Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Conservatives should conserve individual rights

By Nathan Fatal

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Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. I had the pleasure of joining thousands of individuals fed up with President Barack Obama’s apparent hobby of violating rights.


The theme of CPAC 2012 was “we still hold these truths” – a tribute to the Declaration of Independence, which established the truth of our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as “self-evident.”

Many who claim to still hold such truths made impassioned calls for freedom – freedom from economic dependency, freedom from indefinite detention, freedom from a forced brother’s keeper role in every other Americans’ healthcare, or from compulsory purchase of our own, and freedom, overall, from a president who will continue to increase his power at the expense of that of individuals.

Regrettably, their repeated biblical invocations, vague terminology and social conservative platitudes make Republicans’ role as defenders of our freedom a hard sell. A necessary question, then, is does the GOP still hold those truths? Are any of the current candidates in a position to defend the legacy of the founders who they so promiscuously invoke?

To review some of their major short-comings: Rick Santorum claims that the pursuit of happiness harms America – that individual freedom is the essence of a leftist-inspired “me generation” and must be repressed. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman appropriately called a “well-oiled weather vain,” and, I might add, a well-trained parrot, has no clear position on anything, repeating whatever the majority of his desired audience wants to hear.

Newt Gingrich, supposedly a “Reaganite,” is hardly a defender of capitalism, as he incessantly whines about and takes blows at  Romney, the most obviously capitalist candidate, who said “I like being able to fire people.”

And finally Ron Paul rightfully points out the overreach of federal power and the profound threat it poses to individual liberties and insists that states be given power that violates individual rights.

Our incumbent president, the pragmatist in chief, consistently disposes of moral principles – it’s wrong to subsidize oil, but not ‘green energy’ – ‘hesitantly’ signs away my rights, appeases America’s enemies and insists that government “support … every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs” by imposing a 30 percent tax rate on anyone who comes close. So much for a renewal of “American values” and “founding principles.”

What is it that all of these candidates lack? While some of them come closer than others, none of them have a proper understanding of individual rights or, for that matter, of American values or founding principles. Everyone is familiar with the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But what makes them rights?

Reference to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789 will be helpful here: “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.” A right to life means that one may take any action to continue one’s life which does not prevent another individual from taking such actions beneficial to their own life. A right to liberty means that one is free to do anything which does not impede another’s liberty. A right to the pursuit of happiness means that one can pursue happiness in any way one sees fit, as long as such pursuit does not hinder that of another person. It should be clear, given this formulation, that “unalienable rights” is a redundant term. Rights by their nature are unalienable.

A small number of Republicans have come to understand how liberal policies in the economic realm require a violation of our rights. That is, there is no right to healthcare, a job, an education or a house, because the fulfillment of such a “right” to a physical good or service would require that money be taken from other people.

Regardless of the affordability, desirability or practical implications of using tax money to provide these services, they require a violation of our fundamental rights, since one’s income allows one to continue one’s life and pursue happiness as one sees fit, and as such one must have the liberty to do so. The “rights” promised by the Obama Administration and begged for by swarms of malcontents in tent villages, simply are not rights. One person’s envy for another’s higher income, or pity for another’s poor circumstances, is irrelevant if the guiding principle of public policy is that no one has the right to violate rights.

On the other hand, Democrats have a history of defending the right of gays and lesbians to engage in consensual relationships and marry, as well as that of women to obtain abortions. These are rights because given the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, adult individuals may freely engage in any activity which allows them to enjoy life and pursue happiness.

A woman, as an individual human organism, has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while the fetus, as a biological parasite, does not, since such a right, regardless of the status of the mother’s health or the fetus’s ability to feel pain, would come at the expense of her rights. So some Republicans’ dream of a “conservative renaissance” of “Judeo-Christian values” and “family values” denies the right of gays, lesbians and women to the self-evident truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To demand that gay individuals be denied the right to pursue happiness and engage in consensual adult relationships, and to grant a fetus equal moral status to a woman who may only be hosting it as a result of rape, is no more American than to demand the economic slavery necessary to heed protesters’ demands in the Occupy movement for free lunches, free education, free healthcare and free lives.

All such demands do away with economic and social freedom. To champion economic liberty while spurning social liberty that may injure one’s scripturally-informed sentiments, or to champion sexual and reproductive rights but work towards economic equality as a moral ideal, is to answer the question of “do we still hold these truths?” with the intellectually honest but morally abhorrent “sometimes, and for some people.” Anyone who legislates based on that principle does not hold these truths, is not an advocate of freedom or rights and is un-American.

If we ever wish to heed the calls for freedom and social justice, we must run the left out of our wallets and the right out of our bedrooms. A return to the founding principles of our country would grant everyone the right to make as much money as they want in any way and for any purpose without impeding another’s right to do so; it would enshrine the pursuit of happiness for all individuals of any gender, sexual preference, religious preference or victims of sexual abuse as absolute and unalienable. It would defend all of our rights from the intrusion of federal, state and local governments or envious, egalitarian whims.

It is because I still hold these truths that I implore conservatives to understand, conserve and forever defend this proper sense of freedom.

Nathan Fatal is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]


6 Responses to “Conservatives should conserve individual rights”

  1. Brian on February 17th, 2012 12:19 am

    “That is, there is no right to healthcare, a job, an education or a house, because the fulfillment of such a “right” to a physical good or service would require that money be taken from other people.”
    …epic logic fail. The fact is that the fulfillment of ANY right requires that money be taken from other people. For example, take the right to life. This means, among other things, that you have a right to be defended against murderers. Who defends you against murderers? The police. Where do the police get their money? From taxes. Who pays taxes? Other people. So you see, your right to life is protected by using other people’s money. So are ALL rights. The rights to health care or education are no different from the rights to life or liberty. Indeed, it makes no sense to use tax money to protect you from dangerous murderers but NOT use tax money to protect you from equally dangerous diseases.


