How often have you heard someone say “that’s my right!” Or, “health care, food, shelter, education, is my right.” Or, “I can say anything I want, it’s my right.” But how many of you have actually thought through exactly what is a right?
My definition is this. A right is any action that you take on your own, for which, the government has no power to infringe upon. A right, can only be exercised on your own, where you are not given anything in order to exercise your right. Your ability to exercise any right ends where it infringes on the ability of anyone else to exercise their rights by compromising life, liberty or property. Rights require action to exist.
Take the First Amendment to the Constitution. It says we have a right to free speech and a free press. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to be given a press in order to exercise free speech. You have to get the press on your own. In the same way the Second Amendment guarantees that the government will not infringe on your right to own and carry a gun. But that in no way means the government, or any other entity has to give you a gun. In the same way health care, education, and anything else that people want for free, get classified as rights, when in reality they are anything but. Because anything you have to be given from the wealth, work or property of someone else, can never be a right.
So where do rights come from? There is a great lecture given by Professor John A. Sterling which you can find at: http://www.lawandliberty.org/rights.htm. This defines and describes rights through history. Some of my ideas and dialogs were developed from this brilliant article. To me the greatest phrase ever written on rights is from Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence where he said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This one sentence is so rich in meaning. We, meaning all of the people, agree, that these truths, meaning statements of universal fact, are so universal as to be a given part of the human condition, and are self-evident, always existing and always will exist, and obvious to everyone as such. All men, and assuming now all women, are created, by God our creator, as equals, not to lead equal lives, or have equal results, or to accumulate equal property, or that life is completely fair and equal for it surely is not, but that we are created equal, so no artificial birthright, or class, or monarchy, or title, has any bearing in this country as we all start out, in the eyes of God, as equal. Endowed, according to Sterling, is a gift in perpetuity. Unalienable, also by Sterling, means beyond the reach of government. So to me this says we are born with rights from God, which no government may touch or infringe upon, by even the slightest, infinitesimal degree.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, really comes down to life, liberty and property. John Locke believed that man has no right to destroy his own life as his life was created by God. If you believe in a right to life, as opposed to abortion, you would be following in this tradition. Liberty and freedom I have discovered through my research are being used interchangeably today, but I find a difference. Freedom is a more general state, liberty is a free state enshrined by ordained and established rights delineated from all sources. Property. We all have a right to accumulate and keep property by legitimate means and pass it along to our posterity. Rights end for one individual where the rights of another individual begin. To define that line we create laws. Good and just laws will maintain the appropriate balance and draw the correct line.
Somewhere along the way, the above definition got lost on the modern Liberals, Socialists and Communists that permeate every fabric of our society and government, because for them this simple, declarative sentence by Jefferson, that so totally encompasses the richness of the gift of defined rights from our Founders, has no meaning whatsoever. And this is where the whole concept of rights got screwed up. Here is how I think it happened.
Back when we were agrarian, up until about the mid 1800′s, people lived mostly on family farms and ranches. People grew or shot most of what they ate. They were self sufficient. What they produced beyond what they needed could be sold for a profit. They were entrepreneurs and small business people. Enter the industrial revolution. As people moved from farms into industrial jobs people were dependent not on themselves as much, but on the company to pay them a decent wage for the work done. Whereas on the farm they could produce as much as they wanted and sell the surplus, with a job people had to produce as much as they were told, they were paid a fixed wage, and the surplus beyond the cost of the wage went to the company. Many companies treated employees abysmally. Working conditions were disgraceful. Children labored. Unions formed to make the workers an equal bargaining unit to management and workers were shot and killed for this. The reaction from workers around the world is that under capitalism, a word made famous by Karl Marx, there was no life, no liberty, and no way to accumulate property, because the wages in many cases were lower than the cost of living, causing a condition of perpetual debt with no way out.
