The Rights You’ve Lost

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RxCowboy

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From my favorite libertarian blogger:

The Rights You’ve Lost
by Peter Venetoklis | Apr 12, 2018 | Politics | 0 comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a follow-up to Forbidding Happiness, which discusses the infringement of the core Jeffersonian ideal the pursuit of happiness.

I recently discussed Thomas Jefferson’s affirmation of three fundamental rights: life, liberty, and (particularly) the pursuit of happiness. These are not the rights, however, that James Madison and the Founders chose to explicitly protect in the Bill of Rights. Rather than reiterating the Declaration’s broad statement, the Bill of Rights declaratively protects specific rights: religious practice, speech, the press, assembly, petitioning the government, guns, your home (from being used as a barracks), and privacy against government snooping. It, furthermore, sets rules and restrictions on the government’s prosecution of you for alleged crimes.

And, then, it does something else: It recognizes that you have rights beyond those explicitly listed, and protects those as well. That’s the 9th Amendment.

What might those be, and why weren’t they listed?

At the time of the Constitution’s drafting, there was debate as to whether any rights should be listed in the Constitution. The Constitution starts from a zero point, authorizing the government to do certain things, and only certain things. Nowhere does it authorize the government to infringe on individual rights, and under the zero-start premise, an authority that isn’t granted doesn’t exist, so the government, not having been granted the authority to infringe rights, could not do so. Some were concern that listing some rights would be used as an excuse to assert that others were not protected, or as protected.

Those in favor of a list won out, and I’d say it’s a VERY good thing they did. People today often forget, or don’t know in the first place, that the government is not permitted to do that which the Constitution does not authorize, and have a reverse attitude: “if the government is not specifically prohibited, they can do it.” I think the founders missed a couple rights for explicit protection, and they could have tightened a couple up some more, but they did a very good job overall. As for what they didn’t include…

It would be impossible to write a truly comprehensive list of rights, if exclusion was meant to indicate the absence of a right. As one Congressman of the time noted, such a list would need to include the right to wear a hat and the right to choose when to go to bed. Instead of such a list, they wrote the Ninth Amendment. It serves as both a catch-all for what wasn’t listed and as a reinforcement of the axiom that rights are inherent, that they are not granted by government, and that the Bill of Rights protects those inherent rights from government infringement instead of granting them (as many falsely assume).

Hats and bed times were intentional trivialities, but there are some unenumerated rights that are not trivialities today, given the state of war upon them.

Most of your economic freedoms, for example, have been legislated and regulated into near-nothingness, with permission required to engage in most and prohibition legislated against many. A right that requires permission or a permit is a right abridged. Your freedom of association i.e. the right to choose with whom you interact, has been severely curtailed when there is any sort of economic element. A recent high-profile example of this is the gay wedding cake squabble, but it goes way beyond the public accommodation principle that’s being enforced therein. Employers large and small walk a mine field whenever they hire, fire, or don’t hire someone. You may not sell or buy a good or service that hasn’t been blessed, in some way, by the government. Your right to enter into a contract is often limited by the nature of that contract, and if the contract is a marital one, the state is a third party to it. Even kids’ lemonade stands draw, nowadays, the ire of regulators Try to name an economic transaction completely free of government interference if you can. What you may come up with is very likely conducted without strict conformity to government’s rules, i.e. illegal, black market, or with the hope that no one’s looking.

Non-economic unenumerated rights include the right to move about freely, to defend yourself, your family, and your property against attack, to make decisions about personal health care, a broader right to privacy beyond 4A protections, the presumption of innocence, to own property (including the right to do with it as we please, marital privacy (itself a contractual matter), and to eat, drink, or otherwise put into our bodies that which we choose.

