Thursday, March 17, 2005

Rights...why they must be absolute

Meaningful discourse is impossible without agreement among the participating parties on first principles or the definition of terms. This is especially true when the topic has to do with what people ought or ought not to do. The core of such issues is none other than the meaning of rights.

Much of the political rancor these days is due in large part to a disagreement about what constitutes a right. There is a wide divergence of thinking here. Some claim the right to healthcare, a living wage or housing, others insist upon a right to regulate speech in campaigns, still others argue for the right of a fetus to be born while their counterparts assert a right to choose abortion. The only way for this to make sense is if the term right has no objective definition. I suggest that it does.

Warbs has a provocative post dealing with this subject. His post mentions freedom, which is inexorably linked to the idea of rights. As most know, the Declaration of Independance declares: 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. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...! Interestingly enough, there are some that take issue with this. One such individual-collectivist (a walking contradiction) is all but infamous in the blogosphere…none other than dadahead, the disembodied head with a wooden brain. In the aforementioned post, DH wrote this:
“…you SHOULD be helping others voluntarily, but since you're not going to, we'll go ahead and force you to.”

And reiterated thusly:
“you should be sharing your wealth out of a sense of altruism. But since you won't, we/the govt. are going to forcibly take it from you.”

And the last but not least:
”…property rights are not absolute. If I can save a life by 'stealing' someone's property, in many cases I am going to do just that.”

Sadly, this type of thinking is not unique to blockhead. In fact, most Democrats and some Republicans would see no problem with such STATEments. But as for me, I find it intolerable and antithetical to the principle of liberty. Rights ARE, by virtue of one’s existence. Right are by definition absolute and unalienable. That which is conditional is not a right, but a privilege. The alternative to individual rights is collective or government rights, where the individual may or may not do this or that depending upon the ruling authority. The US Constitution recognizes only individual rights and not government rights; the government may act only with the consent of the governed. The failure to acknowledge and preserve individual rights inevitably leads to tyranny…totalitarian, authoritarian or chaotic anarchy. There is no such thing as abridging rights a little or a little tyranny, as each cannot but increase after having been tolerated.

I fully understand that the concept of rights is abstract and subject to violation by thugs and looters. This is why a healthy civilization MUST revere the concept of individual liberty and acknowledge the right of citizens to self protect from a single brute or an oppressive government.