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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Redistribution of Freedom

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the right to be left alone the "most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by a free people." It would even be fair to say that without the right to be left alone no other rights exist.

Amendments one through ten of the Bill of Rights are essentially an enumeration of the ways that government is obligated to leave people alone. This is most explicitly true of the First Amendment which definitively sums up areas of human life into which government under no circumstance may trespass on.

Unlike other amendments, the territory that the First Amendment deals with is intellectual and spiritual, the world of ideas, the realm of faith and the defining right of political advocacy. The freedoms of the mind, heart and voice are the most essential of freedoms because they free us to be individuals. They allow us to have our own values. Without these freedoms, no society is free.

Those who sought to undermine these "Freedoms from Government" did so by offering alternative "Freedoms of Government." Countering the Founding Fathers' DMZ's of self-determination, they promised freedom from social problems. A second Bill of Rights would offer the freedom from fear and want. Instead of a liberation from government, the new rights would trade social benefits for freedoms. A right would not mean a zone of freedom from the government, but a government entitlement.

The Orwellian inversion of rights has meant that civil rights perversely take away rights. No sooner is a right created than it is used to deprive other people of their rights. Instead of rights freeing people from government repression, they act as a means of government repression. Freedom is treated as a limited commodity which, like wealth, must be redistributed to achieve maximum social justice.

The right to be left alone, freedom of speech and conscience, have taken a back seat to the redistribution of freedom. Government rights violate individual rights by compelling everyone to participate in the process of distributing entitlements.

A wedding photographer in New Mexico was ordered by a court to participate in a gay ceremony violating both her First Amendment rights to Freedom of Religion as a Christian and her right to Freedom of Speech as an artist. A baker in Colorado was ordered to make a gay wedding cake or face penalties ranging from fines to a year in prison. The ACLU is after even bigger game suing Catholic hospitals for not engaging in abortion contending that patients are being deprived of their rights.

The fundamental issue in all these cases is whether our rights are defined by the ability to be left alone or by the opposing ability to compel others to do what we want them to. Is the right to force someone else to participate in your wedding or perform your abortion more compelling than the right to opt out of being forced to engage in behaviors that violate your deepest religious convictions?

America is a nation founded by religious dissenters. Its founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights make the moral case for dissent. The Declaration of Independence begins by setting out a moral case for separation, for the divorce of authority, based on the moral principle of individual freedom. It makes government conditional on liberty, rather than making liberty conditional on government.

Today the national establishment is intolerant of dissent. It traps the current of freedom in dams of entitlements. It pits the right to be against the right to receive and makes certain that the right to receive, not only the property of others, but their very conscience, mind and liberty, always wins out.

The United States is following the European course of rendering the distinction between the state and the church irrelevant by making the state into the church and mandating that everyone worship it. As in 19th century Europe, deliberate clashes are being stirred up between the values of the state and religious values for the purpose of demonstrating that the values of the state are supreme.

The expansion of state power is rapidly becoming limitless. The old legal justifications that linked Federal intervention in civil rights to interstate commerce and public accommodation have given way to a redefinition of any and all establishments as public accommodations. Courts argue that once an individual begins to sell a product or service, he loses access to all his Constitutional freedoms.

The core issue transcends the hot button social issues such as gay marriage and abortion embraced by the elites of a permissive society and addresses the deeper inversion of rights that is at the heart of the problem.

Reproductive rights and gay rights activists both campaigned to be left alone. There are still gay protests with placards arguing that their marriages are no one else's business and pro-abortion rallies demanding that politicians stay out of the bedroom. But if the marriage of Adam and Steve shouldn't be at the disposal of Harry and Julie, why should Harry's bakery and Julie's talent be at the disposal of Adam and Steve? If the government should stay out of the bedroom, then why must it dive into the bedroom to compel the owners of companies like Hobby Lobby to subsidize violations of their faith?

Cases like these show that the issue is not rights, but control. If the only way to obtain what you call your rights is by compelling someone else to give up theirs then what you are really demanding is not a right, but a means of imposing your values and your convictions on someone else. And that is not a matter of civil rights. It is an ideological and religious war with government siding with whoever has the most money to invest in strategic campaign contributions for the culture war.

Individual rights exist in the empty spaces that government is forced out of. Government rights however do not exist until everyone is forced to provide them. That is true of the redistribution of wealth and property, but it is even truer of the redistribution of freedom and the confiscation of conscience.

Whatever right government has to the seizure of wealth, it has none to the seizure of conscience. If there is any place that the government has no right to intrude, not in the name of social justice or political correctness or the progressive utopia awaiting us on the other side of the regulatory mirror, it is the territories of the First Amendment, sacred not only in idea, but also in practice.

There can be no faith, no ideas and no individuality without the First Amendment. Without the right to be left alone in your beliefs, your values and your convictions, there can be no other rights and the very notion of rights, no matter how often it is used to describe everything from free health care to gay marriage, cannot exist.

And it is into this sacred territory that the judicial activists of gay marriage have dared to intrude.

