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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Have Been Thinking About Natural Rights As Of Late...

What is a 'natural right?' Debate through the 17th and 18th century proposed that rights of all men (and obviously women) are those that flow from being alive and human. Just the act of being, concurred on all individuals the right of life, liberty and enjoyment of their own property (Pursuit of happiness as penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence).

One of favorite wild-man thinkers, Thomas Paine, also further clarified that a natural right CANNOT be concurred or granted by any government or charter upon an individual since this implies that they can also be revoked by the same governments and that therefore those rights granted by governments are simply privileges.....
It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few. ... They...consequently are instruments of injustice.

The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.
In other words, if a government confers upon you the 'right' to continue living, then it reserves the right to reverse course and take the life from you. Seems to be something that very few people would want; someone else having the absolute right to eliminate your life by fiat. This is how kings and emperors ruled in the days of old and sometimes one's life could be cut short arbitrarily though the actions of these individuals.

So this argument, in fact, pursues a line of thinking that since these rights 'naturally' exist and all already enjoy these rights, that these same people have the right to govern themselves within this framework and this is the only environment that a government is sanctioned to exist. This is the plain and simple argument against government's intervention into the daily lives of all humans. The implication of this intervention by government is that it may be arbitrary or beneficial of one citizen vs. another.

If we can hold that natural rights are those that either flow from natural law or are founded on natural law, then we need to think about the implication of natural law. Natural law prescribes that law flows not from the state or the involvement in the state in human's social enterprise but that the law exists due to what we are... human. Those that argue for the existance of natural law look to such examples such as gravity, there is no need to prove or force its existance but just to observe that it does exist and inarguably has effects. We also know that killing another human is wrong not due to the laws of the state but from our own desire to continue to live and the implication that if other fear arbitrary death at your hands, that oneself may be in a more precarious position then if this situation did not exist. In other words, people would more likely to defend themselves agaisnt threats, real or perceived if they thought that you may arbitrarily kill them. Also, who hasn't accidentally or intentionally killed a bug or some other insignificant creature and felt a pang of regret or remorse for the action? This is not illegal on its face as per the state but one that is not acceptable from a human standpoint and one that is not acceptable on a wholesale scale by the human society. However, killing is justified in many circumstances. Just a few being pursuing life itself in such things as slaughtering animals for food.

However, this desire to live does not give us free reign and permission to kill other humans for gain but does not exclude us from defending ourselves; our life, family, community and property. So therefore, man has decided to take these natural laws and rights and codify it so that all know the limits to these rights and so that all know what others expect from these rights. Its a a measure of communication between and for all people within this society.


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