When concepts are destroyed epistemological schizophrenia results and the end is never good. This has happened over the past hundred or so years with respect to the concept of capitalism. Most of the world that is “capitalist” is not really capitalist in the classic sense of laissez-faire, non-government intervention, with emergent order and market forces left to themselves. Instead, most of the modern “capitalist” world is a hodgepodge of straight up socialism combined with malignant crony-capitalism (regulations designed by companies to help themselves at the expense of competitors, handouts to govt. contractors, etc). The end result of this is that no modern debate on “capitalism” is really a debate about capitalism but rather a debate about how much government intervention should be allowed; the conversation about whether government intervention should be allowed at all is considered moot, settled. For example, we don’t debate the ridiculousness of Social Security as a government-run (forced) retirement program, we only debate the extent to which we can or cannot continue to fund the program.
A NYT headline caught my eye today. The headline is a salvo directed toward destroying a different concept (one that is already thoroughly obliterated, like capitalism). The headline: “Room For Debate: Is Air Conditioning a Right?” Actually, that’s the teaser headline, the hyperlink to the real article. The actual headline is less offensive (click the link for the real headline). The even that slight of hand (teaser hyperlink versus headline) is destructive in its own way. The concept under fire here is that of rights.
Rights, as properly understood by any rational human interacting with other humans, can only be proscriptive. Rights can only prevent or prohibit action. Never can there be a right that is positive in nature as the right to air conditioning would be. Why? Because any positive “right” would necessarily involve a claim on somebody else’s property without any consent from the other person. If air conditioning was a right then that would mean that air conditioning producers would be slaves to the world; or that those with the means of paying for air conditioning would be slaves to those without the means; or some other such situation which involves the taking from one individual or group and the giving to another. Rights, as properly understood, can never involve enslaving others or restricting the (proper) rights of others.
That the NYT so casually equates the teaser headline with the real headline shows that the concept of rights is already destroyed. Asking should air conditioning be global (a version of the real headline) is MUCH MUCH different than asking if air conditioning should be a “right”. That NYT confuses the two by equating the two is an atrocity.