Rights can either be defined by the virtue of the individual in his liberty or the virtue of the government in its authoritarianism. But it cannot be defined by both. Either you have the right to be free or you have the right to the property and the service of another human being. The choice is the fundamental one between freedom and slavery.

Social justice denies the virtue of freedom, it rejects the possibility of self-determination without external intervention, it dismisses the idea that people can be free without a system of redistributing freedom from the oppressors to the oppressed so that the oppressed become the new oppressors. It rejects any alternative to entitlements as entitlement and any alternative to privilege as privilege.

The moral argument for freedom is the self-organizing principle of individuals. The moral argument for compulsion is that the system is superior to individuals. The left has chosen central planning in human rights as it has in every other area of life. It believes with the paradoxical perversity of doublethink that freedom can only come from government because only a central authority is qualified to provide the equal distribution of freedom within carefully planned limits.

This abrogation of freedom is the logical end result of the left's entire pattern of reasoning which rejects the individual for the collective, the working man for the planner and the people for the ideological expert. These forms of repression are expressions of its rotten notion that the left may do anything and everything in the name of freedom except actually allow the people to be free.

Without the right to be left alone, there are no other individual rights. Without individual rights, there is no such thing as a free society.

Every group is sooner or later faced with choosing whether it wants to win a final conclusive victory over its enemies or whether it wants to be free. The tyrannical choice is tempting, but it unleashes a cycle of conflict and repression that can only end with extermination. And once that choice is made, the formerly oppressed forfeit all their moral authority as they abandon freedom for tyranny.

28 comments:

Matt Bracken said...

All I can say is thank God for the wisdom of our founding fathers, who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are being trampled today, but we at least will have the means to resist the ultimate totalitarian impulse to exterminate the enemies of the hyper-state. I often feel like I'm living in Berlin in 1932 and my name is Goldberg....but this time, millions of Goldbergs are armed to the teeth. At least it will be a fight...and this is the sole reason the statists are so enraged by the 2nd Amendment.

Edward Cline said...

"The moral argument for freedom is the self-organizing principle of individuals." This is more a utilitarian argument for freedom, not so much a moral one. Actually, the moral argument for freedom is that the individual is the prime mover and creator of all rational values that further his life and ensure his happiness. Society is a secondary beneficiary of that freedom, and should organize itself to maximize the freedom of all individuals. (And what is society but the individuals one happens to meet or associate with every day? Society is not some kind of visible, hovering, ethereal entity that one regularly encounters while out shopping.) Any infringement on individual's status as the fountainhead of values and civilization is collectivist and/or statist and entails the initiation of force against him.

The Ray Esquivel said...

I value the saying that "Without the Second Amendment, there is no First Amendment." The Founders knew that a time might come when future citizens would be faced with the need to fight government in order to protect their freedoms. I also think that because the tentacles of the left are really very weak although they give the appearance of strength, most Americans could rise up and crush this if only they would overcome their apathy. My thought is, use Cloward-Piven against them. Resist. Say NO.

A gay couple want a cake and one baker resists on religious grounds. It's a free market idiots. Go down the street and buy one from the next baker. Vote with your wallet like any other consumer. What makes you so special that you need the government to force someone to make you a cake when there are plenty of others who would willingly make one for you? Why waste everyone's time? What point are you trying to make?

If enough American's stood up to these clowns and pushed back by saying NO and "Bullshit" to these demands, then the goverment mechanisms would be overloaded and like Cloward-Piven cause the system to come to a screeching halt. Will the government really be able to force everyone resisting to do their bidding? I don't think so, especially if backed up with their Second Amendment rights.

Just as our gutless leaders don't want to make China, North Korea or Iran mad, I doubt they will want to make tens of millions of Americans who are willing to take a stand for their rights and resist being bullied by a relatively few who think they have the "law" on their side. Just because something is law does not make it right. If our representatives won't make good laws, then it is up to citizens to change them. But being pushed around does not work for me. I don't take crap from anyone, especially some bureaucrat who has a Pelosi complex and is used to getting their way. When they meet me, they are in for a rude awakening. I do not suffer fools especially when they think they are better than me and treat me so.

So to these people, my best advice is "Just leave me the f*ck alone!"

Geoffrey Britain said...

Fine and incisively insightful commentary.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! How do you churn these masterpieces out almost everyday?

Anonymous said...

Great article Daniel. This needs to be debated and not by right versus left (we know what the left believes) but between libertarian and conservative. This is where the libertarians have revealed themselves as hypocrites. They have not stood up against this even though this is clear government compulsion directed at small unprotected businesses at the service of a greater ideology. You would think this is in their wheelhouse but not at all. The conservative position that the individual has the right to be left alone because all individuals have value. The libertarian ideal seems to be individuals should be left alone because some are more talented than others and they have the imperative to express it and by the way religion is stupid.

Steve D said...

'Whatever right government has to the seizure of wealth, it has none to the seizure of conscience.'

Conscience cannot be separated from wealth. The government has no right to seize either.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

It can in the sense that the people can mutually agree to pay X amount to fund the government.

