What are our innate rights and why are they unalienable?

My post on the Warman vs Free Dominion and John Does verdict has received an unusually high amount of comments – especially for an obscure little blog like mine.  While this is flattering, it does not really diminish the pain this verdict has inflicted on me – even if my interest was not financial (as I was not associated with either the plaintiff nor the defendants, though, I have developed great respect and affection for the defendants over the years that I have followed this case for).

No, my interest may not have been financial, but it is as personal as it gets:  this verdict, as it currently stands, restricts freedom of speech to such a degree that had major media outlets dared to honestly report on it, the populace would rebel.  I honestly believe that to be true – though, some of the comments I received do make me wonder…

For example, one commenter, ‘harebell’, said:

‘You keep posting a series of quotes, that is not an argument for anything it’s a list of people’s opinions.
To claim there are some inalienable, a priori rights based on individual preferences and desires is fine in theory. But each of those individual ideas on rights and preferences will come into conflict with those of others and then both sets will be accused of infringing on the rights of the other and therefore wrong. A person’s rights are what a community agrees they are especially if the community has the power to enforce what it says. It really doesn’t matter whether that community is based on a moral system or an ethical system they will create laws limiting behaviour because my idea of what constitutes freedom will be different to yours. Giving up absolute freedom is the price we pay to live in Canada because we have to live with others.’

Obviously, I tried to explain this, in the following, highly imperfect way:

Individual freedoms are the cornerstone on which our society is built – just read up on our history.

While Americans valued equality, Canadians have always cherished individual freedoms – until, that is, Cultural Marxists re-wrote our textbooks and educated the last generation in revisionist history, depriving it of even the knowledge of its true heritage.

Historians like Professor John Robson have written extensively on this.

But, if you wish to go into some detail here, let me give you a very, very short version:

Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy: this is a form of democracy which is not an absolute democracy ( ‘absolute democracy’ is also called ‘the tyranny of the majority’, as exemplified by two wolves and a lamb taking a vote over what to eat for dinner).

This form of democracy recognizes that each and every citizen has inalienable rights which, no matter how large a percentage of the majority votes to take away, must not be violated. The only legitimate role of government is to protect these rights, so that each and every citizen may exercise them freely.

One such basic right – one we can most easily understand – is the right to bodily integrity. This means that if there are 4 people who need a kidney, a liver, a lung and a heart each, the government cannot arbitrarily appoint a 5th person to be the organ donor, on the grounds that ensuring 4 citizens live outweighs the 1 citizen’s right to live.

(There are very good books by much more intelligent people than I that explain this well – I do urge you to read up on our history.)

In other words, our society is based on the proposition that the majority must not be permitted to harm minorities – even the smallest minority of one citizen. To the contrary, when a government begins to strip citizens of their human rights, that government becomes illegitimate and loses it justification to govern.

It is sad that this was not covered in your civics class in high school…

Of course, the wise and eloquent CodeSlinger answered her much better:

‘harebell:

You write “To claim there are some inalienable, a priori rights based on individual preferences and desires is fine in theory.”

Well, no. It’s not. It’s a contradiction in terms. Rights, being a priori, are derived from first principles and therefore cannot be based on individual preference.

You also write “A person’s rights are what a community agrees they are especially if the community has the power to enforce what it says.”

This, too, is a contradiction in terms. A person’s rights are derived from what kind of creature a human is, and therefore cannot depend on anyone else’s agreement.

Like most Canadians, you have been taught to confuse privileges with rights, and lulled into accepting the poisonous lie that the collective supersedes the individual – in other words, that might makes right. As soon as you accept that, you have enslaved yourself: you cease to be a free individual and become a ward of the state.

The whole idea that rights can somehow be based on consensus is fundamentally flawed.

Consensus, to be productive, requires that each individual contribute independently out of his experience and insight. When consensus comes under the dominance of conformity, the social process is polluted and the individual at the same time surrenders the powers on which his functioning as a feeling and thinking being depends.

— Solomon A. Asch

This concept, “powers on which [a person’s] functioning as a feeling and thinking being depends,” is the core of what we mean by a right. To clarify this, let’s go back to basics. Let’s start with some definitions:

privilege: a special advantage, benefit, or exemption, selectively granted to some but denied to others.

right: a freedom, entitlement, or immunity, so fundamental to human nature it cannot justly be taken away or given up.

See the difference? See how you are disempowered by confusing privileges with rights? See how the government benefits at your expense by using the schools it runs to confuse you in that particular way?

When we speak of “inalienable individual rights,” by the way, the words “inalienable” and “individual” are added only for emphasis and clarity. Strictly speaking, these qualities are already inherent in the definition of “rights.”

Okay. So, what are these inalienable individual rights? They are:

Life, liberty, property, privacy, self-defence, and self-expression.

Why these and only these?

Well, the rights to life and liberty are the essential primary rights and the rights to property, privacy, self-defence, and self-expression are necessary and sufficient to guarantee life and liberty. By necessary and sufficient, I mean that nothing more is needed, and anything less would not be enough.

These six rights form an irreducible core: you either have all of them, or you may as well have none of them.

The inalienable individual rights give form and substance to the idea that every individual is inherently entitled to live and to act in his own self-interest and is immune from being interfered with in so doing. Further, since man is a rational animal, mental life and liberty are as important as physical life and liberty. Neither has value without the other.

Now, these ideas are crystal clear and incontrovertible when people live alone in a state of nature. It is when they come together in groups that confusion often starts – but it need not, if we think carefully and ignore those who have a vested interest in confusing us.

After all, the whole reason individuals form communities is to increase the benefits they derive from exercising their rights in return for accepting some responsibilities to the community – be it a family, village, city, province or nation. This, in a nutshell, is the social contract.

The crucial concept of a contract is quid pro quo: you give something in return for receiving something. Meaning, unless the community increases the benefits you derive from exercising your rights, you owe the community nothing at all.

Thus we must never allow the collective to take precedence over the individual, otherwise we negate the whole reason for forming a collective in the first place! Unless we hold inviolate the principle that the rights of the collective are derived from – and subservient to – the rights of its constituent individuals, the entire social contract becomes null and void, and any attempt to enforce it amounts to tyranny.

From this we can immediately see that the primary duty of the state must be to equally guarantee the equal rights of each and every individual. Whenever the government oversteps the boundaries defined by this primary duty, it breaches the social contract and thereby forfeits its legitimacy.

The whole foundation of the legal system follows just as immediately: a crime is committed whenever any person’s rights are violated and harm results. The severity of the crime is proportional to the harm which results. Thus, where there is no harm, there is no crime. Any law which is incompatible with these principles is unjust, and an unjust law is no law at all.

In other words, your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose, and vice versa.

The whole purpose of the law and the state is to guarantee that to both of us equally, and anything else it does is unnecessary or illegitimate.

Yes, it really is that simple.

And it all rests on the absolute primacy of inalienable individual rights.

The quotes I posted say all that much more clearly and eloquently than I ever could – and also give proper credit to the great men I learned it from. Read their words again, and you will see what I mean:

A right is not what someone gives you, it’s what no one can take away from you.

— U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark

No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.

— Thomas Jefferson

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

— Thomas Jefferson

It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.

— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

Must a citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? … It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

— Henry David Thoreau’

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