As Socialism, Marxism and Communism roared away in the late 1800′s early 1900′s workers sought out government to make them equal to company management in bargaining. From there government was tasked with changing the laws so that people could accumulate property and create a middle class. People went to government for what they needed, and then what they wanted, and government was eager to oblige. In return for giving the people what they wanted, government took more power, allegedly to give people more of what they wanted, but in reality for a larger government and ever more control. This process continues to this day and is getting worse. People who get what they want and need from government look to these things as their right. Then they become dependent on government. Then they vote the way government wants. Government promotes this because if people believe rights, and everything else, comes from government, then government has ultimate control. Government then gets to control rights by giving or denying them, they control the economy, land, property, companies, financial markets, the people, and anything else they can in an ever increasing spiral of power. That is where we are today. It is the exact opposite of what the Founders gave us. So let’s look at what this change from God given, unalienable rights, to government given rights has gotten us.
The right to privacy. This is going to cause huge debates indefinitely. If you are discussing God given rights, then the individual has rights to privacy in terms of government search, seizure, and due process. However this right was used by modern Liberals to justify abortion, which is in conflict with the responsibility to protect life. So which is right? If you believe that one person can choose life, or not, for another, then you would be a modern Liberal. You would also believe as the Obama campaign does, that if privacy means abortion, it also means birth control, and the means to birth control, regardless of any individual belief to the contrary, and that someone else should pay for it through force of government. If you believe that all life is sacred, and that privacy refers to the security of the individual, then you would be a classic Conservative.
The right to feel safe. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, he signed various unconstitutional laws violating the Second Amendment, stating that people have a right to “feel safe.” Which means that government has the power to deny any right they want if it can be argued that our God given, individual right of in this case self preservation, is superseded by the power of government to create an artificial feeling of safety, which of course can’t be done without oppression. Especially since government citizen protection, meaning the police, have no legal requirement to protect anyone. They carry guns to protect themselves while systematically denying the same right to the people of California. There is no right to feel safe. Life isn’t safe. That is why we have rights to protect ourselves with self defense weapons, even from our own government should they become tyrannical. So if in the interest of making everyone “feel safe” all the guns are confiscated, there will be no power left to the people to resist tyranny. This is well documented in the history of Socialist and Communist regimes who act to make everyone feel safe.
The right to health care. No such thing. Because like all other Liberal rights this has to come from the labor and wealth of others. It is compelled by government, where they force a purchase of a product, allegedly for the public good. The idea is that if everyone pays into the pool then government can distribute health care in the most fair way. Never happened yet. Check around the world. Because what government gives, it can take away, it can ration, deny, force long waits, or do anything it wants. So giving government the power over the health of the nation is irrational. So any argument that health care is or should be a government given right, is absurd.
States rights. This concept I’ve never understood, because governments at all levels have powers, only individuals have rights. The idea here is that states have general powers whereas the Federal Government has limited and specific enumerated powers, where all other powers are reserved to the states, or to the people.
Collective Rights. The Second Amendment I refer to frequently, because it so clearly and philosophically divides those who would impose tyranny, from those who believe in individual freedom. I was arguing with an ACLU lawyer on a local talk show when I first heard this term. Again, there is no such thing as a collective right because all rights are individual, are exercised individually, or they are not a right at all. The argument here is that because the Second Amendment talks of an organized militia, it must mean a government army like the National Guard. That is the collective part. But militia has always meant individual organized citizens. Well regulated doesn’t mean government regulated, it means well equipped and disciplined. Which is why soldiers of the day were called “regulars.” Try to imagine a collective right of free speech. Would we all have to say the same thing? How about a collective right to religion? See where this is going.
This country for most of it’s history believed in God given rights. In that time there was liberty, freedom, minimum regulation, minimum taxation, people kept what they earned and were able to pass it on, parents educated their children, people were self sufficient, they carried guns without needing permission, they were empowered, and they were as free as any people had ever been. During the recent time of government given rights, government education of the masses has dumbed the population, taxation in all forms confiscates a ridiculous percentage of income, inheritance is stolen, individual rights are systematically denied, property is stolen routinely, deficits soar under the burden of giving people what they believe is their right, protest movements like Occupy Wall Street explode under government encouragement to take more from the producers to give to the duped unproductive voters, and the National Debt has risen to an unsustainable level because taxation can not cover the burden of government given rights, and massive borrowing has to cover the difference.
Any bill you examine, or any argument of rights is going to come down to two conflicting philosophies. One is where rights are God given, unalienable, and untouchable by government. The other is that all rights are government given, and with that comes the power to control and destroy life, remove liberty, regulate commerce, and distribute property in any fashion government chooses. Which view would you like to live under?