Front Page Titles (by Subject) Egoism and Rights - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Egoism and Rights - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Egoism and Rights
“An Outline of a Theory of Rights.” Paper presented at the Libertarian Scholars Conference, Princeton University, October 1978.
How can we establish individual rights? We must be able to show that the teleological claim that man “ought” to act in his own self-interest (eudaimonistic egoism) can generate a moral obligation or “deontic claim.” But how does each individual have value so that it is wrong and a violation of “rights” for others to use coercion against him?
Traditional natural rights theory asserts that individuals possess rights because of their status as persons. What kinds of actions would violate someone's personhood and how do we justify our claim that person-denying actions are wrong? The short answer is that we violate someone's person and rights by misusing him, that is, by treating a person as a means to another's end rather than as an end-in-himself.
Misusing a person presupposes a teleology of human nature: each person possesses a certain “natural” or “objective” end, and it is a “natural” function for him to strive to satisfy his natural end. The natural and objective end of each person is his well-being. To strive towards success in achieving this well-being also defines the natural function of each person. This type of eudaimonistic egoism gives us a moral principle to oppose misusing a person as other than an end-in-himself. Each person is an individual, a separate being, with a unique, irreplaceable life; any use of a person that does not recognize a person's status as an end-in-himself is a misuse.
Human individual well-being means living well. Smith can misuse Jones's life by so acting on him that Jones cannot direct his own behavior and purposes toward personal well-being. Smith would thus misuse Jones by treating him as a means to Smith's end rather than as an end-in-himself. But the purpose of individual goal-directed action is a person's living well. Therefore it is wrong and unjustified to coercively deprive another person of self-direction. Such misuse of an autonomous person is deontically wrong. Jones has a valid claim against such treatment because he is an end-in-himself. This claim is a right against misuse or coercion. Thus man possesses a fundamental right against coercion from which other specific rights derive.