Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

14 December 2009

The Sovereign Rights of the Individual

The sovereign rights of the individual are well summarized by The Declaration of Independence as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But what then are these rights?  Some of them are given in the original Constitution and some more are given in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.  But, the 9th Amendment of the Bill of Rights implies that there are more rights which are not enumerated.  What might some of these additional rights be?

In modern politics, it is common for the socialists to claim that a person has a right to adequate food, clothing, education, housing, and a good job.  This is nonsense, since any of these "rights" as they understand them mean that someone else is expected to provide these goods and services to the "right" claimer and that someone else is then enslaved to the right claimer to some degree.  No right can entail the enslavement of others or their involuntary labor or the taking of their income or property.  When one person claims their rights, those of others must not be thereby diminished.

It has, however, been often noted that the right to free speech means little if you are starving to death or freezing to death on a cold winter's night.  Food is a necessity of life, as is adequate clothing.  There is no question that education better prepares us for sustaining our lives and may provide us the information and some of the wisdom needed to pursue happiness with a decent chance of success.  Although we have no right to be provided with food, clothing, housing, education, and jobs, we very much have the right to pursue the attainment of each of these values.  No one has the right to act to prevent us from growing our own food or from trading for food with those who will join us voluntarily in such a trade.  No one has the right to prevent us from having a home, provided we provide ourselves with the land on which it sits and build it, or we trade with others voluntarily for the land and the house or the rent of some housing someone else wishes to rent us by mutual agreement.  It is in this sense that we each have the right to food, clothing, housing, education, and a job.  Others are never obliged to give these things to us, but they are obliged not to use force to keep us from them either through our own work directly or through our trading with others in a mutually voluntary trade.

To be perfectly clear, when we assert our freedom of speech, we do not require others to rent us an auditorium in which we can comfortably address a crowd who are comfortably seated.  We do not have the right to force a radio or television station owner to broadcast our speech.  But, others cannot shut us up if we speak in our own home or if we carry on a normal conversation while walking along a sidewalk.  Others are not obliged to provide us with a bullhorn or even a soap box, nor are they obliged to listen to us.  But, they can only stop us from speaking if we are on their property.  Generally, we are free to speak our minds wherever we can make an arrangement with the owner of the land or facility where we will speak.

There is no way in which we can be said to meaningfully have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if we have no right to perform productive labor, to think, to trade with others, to acquire property, and to act to secure our good health.  These actions are all necessary to us if we really have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It is these rights and other rights also necessarily subsumed by our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness which are secured to each of us by the critically important 9th Amendment, which unfortunately is hardly ever enforced.

Why were these critical rights not explicitly mentioned as protected in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?  I am sure it is because they were so well understood to be rights that they had not been seriously challenged in colonial times in America.  The quartering of troops in private homes during peacetime had been forced upon the colonists, so the Bill of Rights protected the right not to have to share one's home with troops involuntarily.  Implicit in this protection is the broader recognition that a man has a right to his property and he has a right to his home.

None of the enumerated powers of Congress give it any power to infringe upon the individual's right to their property without just compensation.  There is no power to prevent anyone from pursuing their chosen line of work.  There is no provision allowing the government to interfere with any citizen's education.  There is no power that allows Congress to interfere with the trades and arrangements any citizen might make for his health care.  None of these rights can be infringed by a Congress exercising its enumerated powers and no more. 

Yet all of these fundamental rights are routinely infringed by our unconstrained Congress and our similarly unrestrained state governments.  Sadly, many of our most fundamental individual rights are violated daily by the very governments which were instituted by sovereign individuals only for the purpose of securing our inalienable individual rights.  These governments are now generally illegitimate, since they are acting contrary to the purpose for which they exist and by which they are to be judged.


Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Those benind the changes are making money from these changes. In Athens, those who proposed a chnage to existing laws faced throttling if they could not defend the proposed changes!
Fed encroachment has now reached the absurd heights of a presidential directive being obeyed by the executive as if law. Tyranny!

josh said...

Hey Dr. Anderson,

Excellent post on the violation of our rights.

I reblogged this post on the Tiger Town Observer's blog (, a Clemson University student newspaper, which I have just been recently elected as the editor-in-chief.

The newspaper has had a reputation as a voice for dogmatic conservatism, speaking out against gays and raffling off an AK-47. Our last editor has changed the direction towards more reporting and most commentary being that of a libertarian viewpoint. I am continuing her direction and expanding our reporting.

The previous editors are probably not too happy that they now have a gay editor :D

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Hi Josh,

Thanks for using my post on our unenumerated rights! I hope some of your readers will also appreciate the points I was trying to make.

I wish you great success in your job as editor. I am sure you will provide your readers with some thought-provoking ideas and get them to think more about how important our individuality and our individual freedom of choice is.