Where do you get your rights?

Empathy empowers rights.

Libertarianism is inherently empathetic. Libertarians respect individual conscience in all things. We imagine how others…

  1. want to be treated, and deal with them accordingly (the Golden Rule)
  2. don’t want to be treated, and we respect their boundaries (the Zero Aggression Principle)

Empathy is a regard for others. It was empathy that motivated humans to create a legal system. We all recognize that none of us wants to be…

  • Threatened
  • Robbed
  • Murdered
  • Cheated

We support due process and the presumption of innocence because of empathy. We imagine how we would feel if we were falsely accused. Thus…

Our rights are empowered by empathy! Your neighbor could menace, steal from, or slaughter you. You could do the same to him. Instead, you each recognize that…

Empathy feels good, achieves good, and returns good.

This makes empathy a better social strategy than bullying force. Empathy fosters positive reciprocity.  By contrast, The State

These practices negate empathy. They replace positive reciprocity with political warfare. If you lose the political contest then I impose on you, and vice versa. Empathetic libertarianism rejects political warfare in favor of non-violent persuasion, cooperation, and tolerance.

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Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of RealCampaignReform.org, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

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Show Comments 17


  1. Thi is excellent! I really like the way you put this. It not only makes good political sense, it is good psychology too. Psychologists see empathy as the basis of morality. More people need to understand this.

  2. I agree with everything I’ve read so far except this. Empathy is different for different people, psychological studies have suggested that the average person can truly have empathy for around 300 individuals. A high number in my opinion. Our rights do not come from any person’s opinions, or they are admissibly malleable and NOT inalienable. For human rights to be ironclad, they must originate from outside and above human philosophy and opinion. They must be acknowledged as an innate part of what we are, pre-eminent and pre-existing before consciousness or personality, just as they exist before government begins. I personally ascribe to the Founders’ expression that they come from ‘Our Creator’, a source we can’t very well legislate away. But basing it on what we feel is best, allows a degree of malleability for cultures with skewed morality.

    1. Post

      This is an interesting question that will get a much more thorough treatment later. I too believe they come from “Our Creator.” But our view has problems.

      First, who is that Creator? Religions and even denominations disagree, so this question is difficult. But admittedly, there’s malleability here. One person’s “creator” could be more benevolent than another.

      Second, is there actually a Creator? How do those who deny that existence come to agree on what is or what is not a right? Third, there’s a hard reality: Rights are relatively easy to violate. Thus empathy is the sense, placed within us (innate) to show us what rights are and are not. Yes, of course, they’ll vary. Empathy and rights have both expanded over time. There’s a corresponding relationship in these two things so that the way we understand rights today is vastly different than how rights were understood 500 years ago when Martin Luther was nailing his ‘theses’ to a church door.

      Finally, can we maintain that, for those of us who believe in the Creator, empathy was placed there by him? That is the means the Creator has used, which applies to believer and non-believer alike?

      Once again, we’ll be saying much more about this in the future. I realize this answer is incomplete. But it’s a start. Please stay tuned.

      1. Your “answer” is sufficient, no “much more through treatment” necessary, please.

        I suggest that for individual sovereignty to exist, it doesn’t make any material difference whether it’s one creator or another or multiple creators, nor if a creator is necessary for individual sovereignty. Don’t let divine sourcing get you off into the weeds; not a question that has a definite proveable answer.

  3. The Founders had a thorough Christian world view. They said that a republic could not long exist without a moral people based upon Christian values. Those values have not changed over the millenniums as they are placed into mankind’s conscience. We might be tempted to want to include all other ideas of diverse creators in order to placate our desire to not be so closed-minded, but that would be to the detriment of American history. We were a Christian nation then, and to that end we must attempt to return without coercion, but based upon reason and charity.

  4. Perry, Are you saying empathy comes first, then rights are derived from empathy? Yet we have empathy for animals, for example, but we don’t ascribe rights to animals. Even worse, we cause factory-farmed animals pain and eat them. I appreciate all the great work you and Jim do! Michael

  5. I believe that Jehovah God gave us free will, freedom to choose. The tragedy is that manmade “laws” and constitutions have supplanted God’s laws with Satan’s dross.

  6. The title, “Where Do We Get Our Rights” is not explained in the mental lever..?
    The ‘lever’ explains that “Libertarianism is inherently empathetic.”
    And it goes on to say that “Empathy is a regard for others.”
    Also, that “We support due process and the presumption of innocence because of empathy.”
    Then, it goes on to say that “Our rights are empowered by empathy!”
    Plus, “Empathy feels good, achieves good, and returns good.”
    And, that, “This makes empathy a better social strategy”
    Then it tells how The State contrasts all this; but…
    the lever never goes on to answer the title question..??? Where do we get our rights?
    [remember, to a non-believer, “the creator” is not an answer.

    There are some who believe that we have no rights other than what we are prepared to fight for.

    – – – – – – – – – –
    Above all is the importance that no one may be forced to supply us our “rigthts!”

  7. I believe that answering ‘in our humanity’ to the question “Where do our rights come from?” could be the answer for both believers and agnostics. We all recognize that, regardless of race, religious affiliation, education status, economic status or whatever else divides us, we are human. Believers will see that as being created in the Image of God. Skeptics or non-believers can use empathy as a spring board to similar results, Because we are human, we treat each other humanely. (Do to others as you would have them do to you. )

  8. This site is simply execellent, every makes a lot of sense. This information will soon be going main stream after this totally corrupt system crashes and burns. Bravo!

    Keep up this fantastic work!

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