All these rights, enumerated and unenumerated, also rely on a core principle: that one’s rights do not supersede another’s. Thus, I cannot claim free exercise of my right when it violates free exercise of your right. This covers things like physical violence and trespassing, but more importantly, it undermines any argument for “positive rights” i.e. those where you demand to be given something of value from others (typically with government as the gun-toting middleman). Such positive “rights” (scare quotes deliberate) include the free health care, free schooling, a job, a specific or minimum wage, or preferential treatment based on some demographic factor. And, yet, all those and many more are bestowed upon some, to varying degrees, by a government that is happy and eager to curtail or deny your rights.

Lest we forget, the Constitution was designed specifically to restrict what government was permitted to do to a set list. An omnipotent government was deeply (and justly) feared by the Founders. But, today, we have more and more people clamoring for that omnipotence when it comes to their preferred issues. And, we have more and more people clamoring for continued and ever-growing violation of the aforementioned core principle of equality: Rights are to be prioritized by demographic markers. As Orwell warned, “some pigs are more equal than others.”

The rights of some were improperly infringed for the first century and a half of this nation’s existence, first by slavery, and then by Jim Crow laws. Infringement of other rights (in particular the right to eat, drink, smoke or otherwise consume what you wished) was often driven by racial, ethnic, and/or class animus. Pot prohibition, for example, was instigated by anti-Mexican sentiments, and later promulgated by anti-“jazz musician” (code for black) attitudes. The earliest anti-gun laws were meant to keep freed slaves from being armed. Ditto for minimum wage laws, which were meant to protect “white” jobs. Again, some pigs were more equal than others. Today, the same inequality exists, with different “less equal” people. Some have dubbed these the culture wars, and use the word “equality” to mean “legislated preferential treatment.”

In short, our rights are a mess, and while there has been a lot of positive progress in some areas (notably, minority rights in the 60s and gun rights in the past 30 years), the overall trend is one of fogging up the meaning of “rights” so severely that most people don’t even realize how badly some have been degraded. Moreso, many are all too willing to respond with “what if” extremes in defense of the terrible abridgment of rights that, two centuries ago, were so blatantly obvious they weren’t deemed in need of special protection.

Worse yet, there are far too many people in America who think that, if a right isn’t listed in the Constitution, it isn’t granted, and therefore doesn’t exist. That is the greatest peril to liberty I can imagine.

Copyright © 2013-2018.

About Peter Venetoklis
I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.
 

Cimarron

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#2
Worse yet, there are far too many people in America who think that, if a right isn’t listed in the Constitution, it isn’t granted, and therefore doesn’t exist. That is the greatest peril to liberty I can imagine.
Some times the best part of an article is in the concluding remarks.
 

RxCowboy

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A follow-up:

Society’s Takers
by Peter Venetoklis | Apr 11, 2018 | Culture, Opinion | 0 comments

Lets roll the WABAC Machine’s dials to July 13, 2012, when then-President Obama made his infamous You didn’t build that speech. Or, gaffe, if you prefer, because the turn of phrase outraged many and cranked the rescuing/apologia spin machine into damage-control overdrive. Obamas’s apparent (or ex-post-facto-spun) intent was to point out that no man in society is an island, and that everything is the product of cooperation and interaction. The outcome was, instead, to imply a permanent state of obligation on the part of wealth creators, despite their having paid a medley of taxes before, during, and after the acts of “building” that they didn’t do. A state of obligation that the actual non-builders – lets be honest and call them what they are: “takers” – will leverage in perpetuity to feed their bottomless appetite for other people’s money.

Why today’s romp through recent history? Because, the siege being laid upon us by these takers is expanding well beyond mere money. Your speech, your religion, your guns, your right to choose your friends, your lifetime’s wealth, and even your children are all coveted.

What do these takers offer in return for all these infringements and incursions into what’s none of their business? Only a continuation of your obligations to remain unhappy, to allow future takings, and to remain timid and cowering under their scornful eye.

A bit hyperbolic? Sure. Wrong? Hardly.

