Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Our Rights

What to discuss today. Well, primarily, I'm back. I've found time to post again. Shall we? Let's ask the obvious question, what are Rights?

Discussing Natural Rights, we analyzed that there are three rights that human beings possess. The Declaration of Independence was, of course, not the first document to contain the concept of these rights. Thomas Paine was a guide to our founders when he wrote about "The Rights of Man". We understand what the concept of inalienable Rights is from past discussion, but what are Rights in general? Well, let's look at the definition of a Right:

Right - Something that is due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition, or nature.

Another definition, which I think explains it better, is given in Anderson's Business Law. To paraphrase:

A right is the ability to require someone else to do, or refrain from doing, something.

For example, our Natural Right to life requires others to refrain from killing us. It is not a pure and indefinite stoppage of such action, but merely justification of our retalliation when such an action is taken. There are three different types of Rights as described above, Natural, Traditional, and Legal. Natural Rights, as we have discussed are inherent by birth. In other words, when a mugger points a gun at your face, if you're crazy enough, you are legally allowed to break is arm and even kill him. The reason it's legal is because it is moral. You have a Natural Right to life, so society sees your actions to protect your life as completely justified. Welcome to the concept of self-defense. See, the law isn't all that difficult, it's just very occult. As such, we gain the one group of rights, Natural Rights.

Now, there was a basic overview of the concept of what a Natural Right is, let's examine others.

The rest of our Rights are given either through Tradition or Legislation.

In America, we don't have 'traditional Rights'. That is generally associated with communes and tribes. The addition of that to the definition, I believe, was because some argue that Natural Rights are not given through nature. In any case, in America, we only have our Natural Rights. But, before we delve fully into that, let's learn about Legal Rights. Legal Rights come about as a result of a social contract. What, you might ask, is a social contract?

Social Contract - a real or hypothetical agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens

Not bad. In fact, Wikipedia does a fine job, so I'll give you a link.

Our social contract, for all intents and purposes, is the Constitution. This is the contract that, as we learned, binds our government and us. It outlines the government's functionality and our Rights individually. The rights were not originally listed explicitly in the Constitution, but added to it as the first 10 amendments or 'Bill of Rights'.

However, as we read the Constitution, we realize that it was mostly written as a directional document for our government. Even the Rights aren't listed as Rights, but as things Congress may not change. In fact, it intentionally avoided attempting to specify every Right, which is apparent in the ninth and tenth Amendments. We will discuss those in detail, however, at a later date. Today, we're just trying to understand our Rights.

The Supreme Court has doctored the term Right quite a bit. It has separated them into Individual Rights, and Party Rights, and even Corporate Rights. In any case, these are all given by legislation, thus the term legal Right. Whether legal Rights are acceptable is a topic for further discussion. Currently, the legal system has attempted to create a number of Rights for every American ranging from the Right to Privacy to the Right to a Home. Some have failed, and some have passed. We'll turn to our founders later for further information. Until next time, keep reading :) I'll keep posting.


I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men's rights. – Abraham Lincoln

The most important element of a free society, where individual rights are held in the highest esteem, is the rejection of the initiation of violence. All initiation of force is a violation of someone else's rights, whether initiated by an individual or the state, for the benefit of an individual or group of individuals, even if it's supposed to be for the benefit of another individual or group of individuals. Legitimate use of violence can only be that which is required in self-defense. – Congressman Ron Paul, (R) Texas