Asking wrong questions

Here in the opinions section we have recently seen articles dealing with gun control and allowing alcohol on campus, at first glance these issues may seem unrelated, but on second glance I think we can see we are really dealing with the same issue: collective rights versus individual rights.

Some people want to go to school in a gun free zone, and some would like to be able to protect themselves. Some people would like to drink on campus, while others would like to be an alcohol free school. Both sides seem fairly reasonable, so how do we decide?

I think we are asking the wrong questions. When we ask if alcohol or guns should be allowed, or if we have a right to have them the natural question to ask is what gives a person a right to do anything in the first place? This is, to put it mildly, a complicated subject, but some light can be shed on the matter in even a small space.

A right that can be applied consistently from person to person in all times and places is what might be called an individual right (though many would have a different definition).

This is opposed to collective rights that would be more likely to reference “the greatest good for the greatest number” or “for the good of society” (or “for the good of the school”).

However, collective rights face a problem, namely the vast differences between people (race, class, gender), but only a limited number or way of organizing individuals.

In other words, society does not exist independently of individual human beings. Society does not have feeling, needs and desires – individuals do. For this reason if we are going to have any concept of rights that is actually relevant to human nature, they must be individual rights.

There is only one solution that can be applied consistently: that each person is entitled to his or her own time and energy. This is essentially libertarian position: private property, and non-aggression. You have your right to your time and energy and everyone else has a right to their time and energy so long as they do not interfere with one another. You have a right to a gun, as long as the person whose property you are on doesn’t mind. You have a right to drink beer, so long as the restaurant owner is OK with it.

So what is the answer when it comes to the school? In short, there isn’t one. Our school is paid for by a hybrid of private trade and taxes. As far as property goes, the school belongs to no one. But this is the reason why we must understand what rights are before all else, and then debate about them; other wise we are going to be caught intellectualizing midstream, rather than principles first.

3 Responses to "Asking wrong questions"

  1. former UVU student   November 19, 2009 at 1:17 am

    This op-ed is presumptively a response to the negative comments reacting to that moronically ill-informed editorial “Concealed weapons pose a threat to campus,” presumptively written by an out-of-state Communist coward.

    Take it up with Utah State Legislature. They are the ones who write the bills and pass laws regulating the right to keep and bear arms. They are the ones who passed the law that permit the right to carry on public campus, provided the carrier holds a valid concealed carry license. They also amend and regulate alcohol laws, but leaves policy on alcohol consumption to administration at public and private colleges across the State of Utah.

    You cannot do anything about banishing the right-to-carry under prescribed legal circumstances because it’s an established Utah law. Write to local district representatives and state senators to
    complain if that makes your day…

    Reply
  2. Jeff   November 19, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Thanks for recognizing the complexity of the issues that are being discussed. This is the first opinion piece I’ve read from this paper that really seems like it was thought through.

    Whatever their faults, most libertarians that I’ve come in contact with have at least examined the issues in some depth.

    Reply
  3. Jake   November 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    These are easy questions in my opinion.

    Alcohol: What’s to gain from having it on campus? You can wait till tonight. Till then, shut up and fight for personal rights that actually matter. Your the same people that think gay marraige shouldn’t be allowed. Hippocritical as usual.

    Concealed Weapons: if you get caught with it, it wasn’t concealed after all. I have a strict reasonable don’t ask don’t tell policy regarding weapons used for protection.

    Reply

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