Note: This article is the second in a three-part series that will discuss the issue of rights, the intended formation and organization of our government and how that relates to the issue of state nullification and interposition, among others in the future. Readers may first wish to review Part 1, prior to continuing with this article.
There is a common and objective understanding of rights that stands apart from personal belief or opinion. Or, at least, it should be “self-evident” if one understands that term. By “common,” is meant the understanding that is universal to all individual sentient, thinking beings that understand the concept of “I” and how, in context, they relate the same understanding (knowledge and respect for rights of other individuals) to all other individual thinking, sentient beings one may encounter.
By “objective,” is meant the understanding that best implements a successful, cooperative and voluntary exchange of all things regarding life, liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and property. Or, for any other thing that is discovered to fall within a direct extension of those rights or others discovered to be truly held in “common” amongst all individuals (“reserved” rights).
Those things mostly fall into the area of Liberty. You own yourself which means you exclusively own your rights. Liberties and freedom are how you exercise your exclusive ownership of those rights. In terms of governance, government based on protection of individual rights and liberties is the only successful way found so far to govern any large population of people for the long-term. That makes freedom and liberty paramount.
However, there is an opposing view that says there is no such thing as an objective view common to all. The opponents believe all rights and liberties are subjective and that even true unalienable rights can be selectively restricted or subordinated in favor of abstractions called “group” or “collective” rights. Strangely (or maybe not), such beliefs range from those who identify themselves as everything from “strict Constitutionalists” to “living Constitution” believers. Can that opposing view actually be operative and true?
It would seem obvious it cannot unless, of course, one believes analogies such as ‘new math’ changes the actual operation of things like gravity or electricity, too. Maybe if we apply Common Core learning techniques to gravity it will be more forgiving and enhance our self-esteem? Or, further applied to unalienable rights, have us believe that such things as my right to life and self-defense are not immutable as well. On the contrary, there is obviously such a thing as self-evident truth in regard to rights and liberties that obliterates the subjective view.
Thus, an objective understanding and definition does not lend itself to complete misnomers (or discussion shorthand) such as corporate rights, animal rights, housing, health, food, or any other kind of “special rights.” Special rights are “group rights” which is to say, they are meaningless abstractions similar to the idea of the “social mind.”
So do group rights have any legitimacy? Not likely. Select groups within a population can have no special rights outside those rights everyone has. Such a belief is the complete inversion of everything self-evidently contained within the meaning of “rights.” Those so-called “special rights,” if legitimate in any part, could only entail what the Founders designated “delegated powers.”
What then, are “delegated powers?” Obviously, delegated powers can only come from individual rights as direct extensions of those rights. Delegated powers cannot then, by definition, exceed or usurp the original individual right. Delegated powers are a direct subset of individual rights granted to things or entities, such as governments whether local, state or federal, corporations or other such groups or entities. “Entities” are not living breathing persons but fictional “persons” and so do not obtain and are not endowed with rights, only granted those delegated powers by the original holders of rights: individuals.
Next, to understand how delegated powers work, comes the definitions of the two great classes of rights: unalienable and alienable. The root word in both is “lien.” A “lien” is an “encumbrance, claim or contract” against a right. “Unalienable,” then, means those rights cannot have an inherent claim, encumbrance or contract against them through your birth or at any time in your life, unless you consciously and voluntarily create one. No other person can hold a pre-existing claim against your life, liberty or Pursuit of Happiness and property or enforce one not voluntarily entered into.
The law-abiding retain all unalienable rights at all times. Subsequent to your birth no valid claim can be created against those rights unless you or your natural assigns create it or can’t defend against a legitimate claim established by another. “Alienable” means others can have a claim, encumbrance or contract against rights. However, to pursue a claim requires “due process.” That’s how “all men are created equal” under the law. Next, comes the delegation of power.
A delegated power is not a surrender of a right. It is a temporary contracting of a component of a right. That extremely important distinction seems to be lost on many. Another way to look at it is a temporary loan of each individual’s sovereignty. When a population of people, within specific geographic boundaries, each loan a portion of their individual sovereignty (as in “The People”) that act creates a government or other entity from grants or delegations of power.
However, a delegated power has to be recoverable. A delegated power cannot, by definition, exceed the original grant from the right. No government can legitimately lay ultimate claim to ownership of any right or subsequent delegation of power while operating in your stead. A government process cannot be created that legitimizes converting a right into a privilege. That process itself would be illegitimate.
So where does that leave such ideas as, “collective rights?” If one understands the definitions given above it’s self-evident there is no such thing as “collective rights.” Even when organized into legal entities groups only have “collective delegated powers,” to operate under, not rights. Those entities may then have further delegations by representative government entities to commercial ones to enable such things as Licenses, Charters, Registries, Permits and Articles of Incorporation, etc., granted by the state. Those could be called “2nd tier powers.” That is a tenuous connection to anything that could be actually considered a “collective right.” Very tenuous, indeed. It certainly cannot exceed the right of individuals.
Another attempt has been made since the 30s to establish the concept of “human rights” and conflate the term with “individual rights.” It, too, is a propaganda trick of manipulative centralizers, mostly liberal but sometimes conservatives attempt to co-opt the term, too. All humans each have individual rights but no one has additional set of “human rights” as some kind of collective set of rights beyond their individual rights. It is clever, though, how Abraham Lincoln’s old adage has worked so well for so long: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Lincoln was not an unknowing practitioner of his own saying.
With the foregoing understanding of rights vs delegated powers how about we dive into some of the crucial issues, such as State Powers, Nullification and Interposition, the Compact Theory of states and so forth in Part 3?