The debate over Obama’s attempt to order religious organizations and insurance companies to offer specific coverage has until now centered on a threat to religious freedom. Most of this debate completely misses the philosophical and political issue we should be arguing, namely: What part of the United States Constitution mandates that citizens pay, through taxes, for other citizens’ entirely elective medical treatments? When did contraception or abortion become “rights,” and where do these demands end?
Setting aside the obviously false notion that abortions are regularly and routinely required to save the lives of otherwise healthy pregnant women, the debate over Glorious Leader Obama’s health-care dictates should and must be centered on the fundamental violation of individual rights they represent. Explanations of this infringement are found in the work of the founders; they are found in the writings of philosophers both ancient and modern, from Aristotle to Ayn Rand, John Locke to Friedrich Nietzsche, David Kelley to Robert Nozick. These men and women understood that philosophy is politics, and the reality of the world around us precludes any justification – morally and rationally – for government theft of your property.
Briefly, the Founding Fathers of the United States indicated their acceptance of, and based the United States Constitution on, the concept of natural rights. Your natural rights stem directly from a fact few can argue: You are a discrete biological entity.
Because you are a discrete biological entity, you are an individual. No human can be another human, and no one can live another’s life. By virtue of your nature as an individual, you are born with the inalienable property right to yourself. This means that no human being has a claim on your time or your effort without your consent.
Think about it. If you do not own you, who does? If you are anything but your own property, you belong to someone else, which makes you that someone’s slave. Are you a slave?
Your property right to yourself extends to a general right to possess legally acquired property. No human can exist without property of some kind. This is an axiom of existence. You cannot exist in space unconnected to all other existents, the sole resident of an empty bubble of space-time. This does not mean you have an automatic claim to someone else’s property by virtue of your need for it, however. This means instead that you have the right to possess property, of necessity, if you can indeed acquire it.
Claims to the contrary made by Marxists, collectivists and socialists of every stripe are empty. If you have no right to possess property once you have obtained it, those making this assertion must be making it naked while floating in empty rooms from which even air has been evacuated.
Let’s look at property now. Most property today belongs to someone. Let’s say, however, that it did not. How do we go about obtaining property that does not yet belong to another person? Your property right to yourself and your effort can be used to obtain rights to real property (land). He who first “mingles his labor with the land” earns a property right to it.
What of land (or other property) whose acquisition is disputed as illegitimate? The longer an illegitimate claim goes uncontested, the more the passage of time legitimizes it. This is because the passage of time increases the possibility that an attempt to correct the illegitimate acquisition would harm parties who themselves have acted in good faith, who have done no wrong.
A right to property is the right to its use. Land is scarce (there is a finite quantity of it), so some method must be used to determine who may use or possess the scarce commodity. If we say all property belongs to everyone, we have a problem – because we would then only be able to use property with the mutual consent of every single member of society. As that is unworkable (if not impossible), some delegation of humans within society must make this determination – and it would then be those people, not all the people, who hold the property right. Those who control access to a thing own that thing, regardless of lip service to the contrary.
Either you recognize that you have sole dominion over your person or you do not. If you do not, you are saying that all of society – the collective, the state, whomever – has first right to you as property, or that some other person does. Let’s take the latter first. Few people will admit to believing in Plato’s theory that a select elite of societal guardians should have command over the rest of us. By what rationale does one human being presume to own another, when he cannot live that human’s life?
Once we accept that you cannot live your fellow citizens’ lives, it stands to reason that government is evil. What is a government, after all, but a means to force humans within society to comply with certain demands? Government, however, is a necessary evil, because there is no other means to protect individual rights. A society with no government whatsoever invariably devolves into feudal tribalism, which destroys individual rights by empowering mobs and eventually fostering warlords. The natural human reaction to a power vacuum is the creation of strong entities to impose order. This is tyranny – rule by force. It is not liberty.
With all roads of force and coercion leading to this type of armed dictatorship, the only legitimate role of government in a free society is the protection of individuals’ natural rights. That is why governments are instituted among human beings – or at least, that is why they should be.
When next you face the shrill demands of a greedy Democrat, of a grasping lib, of a whining leftist who asserts a “right” to goods and services your labors fund, demand to know by what right he hopes to own you. He is not your master … and you are no one’s slave.