I find it amazing that so many Americans, including those on the Supreme Court, can be lost in the fog of the unknown when it comes to the source and nature of rights.
We often hear that our rights come from the Constitution, but the Constitution is only a confirmation of our pre-existing rights. One gentleman wrote in the readers’ forum of our local newspaper that our rights came from the United Nations in the 1940s. I smiled, knowing what my grandfather would have said about having no rights.
In order to find the source of your rights you only have to look in the mirror. Looking back you will see a complex and unique entity made up of DNA, millions of cells, and numerous organs all working in concert, performing different functions. We have eyes that can distinguish among 500 shades of gray and spot candlelight 14 miles away, distinguish colors, and identify foregrounds, backgrounds, and edges. We have hearing that can discern among 300,000 sounds.
Our taste buds can detect taste in as little as .0015 seconds to avoid poisoning. With hundreds of nerve endings in our hands we can determine softness and hardness, warmth and cold, and a host of other sensations critical to our being. Our sense of smell can pick up odors and smells in trace amounts, as well as the direction from which they came. We have no fur, we can’t fly, our two legs are slower than four, and we can’t even walk for months after we are born. We should be extinct, but we have a brain, one of the most powerful machines in the world, with 500 trillion synaptic connections. That brain can do something the brain of no other species can do and that is to think conceptually. We have the ability then to expand those concepts and we can invent. When our body is injured or attacked by bacteria, an army of enzymes is released to repair the DNA. We also have a sex drive for reproducing.
One thing is for sure. Something, some force — call it nature or call it God — has designed us to exist for a period of time. Therefore your right to your life is yours because you exist. Your rights come from your own humanity.
With rights come responsibilities. If you have the right to your life, then you have the first responsibility to protect and provide for that life. To provide and protect that life you have to be able to keep the fruits of your labor or property. Therefore property rights are simply an extension of your right to your life. There is one more thing. In order to maintain life you need not only property but the freedom to use that property as you choose.
To help in understanding rights, we need to know the nature of rights. The nature of a right can be defined as follows:
A right is sovereign; it cannot be given or taken away.
A right is free; it cannot be transferred or sold.
A right cannot negate another’s right. Calling health care a right, as Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi do, doesn’t wash, because that would be a claim on producers of health care. You do not have a right to the productivity of others.
A right cannot be a claim on another’s rights.
A need is not necessarily a right. You need transportation but you do not have a right to a car, because that has to be produced by others. You need air to exist. Because air is in our environment naturally, you have a right to it.
Animals do not have rights.
Inanimate objects do not have rights. Keep that in mind when you hear the UN confirming the rights of Mother Earth.
There are no group rights. There are no women’s rights, black rights, gay rights, or any other group rights. You do not gain rights by joining a group. There are only individual rights, and that says it all.
At one time Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was upset because she didn’t know how to apply the Americans with Disabilities Act to cruise ships. She only needed to ask who owned the cruise ship. Had she, she would have known immediately that her job was to butt out.
By the same token, the handicapped and their supporters certainly have the right to protest or boycott a lack of handicap accessibility or to take their money to the first cruise line that makes accommodating upgrades.
How about smoking bans in bars, burning the flag, or restaurants that don’t want to serve blue-eyed, gray-haired people like me? The question to ask is: Who owns the property? As much as I may dislike a particular action, I would know that I could protest or take my money elsewhere and be comfortable in knowing it’s a small price for the recognition of true property rights and the freedoms and prosperity that follow.
Many Americans disconnect with libertarians when they see their opposition to laws that ban such things as smoking, drugs, prostitution, or burning the flag. They interpret their opposition as condoning or approving the action, but libertarians understand that law is simply force. There are necessary malum in se laws that protect us from crimes against a person or his property, crimes such as rape, murder, or theft.
On the other hand, there are malum prohibitum laws, which are laws politicians pass to protect us from ourselves or our exposure to activities that many people in society might disagree with. Those are the laws that can be the most dangerous to your rights.