July 4, 2016
“I know my rights!!!”
Let’s start with a blank canvas and talk about your rights.
Are you alive? Then you have a right to keep living.
To live you must eat. To eat you must produce. When you produce you obtain a
property right in result of your labor.
Liberty – freedom from incarceration – stems from both our right to live and our
need to produce. A life incarcerated by the state (jail) is no life at all. Also, we cannot
produce if our movements are restricted.
These – life, liberty, property – (and others) are inalienable rights given to us by
our creator – “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”
Coloring Book Rights.
My kids love to color and they are pretty fantastic at it. We keep a steady supply
of fresh coloring books available on a shelf in their playroom. To ensure their
masterpiece ends up on the fridge, they typically ask me to tear their chosen coloring
page out of the book before they start coloring. I’m happy to do so because it means I get
a few peaceful moments to binge on episodes of Doctor Who.
Now suppose my oldest child – nicknamed Doodle, which is highly appropriate to
this metaphor – gets halfway done with her coloring and I take it away and give it to
another kid to color. Will I get to finish my adventures through time and space? No.
Why not? Because Doodle believes she has been wronged and will quickly vocalize her
opinion on the matter.
If we use our knowledge of basic rights we understand that she has. When Doodle
selected the coloring page and began to labor she transformed the page. She added value
by applying her labor to the raw material. With this added value she obtained a property
right in the coloring page.
And if I took away her coloring page I would be violating her rights in that
The Need for Government.
Our government was established for the fundamental goal of protecting the
Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence captures this truth. “That to
secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed.” So important was this goal that we were willing to go
to war with the super power of the world to secure our rights – “we mutually pledge to
each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
So what is a government and why do we need it to protect our rights?
A government is an agreement – a contract – between a group of people to
behave a certain way. The government actor – an individual or a group – enforces the
contract through some use of an agreed upon set of rules.
If there were no government or rules then the strongest person could violate
everyone’s rights – steal their property, enslave them to control their future production
or simply end their lives.
Government in Action.
Example #1: Let’s say a government is established and there is a rule against
theft. Criminal Steve steals his neighbor’s horse violating the neighbor’s property rights.
Suppose the law says the penalty for this theft is that Steve must replace the horse and
go to jail for 30 days. Because he is a citizen of the government and has agreed to be
bound by the laws, Steve will lose some of his property (his own horse) and will
temporary lose his liberty (30 days in jail).
Notice that both of these actions by the government are coercive and punitive.
The government acted by punishing Steve.
Example #2: Let’s say the government wanted to build a new community park.
To pay for the park it decided to impose a 70% tax on all income from its citizens. Now,
entrepreneur Steve invested the $10 he had and turned it into $110 – earning $100. His
tax is $70 and he gets to keep $30. Suppose he keeps the full $100 – planning to invest
it again to make $1000? Well, this would be a violation of the tax rules. The government
through force will take the $70 Steve owes out of his bank account before he can invest
Notice that even though Steve agreed to the tax by being a citizen of the
government, his right to his earned property is restricted by force by the government.
In fact, every action a government takes involves restricting the rights of some of
its citizens. The trick in creating a government is striking a delicate balance between
protecting rights and restricting them.
As we will explore in a later series, the US Constitution does the best job in all of
history at striking this balance.
To explore the topic of Inalienable Rights on your own Google “Thomas Paine” or read
5000 Year Leap. Thomas Paine fought in the American Revolution and was a pretty
declaration of independence
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