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What Rights?

In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of our nation mentioned that people have certain inalienable rights, some of which were specifically mentioned.  The implication, however, remained that there were other rights not therein specified, and concern about what government might do led to additional details being written down in the Constitution; we call that list The Bill of Rights, which some politicians have tried to twist into claiming that we get our rights from the politicians.

But is that the whole list?  Are there any rights we citizens have besides what is listed in those two documents?  On the other hand, is the category so wide open, that we have to seriously consider the "right" of terrorists to be be treated better than soldiers, or the "right" of public officials to close meetings from the public and refuse to answer constituents' questions?  Where do we draw the line, and who gets to make that call?




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Comments (14)

As I understand it in my si... (Below threshold)

As I understand it in my simplistic way: A right generally is the legal ability to act without the permission of another. Always unstated, however is that you may exercise your rights as long as you do not violate the rights of others. Rights are an absolute.

A right is universal - it applies to all, not just to a few. There is no such thing as a "right" for one man or woman or group, that isn't possessed by all. There are no special "rights" unique to women, men or other "special" groups.

A right must be exercised through your own initiative and action.

"Where do we draw the line, and who gets to make that call?'

In a perfect world, the body politic would keep and eye on their "elected" representatives who make such laws "for the good of the people" - and hold them accountable. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other.

Right now, it's swinging back to the right after the displayed abuses of power by Pelosi, Reid and Barry.

Societies have only four me... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

Societies have only four mechanisms for containing their members: prohibitions, duties, privileges and rights. Prohibitions are those acts which you will be punished for doing. (Thou shalt not kill is a prohibition, as are laws against child labor.) Duties are acts which you will be punished for not doing. Privileges are those things for which you will not be punished due to some grant of permission for an otherwise punishable act. (Such as allowing police to speed in pursuit of a speeder, or waiving trespassing rules in public areas of private buildings.) Rights are those acts for which you may not be punished whether you do them or refrain from doing them. With that in mind, it's far easier to tell rights from "rights."

The right to privacy, thoug... (Below threshold)

The right to privacy, though abused in the abortion decisions, is a universal right that exists outside the Constitution.

The right of free association is another.

I'm not referring to the right of free assembly, but the right to live with, love with, anyone you want. In theory, laws prohibiting certain forms of marriage violate that God given right.

'Rights' are a human concep... (Below threshold)

'Rights' are a human concept. Nature doesn't give rights; only society does that. Your rights are whatever society and the law say they are. That's all, there ain't no more.

That said, the answer to this:

Are there any rights we citizens have besides what is listed in those two documents?

should be obvious. The whole point of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution was to answer this question definitively. The list of rights in the Bill of Rights is not exhaustive. In fact, judging by what they wrote in the Constitution itself and the Federalist Papers, the Founders intended to set up a system in which the government was treated something like the way a properly secured computer operating system ([cough]like Linux[cough]) treats its users. Such systems are secure because they follow a rigid rule: if a user is not explicitly permitted to do X, the the user can't do X. Period, end-of-line, end-of-file. This is often abbreviated as "whatever is not expressly permitted is forbidden."

The Founders sought to say that "whatever is not expressly permitted to the federal government is forbidden." Over time that has been perverted into the exact opposite, and now the government works under the rule "whatever is not expressly forbidden is permitted." But that doesn't change the Founders' original intent.

There is one right that n... (Below threshold)

There is one right that no one can take from you without taking your life and that is the right to try. At times it may be difficult to exercise it and sometimes impossible to succeed with it, you may abandon it in despair; but only death can take it away from you.

Addendum: Exercising the r... (Below threshold)

Addendum: Exercising the right to try.

The 9th Amendment is pretty... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The 9th Amendment is pretty clear: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Nowadays politicians everyw... (Below threshold)

Nowadays politicians everywhere have so bastardized both the word "rights" -- and the concept that Rights descend only from our Creator and are inalienable -- as to have created a situation in which there are no rights.

We, The (Sovereign American) People, however, are in the process (witness Wisconsin, eg) of stripping away the faux "rights" of the nation's looters and moochers.

And we have named this process The Second American War of Independence.

"The bill of rights," is, o... (Below threshold)

"The bill of rights," is, of course, no such thing.

It is an enumeration of certain actions and activities expressly and absolutely forbidden those that represent us in government.

But Good luck getting any of them to understand anything that simple.

In theory, laws prohibit... (Below threshold)

In theory, laws prohibiting certain forms of marriage violate that God given right.

With regard to religions, marriage is a moral covenant, the bounds and duties of which are variously defined according to your sect.

With regard to the state, marriage is essentially another contract to be enforced. In legal terms, not much different from a business partnership splitting property and equity and establishing duties for the future running of the enterprise (children).

We have freedom of religion and also freedom from religion - no establishment of religion.

We have freedom of contract between adults.

Prohibiting gay marriage and polygamy is offensive to liberty. If adults want to contract with each other for mutual duties and disposition of earnings and property, they should have the freedom to do so.

I wish it had been called t... (Below threshold)
Ryan M.:

I wish it had been called the "Bill of Government Prohibitions" or somesuch. . .

Jeff, there is another gove... (Below threshold)

Jeff, there is another government control which is taxes. Say liquor or cigarettes. They are taxed extraordinarily to prohibit use, or so they say. They are unfairly punishing those that use a legal product. I do not smoke but I am offended about the unfairness of it.

As far as gay marraige, if the constitution is so wide open that would allow that, then the second amendment cannot have controls on it. So, citizens should be able to buy tanks, etc. Of course there are limits of liberties. If a huge portion of our citizens think and believe homosexuality is an abomination, they have that right. When the minority infringes on the rights of the majority, there will be a problem. ww

Inalienable rights are held... (Below threshold)

Inalienable rights are held by the individual, not groups, and they are not subject to majority consent. It doesn't make any difference whether the majority likes what homosexuals do in their bedrooms.

I'm surprised no one has co... (Below threshold)

I'm surprised no one has commented on this rather startling declaration from wolfwalker:

"'Rights' are a human concept. Nature doesn't give rights; only society does that. Your rights are whatever society and the law say they are. That's all, there ain't no more."

From the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, endowed by their Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

The text goes on to propose that government is only created to secure these rights, not to grant them. The self-evident truths arise from the concept of natural law, which holds that there is a "higher law," immutable and unchanging, from which human law is derived and which provides the basis for challenging unjust and arbitrary human law.

Or is wolfwalker diametrically opposed interpretation of mankind's "Rights" superior to the Founders? Wolfman, your comments would be welcome.






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