by R. Lee Wrights
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” – Ayn Rand
When it comes to individual rights, no number is greater than one. One person, one hundred people, one thousand people, one million people do not have any more rights than the individual. Nor are the rights of a group greater or more precious than the rights of an individual — because they don’t exist. All rights are individual rights. There is no such thing as “group” rights.
Thomas Jefferson called individual rights “self-evident truths.” Fredrick Douglas said, “One and God make a majority.” Some call this principle the sovereignty of the individual.
The late David Nolan, a founder of the Libertarian Party, called this idea self-ownership. In his classic essay “The Essence of Liberty,” he said “you own yourself” was the first of five “indispensable” beliefs held by all libertarians. “You own your own body and mind; no external power has the right to force you into the service of ‘society’ or ‘mankind’ or any other individual or group for any purpose, however noble,” he wrote.
Whatever you call it, the belief that there is nothing greater than individual rights is the fundamental philosophy of libertarianism. It is the foundational principle of the Libertarian Party. If groups of people have more rights than one person, there would be no such thing as individual rights. They vanish immediately, sacrificed on the altar of democracy for the mythical “greater good for all.”
Individual rights encompass everything a person is, does, and creates. Property rights are individual rights. As James Madison put it, “… as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” And correctly understood, property rights embrace not just material possessions but whatever a person creates with their hands or with their minds. Just as no individual or group, not even government, has the right to use your material possessions without your permission, no individual or group, not even government, has the right to use your creative possessions, your spoken or written words or thoughts, without your OK.
Nor does any individual, or group, including government, have the right to do anything a single person does not have the right to do. No individual or group has the right to tell another what he or she can eat or drink or what they can do with their body. No one has the right to tell another how he or she can spend their money, or use the physical or intellectual property they have created.
Individuals are free to associate and cooperate with others, to work together, pool their resources and combine their talents and treasures to form a private organization to do whatever they like, so long as they do not harm or threaten to harm others. Whether these private groups are called corporations, political parties, or fantasy football leagues, the process is the same. People voluntarily join them, and by their own volition agree to abide by a set of rules while in the group. And they are free to leave at any time, if they don’t like the rules, no longer agree with the group’s goals, or for any other reason.
The belief that all rights belong to the individual, that you are born with them and that no power on earth can take them away from you, is the foundation of the Libertarian Party. This is what makes us different from the Republicans and Democrats, who differ only in the degree that they would have government regulate your lives, restrict your rights, and seize the fruits of your labor without your consent.
If you believe this as well, come be different with us. Join the Libertarian Party. In this election, be libertarian with us one time and help us be the difference that makes a difference.
“If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one — if he had the power — would be justified in silencing mankind.” – John Stuart Mill
R. Lee Wrights is an editor, writer and political activist living in Texas. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party national committee. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.