by Russell D. Longcore
Owner and Editor, DumpDC.com
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an expansive article about unalienable rights. We all seem to just refer to the Declaration of Independence and what Jefferson wrote, and then defer to it. But natural law and unalienable rights are where it all starts.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights… Self-Evident. Obvious. Perhaps it was self-evident to the 18th Century common man, but I submit to you that the common 21st Century mind is not equally equipped. Much of the wisdom of the ages has been withheld from the modern man by the government schools. And why not? If you were a government, both tasked by The People to educate them and controlled by the same People, why teach generation after generation how to control you? Why not teach those generations how to be controlled? Self-evident truths bow to governmental self-preservation when The People aren’t watching vigilantly.
Building a tower requires building a firm foundation FIRST…or your tower goes over when the winds blow hard. Gentle readers, we’re in a CAT 5 hurricane right now that’s going to take down our American tower. If you do not have a working understanding of unalienable rights, you’ll likely fall for the next iteration of oppressive, tyrannical government foisted upon an uneducated populace who move their lips when they read. And if you don’t truly understand this philosophy, you cannot possibly teach it to your young.
Unalienable rights are also known as Natural Law or Absolute Rights. In this article these terms will be interchangeable. Also, the use of a male pronoun or the word “man” means all humans.
We begin with a definition of “Unalienable:”
“Unalienable: incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred.” Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1523. One cannot sell, transfer or surrender unalienable rights. The Creator bestowed them on every individual. All human beings possess unalienable rights. Unalienable rights cannot be taken nor surrendered but they can be simply ignored. This is a little like the story Jesus told about the prodigal son. A recalcitrant son learns through tough lessons that he cannot escape his father’s love nor his rights as his father’s son.
But can we find natural human rights without a recognition of a Creator? Yes, without a doubt. What you’ll learn here about Natural Law dwells in the heart of every human being simply because he exists. The concept of Unalienable Rights is life-affirming whether or not you believe in a Higher Power, since the concept showcases the uniqueness of the human being in this world. Unalienable Rights are the highest form of humanness while at the same time the most elementary of man’s characteristics.
Unalienable or Inalienable?
There is a very serious error made throughout America as related to Unalienable Rights. That is, that many people use the term “Inalienable Rights” and think that the terms are interchangeable. But they are as different as night and day.
Inalienable Rights: Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights. Morrison v. State, Mo. App., 252 S.W.2d 97, 101.
Inalienable rights can be transferred, sold or surrendered if you give your consent. Inalienable rights are not bestowed by the Creator or inherent in humans. ”Persons” have inalienable rights, and the word “Person” is a legal term¹. Inalienable rights can be bestowed to persons by government, and can be likewise removed from persons by government. At times, government itself can be considered a “Person” in a legal sense. Most state constitutions recognize only inalienable rights.
Therefore, because we possess Unalienable Rights, endowed by our Creator, to secure these rights(not grant or create them), “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”² And the rights we bestow upon government are the Inalienable Rights that we all possess that can be transferred to other persons.
We’re going to build this like a pyramid, much like the Hierarchy of Needs developed by Professor Abraham Maslow, Ph.D. He placed the bedrock human needs as the base of the pyramid, these being the most fundamental needs upon which all others are built. Physiological needs are first, simple survival of the human body. Next up comes Safety, then Love, Esteem, then Self-actualization as the headstone.
I don’t have a cool graphic for Unalienable Rights, so you’ll just have to look at Maslow’s pyramid and use your imagination. It won’t be all that hard.
