When we turn our heads back to the real world, we see no such individual rights: at best, we see weak approximations of these rights, limping about with all kinds of wounds and sores on them. Worse, we notice, on the other side of the scale, something more ominous. Consider what the historian Thomas Carlyle noted when scanning the French Revolution: “With endless debating , we get the Rights of Man written down and promulgated: true paper basis of all paper Constitutions. Neglecting, cry the opponents, to declare the Duties of Man! Forgetting, answer we, to ascertain the Mights of Man;—one of the fatallest omissions!”
Where in all of Objectivism is this question of Might ever approached in a non-wishful-thinking, adult manner? It is the easiest thing in the world to talk about rights or scribble about rights on a piece of paper or build castles-in-the-air about rights in society. But to make such rights actually exist in the world of fact, so that individuals universally abide by them, that is a much more difficult task, and all the talking and scribbling and arial castle building in the world won’t ever surmount the difficulties involved.
In the real world, matters stand as Pareto describes them in The Mind and Society:
So as between the various social classes no principle of right can be found to regulate the division of social advantage. The classes that have the greater strength, intelligence, ability, shrewdness, take the lion’s share. It is not clear how any other principles of division could be logically established and even less clear how once they were established logically they could be enforced or applied in concrete. Every individual certainly has his own principle for a division that would seem ideal to him. But such a principle is nothing more than an expression of individual sentiments and interest which he comes to conceive as a “right.” [§1509]
The key point in Pareto’s disquisition concerns the difficulties of enforcing or applying any theory of rights in practice. To enforce such a theory requires the threat (and perhaps use) of violence. More than that, it requires greater force than is applied on behalf of other theories regulating the division of social advantage. Given everything we know from history about human nature, there are no compelling reasons to believe that Rand’s notions about individual rights will ever be applied in the practical affairs of men. It is a theory concocted by intellecutals who have no practical experience in the real world of politics and who therefore have no clue how to apply their theories in practice.
Rand herself focuses nearly all her attention on the theoretical side of the question, as she operates under the illusion that, if she merely provides the best rationalization possible for her theory, the practical side will take care of itself. This demonstrates a lack of judgment about human affairs that is appalling in someone as intelligent as Rand. Yet this is not the worst of it. Not only did Rand fail to provide any solution to the practical side of the problem; her theoretical solution, as I shall demonstrate in future posts, is itself riddled with gaping logical holes.