Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These were natural rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. This was inspired by the writings of John Locke, in which he included as natural rights, “Life, Liberty, and Property.”
Can a government legislate these rights? No. These rights are beyond the purview of any government. These rights are inherent to every human being. Although most, if not all, governments seek, and eventually gain, the power to control these aspects of a person’s life, it is neither moral nor just for that government to do so. The only person who can legitimately modify or remove these rights is the person in question. No one else, be it family, friend, religion, or government, has that authority. A person can surrender all or part of their own rights, but only if it is done by their free will and full understanding of the consequences.
I will insert here that I am not in this piece going to be discussing the role of parents in relation to their children. That will be another subject.
Back on track, there are two questions frequently asked of me as a way of challenging my position. One refers to the power of the government to punish non-compliance, while the other usually involves a statement such as, “They are doing it for your own good.”
Granted, the government has the power to inflict a wide range of punishments. Unfortunately, all too many people equate power with authority. There is a significant difference. Power, in regard to government, is the ability to use force, coercion, or intimidation to influence actions of individuals or groups. Authority, for government, is the right to engage in an action. Since a government is not a human individual, it has no natural rights, only those rights given to it by the people in the society to which the government is attached. Government by consent.
So what if the majority of the people involved install a government, and assign, for example, the authority to that government to restrict travel by requiring passports (subject to approval, of course, by the government), limit the items with which you can travel (TSA regulations), and charge a fee to everyone who travels (gas tax, excise tax, tolls, surcharges, etc.). What of the person in the minority who did not approve of or agree to this system, do not these things violate their natural right to the liberty to travel? What of the person who can not afford the fees to acquire a passport? What of the person incorrectly assigned a place on the “no-fly list?” What of the person who can not enjoy the full fruits of their own labor because, in part, they have to divert some of their efforts in to the raising of monies to pay for the taxes and fees associated with the owning of a vehicle and the acquisition of the fuel to power it? Yes, these people’s rights are being violated by the majority who have installed a system of government with the power to do so. Agreed, the people who installed this government have a legitimate moral right to subjugate their own natural rights to this government, but they are moral criminals, rights thieves, if you will, for forcing this subjugation on those who are unwilling to freely surrender their own rights.
We have clear justification, then, for refusing to comply with a legislation which infringes upon our rights, but should we choose non-compliance we must do so with the certain knowledge that the government does have the power to punish us, even though it has no right to do so. At every peaceful opportunity, by speech, vote, or non-compliance, if we believe in natural rights, we should seek to diminish the power of the government and its ability and inclination to infringe upon our rights.
“But it is for your own good!” I could easily violate my own anti-profanity rule in response to that one. As far as I can tell, this response is only used by those who have failed, or refused, to fully consider the entire situation. Who better to determine what is for the best for a person than that person? Is there really anyone wise enough, or knowledgeable enough, to direct another persons life? Certainly many think that they are, but who would you rather trust to make your personal decisions, yourself or someone whom you have not even met?
By way of demonstration, I will submit that I personally refuse to buy health insurance, and have held this position for some time. Even before everyone began to talk about insurance in the time of the Obamacare debacle, I was criticized by some for cheating the system by not paying in to it. They claim that if I became injured, for example, and received treatment, everyone else would have to pay for that treatment. This seems to be their most prevalent and effective argument for the system of forcing people to pay into a system which they do not want, and was most probably one of the most effective arguments which led us to Obamacare. I counter this by explaining that if I receive a service from someone, and they desire payment in exchange, then I am obligated to pay. I am morally obligated to pay the individual or entity providing the service, not a third party such as a government bureaucracy or an insurance company.
At this point I am usually accosted by phase two of the attack. “What if you can’t afford it, or if you die, who will pay for your funeral?” First, this may sound cold and heartless, but if I have no family or friends to voluntarily see to the disposal, I will no longer care if you just push my carcass out of the way and leave it to nature. I would, however, recommend that you find a way to do something more sanitary and cosmetically appealing. I would do the same for you had you no family or friends to see to it.
As to the question of cost, I will answer this with one of my own. Why is it so expensive in the first place? Could it be the high cost of higher education, which is so lucrative that the government itself recently acquired the student loan business? Maybe the insurance companies have too much control in the setting of prices and the selection of services? What about the role of the pharmaceutical industry? Perhaps the government’s judicial branch, made up principally of lawyers is giving too much leeway to other lawyers to profit through legal litigation? Are the taxes levied on the health care providers, or the insurances which they are mandated to purchase, driving prices up? It is well past time that we began looking to items such as these to find the causes to the unfortunate state of our health care, and quit trying to fix it by adding still more layers of mistakes.
That being said, I will pay out of pocket if I can, or make other arrangements if I can not. A person receiving a service, knowing that a payment for that service will be expected, and who intentionally fails to pay is intentionally violating the natural rights of the provider(s) to experience the fruits of their labors. This is where the argument supporting a system of taxation in exchange for services falls apart. The proponents of this system would have us believe that by engaging in this we are helping people. But are we really helping them, or are we simply transferring this “rights theft” to someone else? The taxation system which is touted as necessary and humane for helping those who can not, or will not, pay for services or goods actually steals (for lack of a more honest word) from others to pay for the original theft of service which occurred when someone accepted the service with no intention or ability to pay. (Look again to the previous paragraph for a few of the causes for the high prices). This theft of service should be what is identified and addressed rather than covered up by yet another theft in the form of taxation.
(It is also worth noting that a person is well served by learning how to treat their own minor injuries and illnesses on their own, thereby having less need for a healthcare provider for these situations)
I apologize to the reader for inserting the lengthy explanations above, but I did so to forestall the questions which would be raised by those seeking to avoid the main subject, that of natural rights. Although our current government was founded by people who thought it important to speak of natural rights in the Declaration itself, these rights are no longer widely held with as much esteem. This must change, and change soon, or as people forget that they once were allowed to enjoy these rights they come into danger of accepting their roles as assigned by others. The modern day serfdom sought by authoritarians everywhere.
As for myself, I will do my part to protect all of our natural rights by bringing attention to them through the keypad. In the future I hope to cover some of them more specifically as I am able.