The Right of Life
When Thomas Jefferson wrote of “certain Unalienable Rights,” he placed them in the proper order, with Life being the first and most basic of all. This is the right to simply exist as a sentient being…one able to perceive sensations, a consciousness. Unalienable rights come into being at the moment that a human becomes a human. I do not mean when the individual becomes a viable human, capable of life outside the womb. Both sides of the abortion issue agree that a zygote…a human female egg fertilized by a male sperm…is human, and that every day after it becomes an embryo for about 270 days it is human. Our right to life means our right to express our humanness and to simply be alive. The opposite is the death of a human being. The right to life gets very complicated, since none of us were able to leave the womb and live without assistance, sustenance and support. An argument about embryonic viability here entirely misses the point, since even post-birth humans need daily care until at least age 5 (or 10) or they will likely die. So along with our own innate right to life, we acknowledge our responsibility to assist other human life to exist and express itself. Maslow pointed to the need of breathing, food, water, sleep, sex, homeostasis and excretion…all part of maintaining life, and without any one of those needs, life would eventually stop. Note here that the right of life is seldom exercised individually, but is inextricably tied to the lives of others.
Right of Personal Security
The next step up the Unalienable Rights pyramid is the right to protect one’s very life and bodily existence. And by acknowledging the duties we have to others to whom we give life…our progeny…we extend the right to protect their lives also. Personal security first means that our bodies are safe from harm. That security encompasses both protection by others while we are unable to secure our own safety and protecting ourselves and our loved ones after we become capable of assuring our own safety. Note here that the right of personal security is seldom exercised individually, but is inextricably tied to the safety of others. The Second Amendment has its foundation in this unalienable human right, relying upon it to secure a free state through the use of a militia. The Second Amendment is not the “right” to keep and bear arms. It is the restriction on Congress to violate the Unalienable Right of Personal Security. Both the 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments were supposed to secure this Right.
The Right of Labor
The first manifestation of the greater Right of Property is found in the Right of Labor. Every human being owns the work of his own mind and hands, and any hindrance to his employing his mental and physical ability in whatever method he thinks proper, without causing injury to another individual, would be a violation of the Right of Labor. This right will be found in Maslow’s Safety block.
Right to Acquire and Enjoy Property
“Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.” Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness
This Right touches all of the other Unalienable Rights. First, a human fully possesses his own body, and may do with it what he pleases, as long as his choices do not violate the property rights of another human. Next, man owns his labor and may use his labor for his own subsistence. He may use his labor as an expression of value or a medium of exchange, and may freely exchange that value to acquire property. Then he may have quiet enjoyment of his property according to any manner that best reflects his happiness. Property may take the form of physical assets, but may also be less tangible assets like intellectual property. Property rights mean ownership and control, which includes the right to use an asset as well as the right to prohibit others from using the asset. Property rights also allow the owner to determine the value of an asset, and to even destroy an asset if he so chooses. The only restriction on the Unalienable Right of Property is that it does not infringe upon the Unalienable Rights of others.
As John Locke stated in The Second Treatise on Government (1690) “The great and chief end therefore of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of property.” What man would willingly join a society that did not protect his enjoyment of the fruits of his own labor?
In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith states that “private property created a role for government in defending property (rights), and the existence of government created the security to stimulate the creation of new property.” Many today wonder why the economies of the nations are in such dreadful shape. But most governments around the world are undermining property rights, the very reason for their existence. When there is no predictability in the marketplace, and individuals are preyed upon by governments, the incentive for creating new property is diminished or altogether extinguished. Those still seeking to create new property will migrate to the governments that best protect property rights. That’s why capital is leaving America for foreign locations and will continue to do so.
Right to Contract
This Unalienable Right gives all individuals the liberty to voluntarily enter into contract with any other individual or group of individuals, so long as there is agreement as to the terms of the contract by all parties involved, and so long as the contractual agreement does not violate another individual’s Unalienable Rights. Therefore, in light of property rights, individuals may sell their labor to an employer at mutually agreeable terms. Individuals may profit from the disposition of other property by mutual agreement.