Political correctness demands you say certain things, demands you not say certain other things, and demands you think a particular way. The nation’s most prevalent religion is denounced and derided, while some minority religions (including one with basic tenets that fundamentally conflict with PC mandates) are singled out for protection and celebration. Guns are a Bad Thing, and must be removed from society. Who you associate with, and who you elect not to associate with, can be held against you, especially when economic interaction is involved. Estate taxes, which should correctly be labeled grave robbing, make the takers drool with greed, and they grotesquely assert that your children did nothing to deserve the fruit of your life’s labor. How you educate your children and what you want to teach them is also their business, and their desires trump yours.

These takers have no shame. They justify their greed and covetousness by, perversely, accusing others of greed and selfishness, as if it’s a worse sin to want to keep your own liberties and the fruit of your own labor than to want to take away others’. The great political writer Thomas Sowell concurs:

I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.

That, as noted, extends to your fundamental individual rights.

One may wonder what happened to that segment of the political realm. Decades ago, liberals stood up for individuals’ rights in many ways, and indeed some of the strongest voices for protection against government over-reach were born out of that end of the political spectrum. The ACLU, NOW, and the NAACP are three of many organizations born out of liberal principles, domestically, and groups like Amnesty International, globally. But, that wonder is easily answered – the meaning of “liberal” has evolved away from the classical liberalism that gave us, among other things, the American Constitution, and toward a repressive, zero-sum, communistic/socialistic direction. Those once suspicious of state power have given way to successors who embrace it as the means to their desired end. That end is about taking from those they don’t like or that don’t agree with them.

I also offer up a quote from Walter E. Williams:

But let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn.

Again, extend that to our individual rights: To speak as we will, to think as we will, to believe as we will, to own what we will, to associate with whom we will, and to build and pass on a legacy to whom we will.

Those who embrace this basic respect for individual liberty are not the takers. They’re not the problem in today’s society, no matter how much the takers try to vilify them.

The world is filled with two types of people: those who separate people into two types, and those who do not. Today, I am one of the former. I’m separating people into takers and not-takers.

Which one are you?

Copyright © 2013-2018.

About Peter Venetoklis
I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.
 

StillwaterTownie

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What's your solution?
There's no viable solution. This is because no way in hell will most Republicans vote for a Democrat as a means to get rid of an Incumbent. Also same thing with Democrats. So people have no choice other than to accept bad government to go on as usual. I certainly don't expect a solution from Congress, such as term limits. But, generally speaking, people who do insist upon voting for incumbents every time deserve more bad government right back in their faces than voters who don't do that.

Somewhat of a solution is to don't vote as a means to protest not having a good candidate to vote for. At the same time you can say don't blame me for bad government, I didn't vote for any of the idiots.

At least government hasn't been all bad. I can think of two good things Sen. Inhofe has done for Stillwater. He saw to it funding was provided to totally rebuild Highway 33 from I-35 to Perkins. It was widened to 4 lanes west to Langston. Now people on the east side of Stillwater have a very good alternative route to Oklahoma City. Inhofe also got a grant for Stillwater, so it could get passenger jet service to Dallas.

As for Congressman Lucas, he's been there since 1994, and I can't think of one thing he has done for Stillwater.
 
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Jostate

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What's your solution?
I gotta say I'm kinda with Townie on this one. To your point, there is nothing we can really do about it, but it is clear that getting re-elected is almost a given unless you really go out of your way to not get re-elected. Politicians count on special interests and voter apathy to turn it into a cushy career.

If in doubt vote em out.
 

Deere Poke

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I gotta say I'm kinda with Townie on this one. To your point, there is nothing we can really do about it, but it is clear that getting re-elected is almost a given unless you really go out of your way to not get re-elected. Politicians count on special interests and voter apathy to turn it into a cushy career.

If in doubt vote em out.
One thing a have to give Trump credit for a boatload of them are retiring when their term is over. Can't be a bad thing.