In Part 1, I outlined the evidence that leads me to believe that man (and earlier hominids) started as "a bunch of violent primitive tribes frequently at war". In Part 2, I showed that simple geometry is one very strong motivation for a constantly warring animal to form into large groups. In this essay, I'm going to show why I believe that all rights are linked to the power of the group. In other words, I believe that might makes right, yet at the same time rights make might.
I'm certainly no authority on philosophy, interpreting philosophy, history of philosophy, or anything else to do with philosophy. But, like everything else that I'm not an authority on, I immensely enjoy spewing forth on the subject.
I've always been interested in where "natural rights" come from. I suppose natural rights are, by definition, the right of human beings to follow their nature, but since many humans are murderous brutes by nature, clearly some filtering of those rights was required for civilization to evolve. In addition, humans are fairly adaptable and generally have some culture nurtured unto them which rather obscures their true nature.
In the beginning, rights were pretty scarce. You had a right to breathe as long as you could out run that saber tooth tiger chasing you, and that was about it. An early innovation was that a group of hominids could band together and beat back the saber tooth tigers with sticks and stones to break its bones and even bring down woolly mammoths for food with the captured saber tooth tiger fangs mounted on a spear. So now as an early hominid, you had a choice. You could either remain independent, forage on your own, and provide for your own self-defense against not only saber tooth tigers, but also against bands of marauding hominids; or you could join one of those bands and pretty much give up all of your rights and live under the autocratic rule of the biggest, strongest, nastiest, and most brutal hominid of the group (i.e. the alpha-male leader). Needless to say, nearly everyone who survived chose the latter, because it seemed better to live and eat with no rights than to have rights and not eat and not live. John Locke, in his Second Treatise of Government, puts this concept as follows:
IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property. (2nd Tr., §123)I really don't think that early hominids (and other apes and mammals that organized into some sort of pack) were particularly worried about their estates and property, and they didn't necessarily have a word for "liberty" at that point so perhaps Locke was a few hundred millennia ahead of me (and perhaps ahead of himself as well), yet we're certainly in agreement about the "preservation of their lives" part.
Let's say you're an early human and you've joined a tribe headed by some alpha-male (let's call him Zorg). Joining the tribe (as opposed to continuing on your own) has probably doubled your life expectancy and you might now live to see thirty years of age - if you're lucky. Sure, Zorg makes you kneel down daily and grovel in the gravel at his feet, but it's better than fending for yourself, so you're better off and you're gonna stay with the tribe.
Zorg is the best off of all. He's one strong dude, but still no match on his own for saber tooth tigers and other tribes, so he benefits from the protection of the group just like you. Leading this tribe, he gets a disproportionate share of the resources in terms of edibles and babes. He also benefits more than anyone else from the power/might of the group. He's one happy camper.
But here's the thing. Zorg would be better off still if he has everyone's unwavering loyalty. Loyalty that wavers in the face of danger isn't particularly valuable. If Og's tribe attacks and you don't help fight and leave Zorg hanging out to die, then all that grovelling you did at Zorg's feet didn't really do much for his well being (or his, well, being).
So Zorg has every reason to make the members of his tribe really want him to keep being the leader. If he can do that, it increases his power. There are many ways he can increase his constituents' loyalty, but certainly one of them is to allow them certain benefits. For example, he might let them own property (we're catching up to Locke in a hurry now). If he bestows these benefits consistently and thoughtfully, then his constituents prosper and he'll have their unwavering loyalty. But not only that, because everyone is prospering, the tribe/group/nation is becoming more and more powerful. People actually begin trying to join Zorg's kingdom. Eventually, he rules all of England and changes his name to George (now we've definitely caught up to Locke).
Might makes right and rights make might. A positive feedback loop. George bestowed rights using the authority he derived from nothing but the fact that he's the alpha male. He bestowed those rights only because he thought they would make him more powerful - which they did by creating prosperity for his constituents which created loyalty to him and also the power that's derived from wealth of the group.
In my Creation Myth, rights are derived from power for the purpose of increasing power and no other factors are required. No philosophical constructs (e.g. Golden Rules, Categorical Imperatives), no religion, no God, nothing except power. As Lord Voldemort says, “There is no good and evil, there is only power...” Or was it Machiavelli who said that? No matter, I've always suspected that Machiavelli was one of Slytherin's heirs, just like Voldemort. I wonder if Machiavelli was a parselmouth?
That's not to say that leaders don't use philosophical arguments, religion, God Almighty (see, there's "might" again!), and all kinds of other propaganda to sell themselves as leaders. They might even get caught up in their own arguments and believe it. But I'm convinced, that underlying all rights, there's nothing but power.
You might wonder how I think that democracy fits into all of this. It's just a power grab, that's all. By giving rights to his constituents and cutting back on using terror to reign, George is both buying power and sowing the seeds for his eventual loss of control of the populace. The populace is emboldened by their rights and the wealth they accumulate because of it. George is extraordinarily powerful as long as he retains the loyalty of his constituents. But if he rules poorly for a spell, or luck runs against him (so it looks like he's ruling poorly), the very people he empowered with rights toss him out on his ass (or they chop off his head or something like that). The people then try to rule themselves (so as to keep power for themselves) and in a few cases a representational form of government has worked quite well. In the case of the United States, the people had the might and gave themselves rights which gave them more might - the most might ever, as a matter of fact!
In summary, this essay has described the one and only basis for all rights enjoyed by humans - and that's might. Good increases the might of the group, evil reduces the might of the group. There's nothing else.