What gives us the right to live? Is it our value as human beings? Our productive value to society? Some divine mandate? Nothing at all? Liberal sentiments tend to lean towards our value as human beings, while conservative sentiments agree with the productive value theory. However, both these viewpoints are entirely wrong in regards to society as it exists now.

The concept of human value has changed much over the years and thus has no intrinsic or universal value. To have some subjective value in a certain society does not automatically confer the right to live. Likewise, our ability to produce generally for society does not prove that we have some right to live. This latter refutation applies because our ability to work does not necessarily mean that we are producing items that society actually needs, especially in a consumer-driven society.

So if these two theories of the origins of human rights are fallacious then what grants us our right to live? The answer is, in a word, profit.

How is this so?

Our first piece of evidence is that all useful(productive) land is privately owned and productive only at the whim of the owner, not society at large. Land is only put to use when it can be made profitable for specific individuals, not when it is needed for the survival of every individual. If the right to live was an intrinsic human right then wouldn't all useful land be in the hands of everyone, to be used when necessary and not when it benefits only a few.

The second, and most decisive, piece of evidence is also the most obvious. It is one of the basic facts of capitalist economics that businesses do not survive without making a profit – simply breaking even is not enough due to constant competition – with which to expand and invest in cost-saving upgrades. But how is a profit made? By charging over the cost of production. Herein lies the proof that our right to live hinges on another's ability to profit off of us.

A person cannot obtain a job if he or she cannot bring an employer a value over the production value of their product. Marx calls this “surplus-value”, and the term aptly describes profit. Our right to live rests wholly upon our ability to create surplus-value for another, our ability to pay a profit to an employer.

An otherwise capable and willing person is left to fend for himself or accept charity from others for the simple fact that he cannot be fully exploited, because he does not create surplus-value. It is not bad enough that the resources directly necessary for our survival are in the hands of a few, but we are also denied the means to live if we cannot pay a fee.

That is where our right to live comes from, a piece of paper, a piece of metal, a temporary note of exchange-value.


06/15/2012 18:13

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06/15/2012 18:16

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06/16/2012 23:15

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10/24/2012 00:43

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