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Recently on Twitter, a triggered Leftist thought it was important for me to know that “You have a right NOT TO BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.”   This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a progressive think that shouting, “you have a right to not be discriminated against”, would be convincing. What this has convinced me of is that we, as citizens, need to have a serious discussion about what rights are, where they come from, and their limits.

Rights are freedoms we inherently have as humans. These freedoms can be exercised independently of other individuals and do not require the consent of someone else.  A good rule of thumb is this: if an action requires the consent of another person, it isn’t a right, it’s a contract.  These rights do not come from society or from government, but from God; He gave them to us, and they are co-eternal with Him.  The Founders understood that rights come from God, and as stated in the Declaration of Independence, the true role of government is to protect those rights.

Famous political philosophers– Cato, John Locke, Montesquieu, John Trenchard, and Thomas Gordon–wrote extensively on natural rights and had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers.  Their ideas, along with those of the Founders, are reflected in the founding documents of our country.  More recent writers, such as Robert Nozick, have expanded on the writings of these philosophers to further our understanding of natural rights and how they work.  The following is a list of natural rights and how they work derived from the writings of philosophers and the founding documents of the United States.

  • The Right to Life

    • You have the right to your own life and cannot have it taken away unjustly or without due process. In the case of pregnancy, the Founders clarified that this right extends to the unborn from the moment the baby “stirs in the womb”: which is to say as soon as the mother becomes aware that she is pregnant.**

  • The Right to Defend Yourself

    • Because you have a right to life, you have a right to protect it from someone or something that is trying to harm you or your family.

  • The Right to Bear Arms

    • You have the right to own weapons and use them to defend yourself. You cannot be coerced to give them up.

  • The Right of Belief or Conscience

    • Independent of anyone else, you can believe in God or not. You cannot be coerced to believe or to not believe in something.

  • Freedom of Religious Expression

    • You are free to act on your religious beliefs. You cannot be prevented from acting on your beliefs, or be forced to participate in religious activities.

  • The Right to Speak Your Mind

    • You are able to speak freely without fear of violence, or coercion, by other people or the government.

  • The Right to Own and Control Property

    • You can own property independently of others: you can control it, and transfer the rights to it in voluntary contracts.  You have the right to enjoy the entirety of what your labor produces as you see fit. This includes money, and also property and goods that have been given to you via a voluntary contract. You cannot be forced to give up or transfer your property to another. The right to own and control property does not guarantee you property, but ensures that you can acquire or create it through your own merit, or receive it through a consensual contract. Once acquired, your property is protected. If you acquire property justly–either through transfer contract, labor, or acquisition (settling land that is unowned)–the government, or another third party, cannot step in and deny you that property, or prevent you from obtaining what you have justly received, acquired, earned, or created.

  • The Right to Control Your Own Labor

    • Your body is yours and yours alone. You control your own body, and by extension the fruit of your labor. This includes the money you earn. As your labor, and the fruit thereof, is your property, you cannot be coerced to provide your labor or money to another person.

  • The Right to Associate or Not Associate

    • You have the inherent right to control who you interact with, do business with, and spend your time with. You cannot be coerced to interact, do business, or associate with anyone.

  • The Right to Privacy
    • You have the right to keep to keep personal information private. This does not give you the right to violate another person’s rights, such as their right to life, because it is “done in your own home.”**This is not the same as the Right to Privacy created by abortion proponents in the 1973 Roe V. Wade case. From that time it has become used by conservatives to address government surveillance.
  • The Right to Assemble

    • You have the right to form groups and clubs. You may invite others to join your cause. You are also free not to join clubs, churches, protests, etc.  You cannot be coerced into, or prevented from, joining a group or coming together with others.

  • Freedom of the Press

    • You have the right to write what you want and to share it with others.  You cannot be coerced to write or be prevented from disseminating it. The opposite is also true.

  • The Right to Make Contracts

    • You have the right to voluntarily enter into, or not enter into, contracts or agreements. This includes the exchange of money, goods, services, and the creation of employment. The terms of these agreements are determined by you and another party: they cannot be forced or changed by third parties. You cannot be coerced to make a contract.