All Unalienable Rights preceded the establishment of governments. However, governments chafe mightily under this Right. In America, the years 1897 to 1937 were a 40-year period in which the US Supreme Court vigorously protected the Right to Contract. This period of time is called the “Lochner years,” referring to Lochner v. New York (1905). In Lochner, the High Court struck down a New York statute that set maximum working hours. Justice Rufus Peckham, writing for the majority, stated that the Due Process Clauses found in the 5th and 14th Amendments were stout enough to protect the Unalienable Right to Contract, and that the State of New York had no business restricting the hours that an employee and employer may agree to. After 1937, the Court has relentlessly attacked the Right to Contract, supporting laws like the minimum wage and child labor statutes. Most of the burdensome Federal regulations are attacks on the Right to Contract, since they require parties to contracts to perform acts that they would likely not agree to if given a choice.
Right of Free Speech
This is the freedom to speak freely, provided that your speech does not violate the free speech of other individuals. The Right of Free Speech is an absolute right, subject to no other restrictions than another individual’s Unalienable Rights. Naturally, your liberty to speak does not allow for libel, slander, fraud or falsehood. This is another Unalienable Right which governments despise, and most governments do not allow untrammeled free speech. And free speech may take many forms, such as spoken, written, printed and performed.
Right of Beliefs or Conscience
Individuals have an Unalienable Right to believe what they wish, to worship as their conscience dictates, or as a negative right, to not believe or not worship as their conscience dictates.
Right of Personal Liberty
The classical liberal (the good kind) concept of personal liberty is as a moral principle in which an individual is free to govern himself, his life and his property without outside compulsion, force or fraud, provided that his personal governance does not intrude upon or violate the liberty of another individual.
Right to the Pursuit of Happiness
“Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.” ~ Dr. Viktor Frankl, 1992
The Pursuit of Happiness provides the vehicle through which man can find life’s meaning.
The Pursuit of Happiness would be found on Maslow’s pyramid at the very top as a Self-Actualization need. But this Right encapsulates all the other Rights and cannot be accomplished until the other Unalienable Rights are in place and utilized. Your pursuit of happiness would be short-circuited if you do not enjoy the Rights to Life, Labor, Property, Contract, Belief and Liberty.
To understand how this phrase “the pursuit of happiness” found its way into the Declaration of Independence, you must know some background about Thomas Jefferson. He was strongly influenced by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, even referring to himself as an Epicurean. The teacher’s philosophy was simple: if you cultivated close personal relationships, limited your desires to the necessities of life, and found joy in the moment, you would find happiness. Everything in moderation.
Think about a Being that creates humans, then endows them with Unalienable Rights simply because they are human, and the pinnacle of their Rights being the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness! Not its attainment, but the pursuit. The Creator is no cosmic Joker, playing a cynical game by creating a desire in the breast of each human being for happiness, but having no available tools to meet the desire. We are endowed with the desire, the ability and the Unalienable Rights necessary to live a life of purpose and meaning, and to pass on those purposes and those meanings to subsequent generations, all seeking the same outcomes.
Share this article with those you love. Then discuss it. Teach your children these lessons so they understand how the Creator meant for them to live. Understanding your Unalienable Rights will give you a reason to live, a gratefulness to your Creator, and true self-esteem based in reality.
* * * * * * * * * *
¹The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, 1776.
²PERSON. This word is applied to men, women and children, who are called natural persons. In law, man and person are not exactly synonymous terms. Any human being is a man, whether he be a member of society or not, whatever may be the rank he holds, or whatever may be his age, sex, &c. A person is a man considered according to the rank he holds in society, with all the rights to which the place he holds entitles him, and the duties which it imposes. 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 137.
2. It is also used to denote a corporation which is an artificial person. 1 Bl. Com. 123; 4 Bing. 669; C. 33 Eng. C. L R. 488; Woodes. Lect. 116; Bac. Us. 57; 1 Mod. 164.
3. But when the word “Persons” is spoken of in legislative acts, natural persons will be intended, unless something appear in the context to show that it applies to artificial persons. 1 Scam. R. 178.
4. Natural persons are divided into males, or men; and females or women. Men are capable of all kinds of engagements and functions, unless by reasons applying to particular individuals. Women cannot be appointed to any public office, nor perform any civil functions, except those which the law specially declares them capable of exercising. Civ. Code of Louis. art. 25.
