"Ethical right is largely abstract; legal right is mostly concrete. Ethical right the just man wishes to be established; legal right is already established. Ethical right and legal right mutually exclude each other; where one prevails, the other cannot endure. One is founded on power, on might; the other on justice, on equality. One appeals to the sword to settle matters, the other appeals to the judgment of men. For illustration: Governments have the right to do wrong; that is, they have the power, the legal right, to do anything they choose, regardless of whether it is good or bad — and their choice is usually bad from the ethical standpoint. Governments can and do invade nations, rob the people of their property, enslave or kill the inhabitants; all in perfect accord with legal rights, but in gross violation of ethical right. Let it be understood that the right of a government is coextensive with its power; it has not the right to invade, enslave or kill the people of a stronger nation or government, for it lacks the power on which this right is based; but, having the power, it has the right to commit these acts against a weaker nation. Let us not mistake things as they are for things as they ought to be. "
by:
Charles T. Sprading
(1871-1959) Libertarian activist, writer
Source:
Charles T. Sprading's Introduction to Liberty and the Great Libertarians; An Anthology On Liberty; A Hand-book Of Freedom (Los Angeles: The Libertarian Publishing Company, 1913)
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Reader comments about this quote:
Mostly gobble-de-gook. More mis-information to confuse and discredit inalienable right, the law of nature and of nature's God, and all that which is concrete. True rights are lawfully concrete. An example of such is fiscal law: theft by deception, (funny money or Keynesian economics) violates the individual and will eventually end in economic injustice. In a representative republic, government has no rights but duties only. In a representative republic, the individual has no right to do wrong (criminal - theft, murder, physical violation, invade nations, enslave through compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, etc.) so, his authorized employee has no right to do such either. The entire quote treats government as an organic being, third party in toto aloof from 'We The People'.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The first time I have seen this explained since one, lone, history professor did so in a long ago lecture I never forgot. There is no confusion, sorry Mike. This goes back to Pilate asking, "What is truth?" You ignore this information at your peril.
     -- J. B. Wulff, Bristol, CT     
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     -- Anonymous      
    I much prefer ethical rights and justice over "legal rights" self granted by rulers posing as benevolent government.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Some people have difficulty giving any statement logical thought if anything in it can be construed to involve economic or political ideas for their solidified prejudice against concerns of the welfare of the people.
     -- dick, fort worth     
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    Spoken like a true communist dick, Thanks for coming out...
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    "Government is not eloquence, not reason, it is force, and like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    yeah but, government, our government is the people!. How about that for ethical. Are the people and the government sometimes wrong, yes. But consider the opposite, it would be much worse.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    J. B. Wulff, thanks for the response, I love intelligent dialogue. Youre right about the timing of the neocon specific movement, Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol were the main instigators of the fascist and narrowed thought we now call neocon. Part of their concept was governments duty was to perpetuate public morality through perpetual moral dilemma (government always being the moral and correct answer). If a moral dilemma didnt exist, it was up to the government to create one (wars, energy shortages, fiscal breakdowns, etc.; sort of the other hands more newly stated: You never want a good crisis to go to waste). Government creates the arguments for and against and then sets the dilemma so that the desired result will be accomplished (kinda like nbc - super liberal progressives; vs fox, with the likes of Bill, Irving Kristols son) Strauss derived his narrowly specific thought from his heavily influenced education of Neo-Kantianism (all the intellectual / political rage in the late 1800s and early 1900s.) - Thus my comments on might makes right - the more power you have, the more right and moral you are / power does not make legal right. J.B., please be more specific, please explain what your professor explained to you. Thanks for the critique and opportunity to explain further.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Sorry, Mike, but Sprading I understand, your explanation, I do not. ;-) While it is legally 'right' for governments to do what is ethically wrong, Sprading is obviously not condoning legal right nor trying to confuse inalienable rights -- he is making the distinction between might and right.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Waffler, you are truly nuts. Our government pays absolutely no attention whatsoever to the people. The majority wanted nothing to do with B.O's "health" plan but we got it shoved down our throats anyway. Waff, the local reds must love you.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    I think you totally wrong Jim K. Everyone knows (almost everyone) that health care financing, costs, rip offs etc is totally out of whack in this country. Even the Republicans. When Obama and the Dems pushed the issue the Repubs said yeah okay but not this bill this way. Bush and those guys had eight years to do it and eight years to run a decent economy and balanced government. Instead they enriched the rich, ran the fed budget into the ground.They guru was Dick Cheney who said "Deficits don't matter". I don't think that truth telling is nuts at all and I don't care what derogatory term that you choose to call the truth. IT IS STILL THE TRUTH!
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Mike, The long ago lecture spoke to the "rights" of government to protect itself via any means. This did not speak to truth or legality, it spoke to the inherent right of the entity to protect and defend itself against all comers. Your reference to "might makes right" is exactly that. It's the law of the jungle. In identifying that "right" we do not condone it in any way. We simply admit to its existence. If we choose to fight it and destroy it, we invoke one of our "inalienable rights." Unless care is used in definitions, the clear path is lost. I agree this. A good conversation.
     -- J. B. Wulff, Bristol, CT     
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    jim, note that Waffler's argument is to try and involve you in the "left / right" argument. Which is nothing more than a diversionary tactic and always has been. Those who actually pay attention are well aware that the system in and of itself is a farce, and you're right, they pay no attention to the electorate until election time...then they lie to us. All of them. Restore the Republic.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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