harm principle

The Perpetual Battle for Natural Rights

With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.

There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.

A Constitution Without Rights

John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:

Understanding Freedom

Freedom shouldn’t be all that complicated.  Unfortunately, it apparently is.

Far to many people feel that freedom really only means freedom for the things they like.  Oh sure, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, but the freedom to not have to hear Christianity rammed down someone’s throat?  No, that’s a whole other ballgame. The fact that the First Amendment prevents the establishment of a state religion - and Christianity is a relgion - appears lost on many of these folks.

For a nation to be free, and I mean truly free, then we must tolerate things which we may find objectionable.  Drug use, prostitution, alcohol consumption (and yes, there are people who still want alcohol prohibition), or whatever.  It doesn’t matter, because real freedom must mean that people have the freedom to do a certain amount of bad things.

Should that mean people are free to rape, murder, rob, or anything else?  Absolutely not. Those all involve violating the rights of another, and that should always be off limits. I can’t think of a living soul who argues otherwise though I’m sure such fools exist.

However, there are a lot of laws that dictate what I can and can’t do with my own body.  Take, for example, laws that prevent me from consuming raw milk.  Personally, I think it’s not a smart thing to do.  However, I still believe I should have the right to consume it if I so choose.  After all, consuming non-pastuerized milk hurts no one but myself.

Many people can see that, and agree with me.  However, many of those same people will argue that drug use is a whole other ball game.  After all, they say, drugs create a whole world of crime around it.  That is true…but only because of prohibition.  There is zero evidence that legalizing drugs would do anything but decrease the crime that surrounds drugs.

Three Cheers for Autonomy

Written by Trevor Burrus, research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. Originally published on Monday, March 25, 2013, it has been cross-posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

In today’s New York Times, philosopher Sarah Conly gives “Three Cheers for the Nanny State,” specifically, NYC’s famed big soda ban. Invoking aspects of the theory of “nudge,” made popular in a book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Conly argues that, sometimes, the government can rightfully save us from ourselves.

The popularity of “nudge theory” is closely tied to the recent spate of popular science books on the foibles of the human brain. Books such as Predictably Irrational and A Mind of Its Own are part of a new self-help fad: the idea that scientists studying the error-prone human brain can help us understand why we are unable to quit smoking, lose weight, and many other common problems.

Van Jones doesn’t know libertarianism

At an Occupy Wall Street rally last weekend, Van Jones, a self-described communist and former Obama Administration official, slammed libertarians, claiming that we areall are anti-immigrant and anti-gay:

In a venomous speech this weekend, notorious ex-Obama aid Van Jones went on a hate-filled rant against “cheap patriotism” and “libertarians,” calling out his free-market opponents as “anti-immigrant, bigots.”

Jones was introduced by actor and Obama activist Edward Norton, who likened the disgraced former Green Jobs Czar to the Dali Lama.

“When I was on a panel once with [Jones] and the Dali Lama it was a toss up as to who was wiser, Van or the Lama” Norton mused.

Jones began his speech by citing his six months of work in the White House before launching into a tirade against the “so-called Libertarians.”

In citing the Libertarian principle of economic liberty, Jones stated “They’ve taken their despicable ideology and used it a wrecking ball, that they have painted red, white and blue, to smash down every good thing in America.”

Jones continued, “They say they’re Patriots but they hate everybody in America who looks like us.  They say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, ya know ya’ll.”

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