These natural rights do have one limitation: we cannot violate the rights of another individual.  Your right of religious expression ends the moment it violates someone else’s right to life.  Your right to acquire, own, and control property does not give you the right to take someone else’s property, or prevent them from justly acquiring or controlling their own property: that is theft.  Your right to choose with whom you do business or interact, does not allow you to force someone else to do business with you or interact with you.  Your right to enter into contracts does not permit you to coerce someone else into a contract, be it for their labor or goods: one is slavery, the other is theft.  Your right to life ends when you attempt to violate someone else’s right to life as they have the right to defend themselves. When we violate the rights of others and break just laws, we forfeit our rights as punishment.

What about the rights expressed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?  These provisions either enshrine the commitment of the government to protect these rights, or describe the mechanism for their protection.  Due process, or unnecessary search and seizure rights, are created to protect these natural rights and create a just process for the loss of property, freedom, movement, privacy, and life.

So, why isn’t there a right to not be discriminated against? The answer is simple: it can only be created by violating the rights of someone else. For example: the right to property, the right to control labor, the right to associate (or not associate), and the right to not be coerced into contracts.  Here is a list of some “rights” that are wrong and why (you’ll notice that all of them violate the rights of others).

  • Right to be Served by a Business

    • Property Rights- Says you have the right to another person’s property or goods

    • Labor Rights- Claimes a right to another person’s labor: slavery

    • Right of Association- Forces the business to associate with you and do business with you

    • Right to Enter Contracts- Coerces them into a non-consensual contract

  • Right to Healthcare
    This isn’t a right in that it depends on the consent of another person, making it a contract.

    • Labor Rights- Creates a right to another’s labor: slavery

    • Property Rights- Takes someone else’s money to finance it
      Forces businesses to run a certain way, limiting their control of their own property

    • Contract Rights- Forces businesses to accept non-consensual contracts such as mandating the coverage of preexisting conditions

  • Redistribution of Wealth

    • Property Rights- Forces someone to give their property (money) to someone else

  • Affirmative Action

    • Property Rights- Coerces businesses to hire certain quotas of people regardless of qualifications, limits control of their own businesses

    • Contract Rights-Forces businesses to make contracts with people it might not have and on terms they did not voluntarily make

  • Mandating Equal Pay

    • Property Rights- Coerces businesses to be operated according to government desires not as the owner desires, limiting their control of the business

    • Contract Right- Requires businesses, by law, to make contracts they might not have voluntarily made

  • Right to Education

    • Right to Control One’s Labor- States that individuals have the right to be educated or served by someone, or a right to demand their labor, also known as slavery.

  • Right to a Minimum Wage

    • Property Rights- Forces a business to run a certain way, limiting their control over their own property

    • Contract Rights- Coerces businesses to make specific contracts

As our discussion has shown, whenever government creates a right it does so at the expense of the natural rights of someone else.  This violates natural law, makes it immoral, and is contrary to the purpose of government.  Governments exist to protect our rights, not to violate them on the behalf of others.

By understanding these rights, how they work, their limits, and the true role of government in protecting them, we as citizens can better understand what we are entitled to do and not to do by nature of being human beings, and can better push back against the violation of rights by individuals, groups, and government itself.  So can I be discriminated against?  You bet.  It may not be fun or kind, but it is a greater wrong to force someone to associate or do business with me than for me to have to look elsewhere for a good or service.  I help make the government more tyrannical if I try to force someone to be kind.  So let us do our part as citizens to protect the rights of all people, even those with whom we disagree or think are unkind, because if we don’t, there might not be anyone left to stand up for our rights when they come for us.

For Further Reading on Natural Rights:

1. Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution

2. Declaration of Independence

3. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

4. John Trenchard, Cato’s Letters, “Liberty Proved to Be the Unalienable Right of All Mankind” and “All Government Proved to Be Instituted by Men, and Only to Intend the General Good of Men”

5. Richard Epstein, “Should Anti-Discrimination Laws Limit Freedom of Association? The Dangerous Allure of Human Rights Legislation”

6. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia

7. Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters, “Of Freedom of Speech: That the Same Is Inseparable from Publick Liberty”

8. Virginia Declaration of Rights

**James Wilson- “With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.”

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