For Tom Woods: are rights a human construction or do they exist?
In a recent video, Tom Woods brings up secession. He says:
“The question of secession is basically raising this issue: is it possible that the political unit could become so large as to be, even by government standards, dysfunctional?”
“Why would it be that the number of square feet in the United States is like a heaven-sent number? Like ‘it’s this many square feet; and if you want it to be slightly fewer square feet then there’s something wrong with you..’
The union is supposed to be a practical thing. It’s supposed to be a means to an end; not an end in itself. The union is not something we’re supposed to get down and worship, or wave incense before.. It’s a practical thing and yet the hysterics about secession.. the hysterics who have been criticizing people who consider this idea, are treating the union as if it were an object of religious veneration. This is bizarre and creepy.”
If the union is to be evaluated according to means and ends, then what about the states themselves, and then what about (libertarian) property rights? Mises and Hazlitt understood property rights as (the culmination of) chosen means by specific individuals for the achievement of their personally desired ends.
In an earlier video, ‘Where Do Rights Come From?’, Tom said:
“The fact that we can make this argument from numerous angles, and yet it leads us to the same basic conclusion of the existence of natural rights.. I don’t think that’s a weakness, I think that’s a strength. I think that shows that it’s a truth that, that albeit perhaps from somewhat different angles, we are all approaching.. from different ways.”
It seems like Tom is trying to have it both ways: have rights be something that exists, and (at least at the level of larger political organization) have it be a constructed human means for a human end.
Tom speaks of ‘treating the union as an object of religious veneration’, but I believe that is the way many libertarians treat rights as.