According to Glenn Reynolds: "Liberty Dog is a minarchist libertarian with Objectivist tendencies, but I can't even get my dog to crap outside."

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Individual Rights

This week at Balance of Power, we are discussing Individual Rights vs. Common Good. There are some very misguided thoughts being presented, so please be sure to stop by and make the libertarian position known.

Here is my contribution:

Please allow me to apologize for the tardiness of my post. I was having major computer issue which prevented me from writing this on time.

First, I feel that I must correct a gross mischaracterization of libertarians made by Jay. He states: "I see too often, especially from the left and libertarians an absolutist positions towards rights with little or no regard to the necessity of responsibility that comes with them." I have been a libertarian for about five years and have NEVER once come across a libertarian that held such a position.

In fact, such a position is anathema to libertarian beliefs. Personal responsibility is as much a cornerstone of libertarian belief as our calls for freedom. It is no stretch to say that the latter is not possible without the former and every libertarian I have come in contact with understands this fact.

Now the question arises, how to tackle all of the other problems with Jay's post. Since his entire premise for the limiting of individual rights is based upon the "common good," I will start there. A few days ago in a chat session, I asked Jay who or what defines the "common good?" His answer was the Constitution and the People. At the time, I didn't have a chance to address the problems with his answer, so I will do so now.

First, let's deal with the Constitution. The Constitution DOES NOT define the "common good." This phrase is completely absent from the text of the Constitution. In fact the word "common" only appears 4 times. Twice in discussing the "common defence" and twice discussing "common law." The word "good" is even more scarce, appearing only once in Article III. Of course, Jay's mistake is not his alone. It is all too common an occurrence for people to attribute as justifications for their actions, some imaginary tenant of the Constitution.

Next, he said "the People" define the "common good." Since I didn't get to delve into this either, I can only assume that by "the People," he means the majority. (If this in not what he meant, I am sure he will correct me.) This creates some problems of its own. By leaving the definition of the "common good" to the whims of the majority, it becomes ethereal. It has no substance and opens itself up for abuse. If a person can never know for sure what the "common good" is, then authorities are free to charge him with violations of it as they see fit.

The left has long used the "common good" as a club to beat the public into submission. They use it as justification for the majority of their policies. As of late however, many on the right have, disturbingly so, taken up the mantra of the "common good." The "common good" is to me, a very dangerous step on the road to totalitarianism where the entire concept of individual rights is buried in favor of policies that promote the "common good." Jay says: "Not even the cause of civil liberties, as noble as it is, can be permitted to override the common good if freedom is to be maintained." I say it not civil liberties that threaten freedom, but the ethereal concept of the "common good."

To live in a world of utter freedom would be to live in a world where every debased appetite could find expression, all in the name of liberty.

Here I would have to ask Jay to go into more specifics. Please give some examples. How are you defining "expression?" Thought is not action, speech is not action. Are you suggesting that anyone who, in your estimation, has a debased appetite not be allowed to even think or discuss those appetites? You specifically mention barring Nazis from marching and justify it by saying that they seek to bar rights themselves. While it is true that they want to implement their ridiculous Fascist policies, talking about it does not implement it. Marching does not implement it. Running commercials on TV, on the radio, or in print does not implement their ideas. You cannot remain a free society by preventing others from expressing their beliefs in these manners.

Since I am late to the party, I have the advantage of addressing some things others have posted as well.

First Carl: "This is why I am FOR, mandatory military service."

While I myself think people who serve in the military have a better understanding of the sacrifices necessary to maintain freedom, I would NEVER make such a requirement mandatory. You do not teach people the value of freedom by making them indentured servants. People are NOT the property of the government.

Second Joseph: "I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of the nation as well as most of the Founding Fathers when I say that the Constitution was never meant to protect freedom of depriving rights to other citizens while realizing one's own."

While this is true, the examples you cited prior to this statement are not examples of a deprivation of rights. There is no right to not be offended. If you find your work environment to be offensive, find another work environment. Publicize the fact that your employer or teacher is racist. Do not try to create a "right" that by its very nature is a violation of true rights.

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