  2. Rob on February 18th, 2012 9:00 pm

    Brian, you point out two correct functions of government and declare that the author’s argument against socially fueled wealth redistribution and theocratic legislating is therefore logically invalid? Seems you are the one guilty of an epic logic fail.

    I won’t presume to speak for him, but I’m fairly confident that if you asked Nathan he would likely agree that the police and epidemic level quarantines, as well as courts, the military, and legislative functions, are legitimate uses of tax money because they exist to protect its citizens equally from force. Social Security, Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, ObamaCare, Public Schools, etc., do not, and cannot, apply equally to all citizens. Some citizens receive benefits at the expense of other, generally more productive, citizens. There can be no “right” to the product of another. A so-called “right” which causes the violation of another’s unalienable right is not a right at all! A right cannot forcibly thrust an unchosen or unrewarded service or obligation upon another man. My neighbor’s child has no “right” to an education to be provided by me, in whole or in part. A hungry family has no “right” to a meal provided by me. These are not “rights,” they are privileges bestowed by the government forcefully taking money from taxpayers to finance them. The individuals who benefit now by force are, of course, free to ASK anyone for help to send their child to school or to please buy them a loaf of bread, but in no way is anyone obligated to provide these things, nor is the government morally justified in seizing assets to do so. Yet, it is the case that over 55% of my tax dollars contribute to some type of welfare program. Of a $3.5T dollar budget, that’s over $1.9T being redistributed by force. (Those numbers are not magic and can be reviewed here: )

    Please note that Objectivists are not anarchists, and we still believe government does have a role to play in protecting our freedoms from force and fraud. The point of this article is to draw out and highlight the philosophical inconsistencies of both major political parties in respecting our unalienable rights as human beings. Both parties are full of pragmatic pickers and choosers instead of what we really need; logically consistent champions and defenders of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Nice article Nathan!


  3. hmm on February 20th, 2012 11:35 am

    i like how you equate occupy with slavery for wanting free things even though freedom is the best thing…? or something? what is freedom anyway? according to people like you, it is the RIGHT to have, do, be, enjoy etc whatever, but whether or not you will be materially able to have, do, be, enjoy etc is somehow of no concern whatever. even though it is the ‘social contract’ that guarantees these ‘rights’, it guarantees nothing else. how useful is that? and speaking once again of slavery, calling for a return to ‘founding principles’ of the u.s. is a great way to finish yet another ignorant, naive ‘objectivist’ rant. although again i like how the ‘freedom = slavery’ type comment exposes how orwellian this kind of right wing rhetoric is. ignorance is strength, war is peace and ron paul is the second coming of ayn rand. all hail the glorious utopia of capitalism that will unfold once rich people pay zero taxes and every form of pollution and scammery is legalized.


  4. Brian on February 21st, 2012 12:24 am

    Rob, you did not really address my argument. On the one hand you agreed that there are some legitimate uses of tax money, but on the other hand you said that “there can be no “right” to the product of another.” That is utterly contradictory. If you have no right to the product of another, then you have no right to have your life or liberty protected with MY tax money. You complain about “pickers and choosers”, but that’s exactly what you “Objectivists” are! When tax money is used to fund things you don’t like (such as help for the poor, the elderly, or the sick), you whine and complain that it’s not fair for the state to take your money to help other people. But when tax money is used to fund the police, the military, or other things that kill people, suddenly you change your tune and taxes are perfectly justified!
    You are an abject hypocrite, because you think that I have no right to tax you for my health care but you have a right to tax me to protect your private jets and opulent mansions.


  5. Ed on February 21st, 2012 1:58 pm

    “A woman, as an individual human organism, has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while the fetus, as a biological parasite, does not, since such a right, regardless of the status of the mother’s health or the fetus’s ability to feel pain, would come at the expense of her rights.”

    By the same logic, post-birth abortions are also justified. The screaming 5-year-old’s ability to do so very much comes at the expense of the mother’s rights too.
    So she can just kill the kid. Hey, gotta love this logic…

    “So some Republicans’ dream of a “conservative renaissance” of “Judeo-Christian values” and “family values” denies the right of gays, lesbians and women to the self-evident truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Read Edmund Burke — if you know how to read — and you will see why this is so very illogical. There is no one in the conservative movement that I know of — including the Koch Brothers — who want to have the government interfere with whatever two/three/twenty people do IN PRIVATE.

    Gay marriage is an issue BECAUSE a marriage license was initially intended to be a license to create children and a promise to provide for them. The right offered to support something that was identical to gay marriage (actually gave partners MORE legal rights than a marriage as long as the gay movement was willing to extend it to everyone (eg brother & sister) but they refused.

    And why can not a gay lover marry his cousin? He can’t — look it up, if he admits to the level of kinship, he can’t.

    Why — because of the statistically likely result of birth defects and mental retardation of their children. Again, a marriage license is a license to create children.

    And one other interesting thing: when a lesbian with a child marries another lesbian, why does the child’s father have to continue paying child support? The other lesbian is the child’s “father” now — what logical basis is there for child support????


  6. hmm on February 22nd, 2012 5:16 pm

    well Ed, post-birth abortions might have spared us some ignorant, homophobic and sexist comments like yours.


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