5. They are also sometimes divided into free persons and slaves. Freemen are those who have preserved their natural liberty, that is to say, who have the right of doing what is not forbidden by the law. A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. Slaves are sometimes ranked not with persons but things. But sometimes they are considered as persons for example, a negro is in contemplation of law a person, so as to be capable of committing a riot in conjunction with white men. 1 Bay, 358. Vide Man.
6. Persons are also divided into citizens, (q.v.) and aliens, (q.v.) when viewed with regard to their political rights. When they are considered in relation to their civil rights, they are living or civilly dead; vide Civil Death; outlaws; and infamous persons.
7. Persons are divided into legitimates and bastards, when examined as to their rights by birth.
8. When viewed in their domestic relations, they are divided into parents and children; husbands and wives; guardians and wards; and masters and servants son, as it is understood in law, see 1 Toull. n. 168; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 1890, note.
A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.
© Copyright 2011, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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I applaud your articulate explanations and agree 100% with their content however I feel that the only ones who would benefit from it are not concerned in the least with them as they apply to us.. I see it on the style of casting pearls before swine.
There are two groups who might use it and one is sleeping and comfortable in their chains.. the other is our enemy.
Our common enemies, presently acting out against these Liberties, identify us only as potential serfs and multitudes of ignorance to be managed to the betterment of the elite masses and those who they will appoint to rule over them.
I believe our efforts could be better spent identifying ways to short circuit their efforts since its pretty obvious our election cycle is already dysfunctional and compromised.. but thats just my opinion.
OK Yank III-
The article was not meant for the enemy nor the sleeping masses. It’s meant for those who are at least awake and still open to learning. Like the people who come here. The people who are eventually going to make secession happen need to understand Unalienable Rights so they don’t screw up secession. Thanks for your visit. Russ
Russell, my dear:
Very nice indeed, and a credit both to you and the quality of the readers you attract. The Iliteratti (sic) would have difficulty getting through it, but we don’t want to talk to them anyway. I posit that there is yet another right that is God-given that “normal” people in “normal” times would never consider, and that is the right to destroy that which we have created or earned. This does not sound like a very useful right, and few of us will want to set one of our cars (uninsured, of course, and no burn ban on) on fire. Unless you fancy time in jail do not do it, even if you have destroyed nothing more than your limousine. (I DO know the oddest people.)
I was mulling this very idea over while eating dinner a few minutes ago and this time even dear Charles thought I was being a bit extreme. Let us suppose that martial law has been declared. Under standing–long-standing!–Executive Orders the government is now “entitled” to come confiscate anything that is yours, house, food, vehicles, fuel, anything and everything. What would you do?
I do not know about the rest of you, and it would be far wiser if you did not comment agreeing with me. I understand “scorched earth” policy quite thoroughly and I WILL destroy all that is mine except what I can carry before I will stand by tamely and allow it to be taken from me. I hope I do not feel the need to do such a thing, but supposing some dictator wanted my house to quarter foreign troops in, I have discussed preparations and methods thoroughly enough with an expert that the house would be a raging inferno very quickly. That may sound a little extreme to most of you. If it does, that’s fine. If you want to let troops (foreign or domestic) take your house, by all means do so. MY idea of “the pursuit” of happiness includes not allowing others to rob me.
In particular what I said was that I would destroy my prized cattle and taint the meat before I would allow them to grace my enemy’s table. I’m sure at least one of you is thinking, “Man, that’s one weird chick.” No, principle is principlle. If I cannot get them to safety or protect them, I would render them inedible..I know at least three easy ways.
If matters are that bad someone is probably going to shoot ME anyway! I will not cooperate with an enemy in any way. Gandhi probably didn’t expect to get up off the train tracks that first time–and he wouldn’t have, if I had been the engineer; that’s what the cow catcher is for. We are already to the point where it would be 2016 before cattle herds were back to normal IF we stopped eating anything other than excess males and sterile old cows. A government run amok after the food distribution network broke down could make beef something only the wealthiest (themseves) could ever plan on having again. Ah, I love the thought of logistics in the morning….
