Thomas Sowell on the “Rights Fallacy”

Sowell Constitution QuoteThe “rights” fallacy.

One of the most remarkable–and popular–ways of seeming to argue without actually producing any arguments is to say that some individual or group has a “right” to something that you want to have. Conceivably, such statements might mean any number of things. For example:

1. Some law or government policy has authorized this “right,” which is somehow still being denied, thereby prompting reassertion of it’s existence.

2. Some generally accepted moral principle has as its corollary that some (or all) people are entitled to what the “right” asserts, though presumably the fact that this right needs to be asserted suggests that others have been slow to see the logical connection.

3. The person asserting the particular “right” in question would like to have some (or all) people have what the right would imply, even if no legal, political, or other authorization for that right currently exists and there is no general consensus that it ought to exist.

In the first two cases, where there is some pre-existing basis for the “right” that is claimed, that basis need only be specified and defended. Still, that requires an argument. The third meaning has become the more pervasive meaning, especially among those with the vision of the anointed, and is widely used as a substitute for arguments.

From Thomas Sowell’s “The Vision of the Anointed.”


– Will Ricciardella



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Filed under Conservatism, Domestic Policy, Political Philosophy

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