Where do they end?
by Tom Van Dyke
And no, one's nose has nothing to do with it, so don't even go there.
At the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said:
"In doing so, we will honor the vows of our founders, who in the Declaration of Independence said that we are 'endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' This legislation will lead to healthier lives, more liberty to pursue hopes and dreams and happiness for the American people. This is an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country."
Now, before anyone starts feverishly typing away on their comment before reading any further, this here American Creation blog is not about current issues, especially Dems vs. Reps. I warn y'all in advance, I'll delete anything that smells of Red State or Daily Kos.
[Although such folk have already stopped reading and started commenting. But I say this for the record, and for the regulars who know how we do things around here.]
This isn't about the health care thing, but it is about "rights." And "liberty," and the Founders and their understanding of both, since Speaker Pelosi brought up the subject. And her partisan opponents are arguing "rights" and "liberty" and the Founders in support of their position.
[Oh, go find your own link for the last bunch. It ain't very hard.]
In another forum I participate in, we're discussing the philosophical or even theological foundations for the idea of "rights" atall. Liberty, pursuit of happiness, the whole megillah. The Founding, Locke, the ancient Greeks, natural law, the moderns, Kant, Rawls, what have you.
We do a good job around here of discussing principles at arms-length from the issues, so I thought I'd take a chance with questions designed for clarity there that might be helpful here:
---Are all rights "natural," or are some political, civil, or "human"?
---Are rights innate or negotiated for in a contract with the state?
---Are rights innate or a matter of merit?
---What is the state of nature? What of liberty in the state of nature?
---What is the state of nature if man is a social animal [social "being," if we
prefer]? What becomes of liberty?
---What is liberty?
---If a social animal, and one incapable of self-sufficiency until age 5 or 7 or
so, what is his reciprocal obligation [duty?] to fellow man? To fellow man's
material estate? To fellow man's liberty? To fellow man's soul [if any]?
---By what right does one man rule another? Is man his brother's keeper?
---Are the laws of nature and the "natural law" the same thing?
---Is liberty a natural right?
---If so, is it limited by the social animal's duty or obligation to "society"
or the state?
---Or is "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of
existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were
they formed under compulsion of the State." [?]
---Does "personhood" exist? Is there a "dignity of the human person"? Is that
dignity innate, or is it an assertion of a "convention"? Are "conventions" the
product of "social contract," and therefore by definition, arbitrary?
---Are positive laws [conventions, contracts] subject to validation first by any
higher laws [law of nature, "natural law"] or simply coeval laws [reason,
reasonableness], or, as the US Supreme Court answers, a blend depending on the
occasion where one "fundamental" right is in conflict with another: strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, rational basis, and so on.
---What rights are absolute? All, many, some? Are all rights the same, civil rights, political rights, natural rights, human rights?
"Rights" is the most confusing and ambiguous word of our times. I thought we might seek a little clarity. It's the undercurrent of pretty much every post on this blog.
And this blog has been an oasis on the internet from the ignorant and partisan grenade-throwing, so I hope we can trust us with this---the questions underlying the questions. No bashing Obama or Pelosi or Beck. Use their arguments if you will, but leave them out of it. And no bashing Congress and the procedures about how the bill got passed. That's about politics, and about legalities, not about principles.
So, the genie's out of the bottle. But we've done a great job of managing Jeannie so far around here. Let's test our wheels. Let's test how 2010 matches up with 1776 and 1787.