential fact of life, period. One may presume that the fact of life justifies the living of it, up to some unknown and perhaps unknowable limit.
You have the freedom that you have; and with that freedom you may do what you may, what you can, or as the pagans say, an it harm none, do what ye will; right up to the point where either your own sensibility or the resistance of another may give you pause.
In the same natural condition and situation one and all, we therefore negotiate our social, political, and economic contracts. These are our positive rights and obligations, not decreed or served on a platter by god or nature, but un-natural, and contrived among ourselves. And for that very reason, and none other, we bind our words and deeds with our honor and our blood…
Friends, libertarians, and Austro-hungarians…
I come to bury the Natural Right Whale… not to praise him…