Linda, I agree with you completely and wish to thank you for the word use ” Iliteratti “.
My problem is that I constantly find myself in conversations with such people and I cannot hold my tongue.
…and they have no idea what I’m talking about.
the Raving Lunatic in the choir loft
“And the rights we bestow upon government are the Inalienable Rights that we all possess that can be transferred to other persons.”
I would put it that only persons have rights. I like to make it clear that governments don’t have rights – they have powers, powers bestowed by the consent of the people.
Everything sounded good up until the Ayn Rand quote and the issue of property. I agree that one can own themselves, but after that point, ownership and property rights become a tricky subject. One can own their own thoughts but even with intellectual property, the concept can be hard to define. An idea can come into being only after one has learned words and concepts from other people. One could not make a new invention if it wasn’t for all the other scientific discoveries that had to have come before it. All new things are merely built upon from the ideas, work, and discoveries of others. Furthermore, I don’t believe that anyone can own the earth or its natural resources. People did not make them with their own labor, so according to this Ayn Rand-ian logic, how can one claim ownership over the earth and its resources? A person can own their labor, however, if one uses their labor to chop down a tree and make something new out of it, can they really claim ownership of this new thing? The tree was not theirs to begin with. Would it be any different if I were to go up to someones house and use my labor to make changes to it and then try to claim ownership of this new house, since I used my labor to change it in some way? Ownership is an outdated idea, which may have been useful for the founding fathers of the USA, but it has served its purpose and need to be replaced with a new concept. I think the earth and its resources should be declared as the common heritage of all people and should be used to benefit all life in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. The premises of evolution is not to regress to old ways of thinking and doing things, or revert to methods that were tried in the past. Humanity needs to learn form its past and move forward into a new way of living and understanding. The new consciousness that is taking shape sees the earth as one home, shared with all of humanity and all other life. It recognizes the interconnectedness and dependency between all things and understands that people must work together for the benefit of all life. When one realizes that the earth is one organism, then the analogy of the human body serves as a good example to see how people must work together. If the liver tried to claim ownership of all the body’s resources and tried to compete with the other organs for a greater share, this would cause disharmony and and unhealthy state. The human body is a community of 50 trillion individual cells that has evolved to work together for the benefit of the whole organism. This is the same evolutionary path that humanity is taking within the organism of the earth, and it is the only way to bring about a healthy, sustainable civilization.
Dear Charles B-
Thanks for writing, but we are trying to live in the real world, not a fantasy world. Russ
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Not only do all humans have Unalienable Rights, but also all Life and social systems have the same Rights. See the book titled: “Scientific Proof of Our Unalienable Rights.”
This book begins with an awakening of something old, often quoted, seldom elaborated, and eager to understand why Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, failed to prove his stated “self-evident” claim that our unalienable rights are part of the “Laws of Nature.” This book covers the first known scientific proof to Jefferson’s claim, taking the discourse out of the ivory tower for all to understand. The simplicity of the proof takes us on a journey demonstrating our unalienable rights is the origin of philosophy, behind the “taming of fire” among many other wonders, highlighting the connection of manmade laws to the Laws of Nature, the foundation to the Laws of Economics, the maturity of morality, and so on. Our journey ends on the road to utopia realizing the concepts of this book will spread through time and humankind will one day take the road less traveled. This road connects our unalienable rights to Nature’s matrix, advancing humanity’s intellectual evolution of living-systems throughout the universe. And in the end, awakening something old, as in, making this world a better place to live.
I must respectfully disagree with your differentiation between inalienable and unalienable rights. They are exactly the same thing. Both inalienable and unalienable mean “not able to be alienated.” I wrote a blog post about this recently at http://lindsays-logic.blogspot.com/2012/04/inalienable-rights-part-5-some-common.html.
