Death Is Easy

Russell Madden

Freedom As If It Mattered

As If
It Mattered
Russell Madden

Guardian Project

The Guardian
Russell Madden


Russell Madden





Russell Madden



How many times? How many friggin’ times am I going to read a “libertarian’s” bold claim that — somehow, some way — this time it’s okay to use the State to punish those who engage in immoral (but not rights-violating) behavior?

A recent article pointed out that, while animal abuse is disgusting, because animals have no rights, such heinous action is not subject to legal punishment. In a short comment, another libertarian said that animal abusers “deserve ‘an eye for an eye’ justice,’ that “animals are [NOT} ‘property,’” that a person cannot “‘own’ any sentient being,” that animal abusers “should be punished by the state,” and, finally, that “all sentient beings should be under the protection of ZAP” (the zero aggression principle).

I’ve run across this same intellectually woeful and incoherent sentiment again and again in various so-called libertarian venues. I submit that the underlying principle proclaimed above is the essence of statism: if you don’t agree with odious behavior or outcome of person A — ends that violates no (human’s) rights — then appeal to the state to punish the wrongdoer. After all, it just “feels” right to do so.

But this outlandishly anti-libertarian statement is riddled with incoherencies and self-contradictions.

1. What qualifies as a “sentient being”? Any creature, great or small, with a brain or nervous system that has the capacity for some kind of (even rudimentary) sensory awareness of the world? According to my electronic New Oxford American Dictionary, “sentient” means “able to perceive or feel things.” Should we include fish? Chickens? Rabbits? Squirrels? Rats? Insects “perceive” things and “feel” temperature and pressure. Should we include mosquitoes? Ticks? Heck, even plants “perceive” the sun and cold and react to those external stimuli. This non-sensical view of what/who should be “protected” by ZAP (or the State) would fit to a tee PETA’s desires to ban hunting and the eating of flesh of any kind. Indeed, it lends support to their idiotic (and too successful) plans to ban pet ownership and create “guardianship” status for critters that would die much sooner if left to roam “free” and unencumbered by human “ownership.”

2. The ONLY things that should be banned or punished by the State (or by ZAP) are those ACTIONS that violate RIGHTS. The very existence and subsequent protection of “rights” is valid only in a social context and only for those beings who rely upon a moral code to guide their behavior, i.e., rights are the means that enable individuals to practice their (noncoercive) moral codes in a social context. Only creatures that possess free will or volition and operate on the conceptual level of consciousness have a need or capacity for morality. Hence, only such creatures that meet those criteria have rights — of ANY kind — that must be protected against transgressors (and only similarly rights-possessing beings can be “transgressors”)...or shall we lock up a cat that kills a mouse? Any valid moral principle must be compossible, that is, it must apply to everyone equally. Any bogus notion of “rights” that imposes restraints on humans in regard to animals but does not do the reverse is invalid on the face of it.

3. Animals can most definitely be property. (Even wild animals can become property given the proper human actions to make them so.) Animals such as pets are or can be or maybe even should be a type of property that is of a “higher” value in one’s hierarchy of values, but my pets are most definitely property. I OWN my cats. What happens to them is my responsibility (along with my wife, of course, the co-owner.) I decide how they are to be used. I decide how they are to be treated. I decide what is best for them (and for me). Not my neighbor, not some stranger, and most certainly not the STATE.

4. Transgressions by people of the proper way to handle their animals, e.g., abuse of whatever kind, can only PROPERLY be addressed by PERSUASION, either one-on-one argumentation or by boycott or ostracism or offers to purchase the animal, i.e., the other person’s property, in order to protect the animal from inhumane use.

5. This issue of how to deal with animal abuse is a touchstone in determining if someone REALLY supports freedom and rights or simply does so only as long as his or her personal ox (pun intended) is not the one being gored.

Only humans have rights.

(For more on this issue, see my essay, “The Myth of Animal Rights.”)

(from Don’t Get Me Started!, 9-01-09)