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Xiphias Gladius

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One of those things I think everyone should know. . . [Jan. 24th, 2007|01:44 pm]
Xiphias Gladius

. . . but, apparently, some people in our government don't.

And I've heard other people talk like they weren't aware of this, either.

The Constitution doesn't grant any rights. Governments don't grant any rights.

You HAVE rights. You have rights that, if you believe in God, God gave you. And God gave all human beings. If you don't believe in God, that's okay -- you have rights simply by virtue of your being human.

They're inherent. They're inalienable.

They're not granted -- you have them.

If a right isn't mentioned in the Constitution, you still have it. If the Constitution doesn't mention specifically that a right also applies to people who aren't United States citizens, they still have that right, too. ALL human beings have rights. Governments don't grant them, constitutions don't grant them.

A government can't take away rights.

A government can fail to do its duty as a government, and fail to enforce and protect rights. But the rights are still there. It's just that the government isn't doing its job.

All prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have the right of habeas corpus. That means, "the right to be told why they are there." It's among the most basic and fundamental rights there are in a civilized culture. The United States government is not acting on this. That doesn't mean that those prisoners don't have that right -- it merely means that the United States government is failing to respect that right.

(Our Constitution says that, in extreme circumstances, you may arrest people and hold them for a while until things calm down enough to tell them exactly why you arrested them. There is no conceivable way in which that can be stretched to mean holding people for six years without even letting them know WHY they were arrested. At some point, they need to at least be told what the CHARGE is. The suspension of habeas corpus means that there are circumstances where a government can do a "sweep" and just arrest everyone in an area, and then, once things calm down a little, go through and see who they picked up, and charge the ones who ought to be charged and release the ones who ought to be released. It doesn't mean that you can do whatever the hell is going on in Guantanamo Bay.)

The government doesn't give us a right to free speech. We HAVE a right to free speech. The purpose of a government is to protect that right, along with other rights.

The government doesn't give us our rights -- we set up our government in order to protect our rights.

Any time when a government does anything which denies rights to anyone, it's failing in its duty as a government.

You will see people try to muddy this issue.

Don't let them.

[User Picture]From: yehoshua
2007-01-24 06:54 pm (UTC)
Bravo. Well said.
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[User Picture]From: matociquala
2007-01-24 06:55 pm (UTC)
thank you.
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[User Picture]From: polydad
2007-01-24 07:02 pm (UTC)
>-- you have rights simply by virtue of your being human.
> They're inherent. They're inalienable.

Will you be my Senator?


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[User Picture]From: msmidge
2007-01-24 07:05 pm (UTC)
Have you been reading John Locke? ;)
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2007-01-24 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yes. And so were the framers of the Constitution. And, apparently, nobody in the government SINCE then.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2007-01-24 07:15 pm (UTC)
That's a separate question.

I don't believe that there is a right to free health care.

However, a government may choose to help provide for good health care, and that is within the purvew of what a government may do. It is not, however within the things that a government MUST do.

"Free speech" IS a right.

"Free health care" is not. "Free choice of what I wish to be allowed to be done to myself in the name of health care" is.

"Free access to other people's billboards in order to express my views" is not a right.

Maybe I'll do another post talking about what I think the rights and responsibilities of governments are.
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[User Picture]From: ron_newman
2007-01-24 07:15 pm (UTC)
The distinction here is between 'negative' and 'positive' rights. The latter two rights require someone to actively provide them, and therefore a certain amount of active government intervention. The first only requires government to avoid actions that infringe it.
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From: undauntra
2007-01-25 12:14 am (UTC)
Please define the word "right". It sounds to me like you're using "right" to mean "Something that it'd really suck not to have," and then assigning a moral imperative to it.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2007-01-25 03:24 am (UTC)
To start with:

I believe that "morals", "ethics", "honor", "good", "evil", and "rights" actually have some sort of independent existence outside our minds. That they are not simply concepts, but are things in some real way, outside of minds or social contracts.

So, when I speak of a "right", I'm talking about something which actually exists.

If a person has the "right not to be killed by someone else (except in self-defense, or as a punishment for an established crime)", that's not something that a society came up with -- that's real. If a person has the "right to live a life in which they have reasonably free rein to attempt to find meaning and some form of happiness," (aka, "the pusuit of εὐδαιμονία") that measns that the right to do that is real.

So, by my philosophy, I'm not assigning a moral imperative to rights. The moral imperative is there, and is real.

As to what they are. . . that's a much harder question.

"Rights" are one of the things which defines sapient beings. They are among the fundamental atoms with which you build political philosophies.

They are universal freedoms (I'm not thinking of a right which isn't a freedom, right now, but some may exist) which are inherent to sapient beings and fundamental to a "good" life. Which pushes the definition off to "good", and I'm pretty sure that I'm not using the word "good" in the sense that I usually use it.

As a matter of fact, the word "good" shouldn't go there at all, but I'm not sure what word to replace it with. Because things like "enough food" are fundamental to a good life, but "enough food" isn't a right, as I see it. Others disagree with me.
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[User Picture]From: sethg_prime
2007-01-25 01:36 am (UTC)
As a statement of abstract political philosophy, I'm not sure I agree.

But as a statement of how to interpret the United States Constitution, this is spot-on.
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From: patsyterrell
2007-01-25 02:00 pm (UTC)
>-- you have rights simply by virtue of your being human.

I agree, completely, with this. And I love the point that people even outside the US have these rights - something that seems lost on many of "my fellow Americans." But I think our perception of what those rights are are colored by many things - including the governmental system in which we grew up. I haven't really thought about this in this context, but I will. Thanks for spurring an interesting thought process.
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[User Picture]From: querldox
2007-01-26 02:19 am (UTC)
I have to completely disagree with "you have rights simply by virtue of your being human". Can you really state *any* rights that existed for early homo sapiens? From my perspective, and considering that previous sentence, "rights" to me are a matter of social contract between individuals, other individuals, and organizations.

Don't get me wrong; there are certainly "rights" I want put very strongly in my social contracts, but I don't pretend they necessarily exist because I happened to pop out of a womb. More that I happened to pop out of a womb in a particular culture.

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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2007-01-26 03:17 am (UTC)
Yes, all those rights existed for Cro-Magnon and Neandertal man.

They simply hadn't yet, in most cases, developed governmental structures to guarantee those rights.
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From: dvarin
2007-01-30 02:01 am (UTC)
You're limiting your use of the word "rights" to what I would instead call "human rights". This is great for the moral imperatives arguments, but seems to ignore the legitimate broader usage.

As in, when I buy a toaster, it has a warranty, and that warranty grants me the right to get a new toaster if this one breaks on its own within one year. It's not a human right, it's just some company guaranteeing that they will accede to certain specific demands that I can make upon them under certain conditions.

The government does something similar. It grants civil rights, which are written down somewhere, and are essentially promises that it will accede to certain demands that its citizens may make upon it. These may or may not be correct demands to accede to, but they're still usually called rights.

If it's in the constitution or any law, it's a civil right. It might also be a human right, and there's enough discussion above about who gets to determine which are which that I feel no need to discuss it again here. :)
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