What you have described as inalienable rights are known as alienable rights. Alienable rights are those that can be given up by a person or transferred to another. An example of an alienable right is my right to use my car. I have a right to my car that no one can take away (even if they steal it, I am still the rightful owner), but I can sell or give that right to someone else.
Inalienable (or unalienable) rights, on the other hand, cannot be given up by me. I cannot, for example, give up my right to life. The reason for this is that I do not actually own myself. I belong to my Creator, who retains rights to His creation (me). Thus, I cannot violate God’s rights to any person (including myself) by killing or enslaving them. Nor can I give up that right, because I do not hold it – God does.
For more on this topic, see my inalienable rights series here: http://lindsays-logic.blogspot.com/2012/03/inalienable-rights-part-1-what-are.html
Lindsay- Thanks for taking the time to write, even if you are mistaken. Russ
[…] I urge you to read two other articles I wrote Gun Control And The Well-Regulated Militia.Then go even deeper into individual liberty and property rights by reading What Are Unalienable Rights? […]
A very heartfelt rendition of yesteryear thinking and rhetoric, which is essentially what we discuss here. Many documents exist which amply aspire to the same level of spiritually fulfilling ambition for all of mankind, while many are lost others have echoes of their existence that resound repeatedly throughout all of man’s History. Of those captured documents known to espouse man’s common aspiration, first and foremost we have the biblical commandments. A simple 10 rule script but adequate nonetheless, while of course regularly ignored. And thus we create many expanded examples of a simple theme. Other documents apply to the same venerable intent, such as the Great Rhetra while from across the Atlantic, the documents of French Liberty and of course the Magna Carta. The problem with all of them of course, is their enactment or should we agree lack thereof.
I am led to believe before the ink was even dry on the declaration, the words “Now see if you can keep it’, were uttered.’ by one of the founders… We can affirm this with Lincolns letter to Colonel Bill Elkins in 1864, in which he stated, That the peoples own prejudices will be their own undoing. It is exemplary of the futility of dealing with the entitled, and or the political abuse of their desires. Yet more importantly a clue rests in Lincolns observation of something he gleaned from his perceptions at the time. We need to rethink the period in which ascension into the union was created and the documents that superseded the declaration. Those documents or contracts that converted the territories into viable corporate entities are what most I fear fail to understand, they were documents of commity not state sovereignty. there are no Alodial rights under commity, just equity and a franchised electorate.
More importantly, I would lament such latent thinking as secular in that if one aspires only to bring into existence the intent of the declaration, we by doing so ignore many other factors. Such as the changing scale of economies, the ability of oneself to be truly independent, or trade and even barter. Unless we aspire to be hermits or believe in self determination that ends at the gates of what we consider property.
More importantly we need absolute easement and access to what surrounds us, with the ability to access as well as egress unmolested. While the Native Americans are by what appears to be scripted to become extinct, it is by design and attrition but not without thought and policy. If you notice that they were always forced to area’s totally land locked and practically useless for commerceand thus in themselves were condemned. Commerce even for independent families requires the ability to trade for those other desirable resources, not unlike our more recent actions of governance, actions made to secure or acquire. Which bring into play the argument of dealing with an insane bureaucracy and it’s automaton followers for entitlements.
It is my understanding that beyond the realms of securing a few acres of land and a gun, the world view of many misses the heavy thinking. We have to ask why we have so many semi secretive fatwa’s of an emergency nature generated from our Congressional approved executives. Which is an argument that goes beyond a simple right, what are we dealing with today and for tommorrow
…Hastily written, but expect e&oe.
There are LOTS of landlocked nations on the globe. So much for that argument.
You are certainly verbose, but not communicative. I read all that twattle and it was obtuse. I also reply that you offer lace-curtain criticism of sorts, but no solution. At least I offer solutions. Sure, my solution is simple. Therein lies its strength. Thanks for writing, Russ
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Education is the key! Start by educating our friends and family about “The Science of Rights,” the foundation of our Constitution.