“LGBTQ+ rights are under assault across the US: 45 states have proposed anti-trans bills in 2023, from so-called bathroom bills to laws that restrict the rights of trans children. Drag show bans have swept through states, with conservative leaders peddling homophobic tropes about “grooming” children.”The Guardian
I don’t use my platform to comment on “social” issues, aside from pointing out to which government or political sphere “social” issues belong. So, today’s post is not about “pride” or the LGBTQ+ community, but these topics–which are uniquely visible right now–highlight a perpetual misinterpretation Americans have of “rights”.
Modern day media pundits, as well as, modern day politicians love to talk about “rights” being under assault — but they typically do so by pulling rights out of thin air. People in this country have liberty. This is not the same thing as having a right to do whatever, however, whenever. Since rights are an idea–a social construct–the power specific rights have depends on the belief in those rights. Right now, the collection don’t believe we all have a right to free coffee, thus this right has little to no power here. The belief comes from a belief in a theory of rights.
Why is this theoretical understanding of “rights” so important for us? Let’s think about this. If “rights” are not grounded in something—in theory—then a “right” can be anything…anything. And if government’s job is to protect our “rights”, the more “rights” that people demand, the more “government” is required enforce the laws to protect those “rights”.
For instance, we now have many people who believe that healthcare, savings for when they retire (aka: social security), a paid living wage for the poor, internet access, clean air, the ability to purchase products wherever they want to purchase them, education, a job, abortion (are you getting the picture?) are now “rights” that government ought to ensure and protect. And this list is just getting longer and longer…and longer.
Everyone is coming up with a new right, every day. Why? Because a “right” is not a real thing…it is, very literally, a figment of our imagination—albeit a powerful figment. So, if we allow “rights” to simply be whatever we want them to be, with no grounding in anything, “rights” will be anything the irrational and emotional public demands. People could very well say that pedophilia is a “right”…who’s to tell them otherwise if government has no limits about what a “right” is and therefore what their job is?
The more “rights” the public demands, the more “government” is required. Ironic, right? We might consider rights a good thing, a thing akin to liberty—-but there can be too much of a good thing. Locke, other liberal philosophers and the American founders were keenly aware of how irrational and emotional the public can be. So, they attempted to ground “rights” in nature or the Bible to keep the power to define “rights” out of people’s hands. That way, the goverment’s job was clearly defined because the “rights” government was supposed to protect, were clearly defined.
Since we’ve moved away from the Constitution and the original use of government (to protect private property), we’ve opened ourselves up to a tidal wave of potential “rights” and with that, a tidal wave of more laws, regulations and government.
Let’s take this a step further. Because the Constitution is government’s job description, it is not a description of our rights. It has nothing to do with our rights because government can’t define, confine, give out or take away rights. Government exists to make sure that other citizens don’t violate each other’s rights and private property—rights and private property that are inherent in the citizenry regardless of government.
The Constitution simply confines the federal government’s role in this process. It enumerates for the federal government what it can make laws about leaving anything not mentioned to the state or local governments. This list of topics is rather slim in order to avoid the federal government overstepping its reason for existence (protecting me and my private property from you and vice versa) and making laws that violate its very reason for existence.
It’s easy for anyone, whether it be some one from the LGTBQ+ community or the evangelical Christian, community, to cry to government that their “rights” are somehow being violated.
By using the buzz word “rights” every community feels that they can pressure government into giving them something they’re entitled to–whether or not the “right” is truly a “right”. I may feel that I have a right to air conditioning and that the local electric companies are depriving me of my right to air conditioning by charging me more than I can afford. But the fact that I call it a right and plead with the government to ensure I’m not deprived of my right to air-conditioning does not make it a right–in fact, it only increases government’s power and my dependence on government.
We ought to be careful when flinging around phrases like some community’s “rights are under assault” without truly defining and clarifying what “rights” we’re taking about, who’s doing the assaulting, how specifically, and what the legitimate Constitutional solution would be.
The Liberty Belle