Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thought for the Day: Why We Should Oppose the idea of Rights Being from the State

On another site, there was a debate on abortion, and an individual claimed that there are no intrinsic rights, only rights provided by the state.  Therefore the state could legalize abortion because the unborn was not a human person.

Interesting… but terrifying.  Why?

Because under this kind of reasoning we would see…

  1. In Nazi Germany the right to exterminate "lesser peoples" would have been allowable… after all, they decided Jews and Slavs were non-persons, and rights come from the state.
  2. In the South, Bull Connor would have done no wrong in enforcing segregation laws, as the State Government considered they had no rights
  3. Apartheid in South Africa would not have been wrong because the government decided non-whites had no rights
  4. There would be nothing wrong with Medieval Spain oppressing Jews and Muslims with the Inquisition, as the government decided they had no rights.
  5. The Bill of Attainder (punish a person by decree of law without trial) would be legal… because it is the government law [This is forbidden by the Constitution of the United States btw, but was legal in England in that era]
  6. The overthrow of the Constitution and the imposition of Sharia Law would be permissible as the state provides the rights.

I could list many other examples, but this idea is a dangerous one and ought to be opposed.  Most people would recognize that the above examples did or could happen, and they are generally viewed with revulsion.  Yet the key to these barbaric examples is the idea that rights are from the government, and not from any other source.

Thus there is nothing good about being democratic and nothing bad about being totalitarian if we accept this standard.  Merely that some governments would be more careful with rights and others would be more free with them.  However, if we accept that rights merely come from the government, then there is nothing to appeal to if we don't like a totalitarian government.

I think I will close this with a quote of Benito Mussolini:

Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. (From his essay Diuturna)

—Benito Mussolini

If there are no absolutes, no moral norms… if the state decides what is a right and what is not, then there is no basis to complain when a government does things we would call unjust.

It is only when one accepts the moral absolutes which those who oppose abortion invoke that there is a basis to opposing the examples of injustice given.

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