Acid Test

Michael Miller

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XL-- August 20, 2005

If you believe everything you hear, you must think you have rights coming out your ears! 

Welfare statists tell you that you have rights to free medical care, a free education, a government pension, welfare, and other goodies too numerous to enumerate. Trendoids of political correctness tell you that you have a right to be spoken of in "sensitive" terms.

Capitalists tell you that you have the right to live your own life, to earn your own living, and to own what you earn. They tell you that you have the right to think your own thoughts, and the right to speak your mind.

You see the problem: these cannot all be rights! You can't have a right to your earnings if someone else has a right to spend them to support his welfare habit. You can't have a right to speak your mind if someone else has a right to dictate your "sensitivity." There is no such thing as a right to violate rights.

Beware of counterfeit rights! But how can you tell the true from the fake?

When gold coin was money, men faced the same problem of telling the true from the counterfeit. The final arbiter was the acid test. A coin that failed the acid test was a fake, a fraud, a rip-off. 

We need an acid test for rights. Fortunately, it is easy to devise one, straight from the definition of a right.

"A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context."

The purpose of rights is to spell out your freedom of action so you can defend it in specific issues without having to debate all of political philosophy. Freedom is primary, rights are its guardians. 

Now ask: how can your freedom be impaired or infringed? 

Only by force can your freedom be infringed. Only force or the threat of force can compel you to act against your judgment. And force means force: whips and knouts, fines and prisons, fire and sword, pit and gallows, a gun in your ear!

The acid test of a right is: Does the alleged right prohibit—or authorize—the initiation of force? If it prohibits the initiation of force, it is a genuine right. 

If it authorizes the initiation of force, it is a fake, a fraud, a rip-off! It is not a guardian of your freedom, but an assault upon it!

Now observe that welfare "rights" authorize forcible collection of handouts, and that sensitivity "rights" authorize forcible silencing of peaceful speech.

Those who circulate bogus rights are enemies of freedom. They are statists camouflaged in the capitalist clothing of individual rights!


1 "Man's Rights," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand, Signet, 1967, p. 321. 


You needn’t despair at bogus rights—you can become a Quackgrass activist! Copy this article! Keep the original for future copies. Paper meetings with it! Paper your office! Leave a stack on your business counter! If you expect hostility, use stealth and cunning—it’ll drive your opponents wild! Be ingenious! Have fun! 

Michael Miller is an engineer and Objectivist filosofer with thirty years of experience. He had been a member of Boycott Alberta Medicare in 1969 and of the Association to Defend Property Rights from 1973 on. He writes in-depth filosofical theory at his publication, Quackgrass Press, which can be accessed at

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA's Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue XL Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.

Visit TRA's Principal Index, a convenient way of navigating throughout the issues of the magazine. Click here.