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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rights 101: I Cannot Take What Is Yours, So Government Cannot As Well

Sometimes the basics need repeating. In these times of judicial nominations and wiretaps, our discussions about the protection of civil rights lose sight of what are rights. Today, Walter Williams provides us a discourse on Human Rights 101. The key part about what government can do, and we have a Constitution of enumerated powers such that government can only do what it is explicitly allowed by the citizens to do, cannot impinge on our rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Citing Locke, Williams writes:

Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don't have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.

Therefore, any supposed rights to materials and services that are claimed owed citizens that come at the forced removal of property of other citizens is not allowed. In other words, taxes cannot be used to render benefits to special citizens because no matter how great a majority of Americans support such "ear-marked" taxes, my personal refusal to submit is enough to protect my inherent right.

Going back to Williams:

[A] right is something that exists simultaneously among people and imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech, or freedom to travel, is something we all simultaneously possess. My right to free speech or freedom to travel imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. In other words, my exercising my right to speech or travel requires absolutely nothing from you and in no way diminishes any of your rights.

That sounds so liberating. So free. Doesn't it? But people have been lemmings for so long that they have forgotten what the Constitutional ideals really are. With SCOTUS openings being filled and likely to be filled again (Stevens is apparently the next one due to his age), the public should become acquainted with their rights and the scope of our compact in self-government.

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