Edward Cline said...

Re paying for the legitimate functions of government (police, military, a Congress that sits only one month of the year and is prohibited from interfering in education, the economy, etc., and courts): The federal (and even state governments) government could offer a kind of insurance policy that those willing to pay a nominal premium would have the protection of the government concerning crime, fraud and other instances of rights violations. Those who don't or can't subscribe to such a "policy" would get nominal coverage "free." But those paying into the scheme would have first priority. This idea has been floating around for a long time in various forms, but many people are either ignorant of the idea or hostile to it. It would be a non-coercive way of funding the proper functions of government. It would do away with taxes altogether.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

You're not going to pay for the military budget with a voluntary insurance policy. Opt in coverage on local taxes for fire and police can be done, depending on the population. In densely populated areas, it becomes unfeasible.

Naresh Krishnamoorti said...

If you want to know the truth, there is no such thing as a natural right or a civil right. Natural rights are reifications of obligations that exist in the natural law. Natural rights are an Enlightenment fiction. The "right to life" is really the obligation we have not to do harm. The "right to property" is really the obligation not to steal the property of others. If we organize a government around obligations (such as the Ten Commandments), we'd be able to resolve these issues much more easily. Natural rights, by their very nature, move a society left-ward; that is, they corrupt a society: precisely because they set up continuous conflicts that are resolved according to the zeitgeist, which, because of man's fallen nature, tends towards moral evil over the long haul. The seeds of moral corruption were already sown in the principles of the Founding Fathers.

Edward Cline said...

Daniel: I say that because the existence of such a method of funding legitimate functions of government existed, all other illegitimate agencies would no longer exist. No more EPA, SEC, IRS, and etc., which eat up unconscionable amounts of private wealth to sustain them. A nation's productive citizenry would become so productive as a consequence that it wouldn't matter if only 10 percent of the citizenry paid the insurance premium or the subscription rate, there'd be more than enough revenue to fund the government and carry nonpayers "free.". This would be especially true because there'd be a volunteer military and no altruist military adventures beyond the shores. It would exist solely for self defense. Try to project a nation unburdened by bureaucracy and armies of parasites inside and outside the government. I think most people's minds, when faced with the idea of a "subscription" method of funding legitimate government functions, are so dulled by what has existed for over a century, they simply can't imagine it. The devil is not in the details of the idea, but in the fact that most of us are so inured to being robbed and abused and cheated by government and its dependent classes,our first reaction is: "Nawh! It'd never work!"

mushroom said...

Amen. Another great essay.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I would prefer a national budget line item referendum that would quickly sweep out a lot of the trash. I think it's more feasible and more viable to transition to.

hwgood said...

I've wondered what would happen if someone were to respond to such litigants by telling them "OK, but you have to pay the full price up front, and you have to sign a statement that you accept the finished product, no matter what condition it is in. This is necessary since I don't always do my best work under coercion".

Anonymous said...

"Unlike other amendments, the territory that the First Amendment deals with is intellectual and spiritual, the world of ideas, the realm of faith and the defining right of political advocacy. The freedoms of the mind, heart and voice are the most essential of freedoms because they free us to be individuals. They allow us to have our own values. Without these freedoms, no society is free."

So true.

Keliata

Shrugger said...

Whatever you say, Judge. One gay wedding cake with extra spit.

Edward Cline said...

Daniel remarked: "I would prefer a national budget line item referendum that would quickly sweep out a lot of the trash." That might work in the short term, but what is needed is an amendment that would forbid Congress from interfering with trade (together with a clarification or interpretation of the Commerce Clause that would buttress such an amendment; an alternative would simply to strike the clause from the document altogether). Another amendment might strip Congressmen of indemnification against the consequences of their legislative actions. That one action would prune the field of ambitious individuals seeking office.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

It does need to go, but the abuse of the commerce clause is unfortunately only a symptom. Nothing can be written so airtight that activist judges can't find a way to rewrite it.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, an excellent essay as usual and you make good points but I have some questions and points of my own.

Pharmacists are a good example, some of whom don't want to provide the Plan B pill. If I and my doctor decide that I should receive said pill are you saying if there is only one pharmacy in town I should wait until (hope) an atheist is on duty, further, that I shouldn't expect to receive cough medicine from a Muslim because it contains alcohol, that a Jewish pharmacist should hesitate to provide a nostrum because he suspects, doesn't have proof but suspects, it was prepared from animals products in a non kosher way?

The way things spin out of control now a days shall we look forward to the absurdity of airline passengers receiving a message from the pilot, "Ladies and gentlemen, we will not be landing at ABC because I have just received a tweet from my pastor saying that fifty-one percent of the people in ABC don't believe in the Holy Ghost and I can't abide the idea of... " We already have the farce of Muslim cab drivers at some airports refusing service to people admitting to possession of alcohol or having a dog.

May I point out that I am a citizen not a subject and I am not subject to the whimsy calculation of the conscious of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, etc.

And finally may I suggest in as impolite a manner as possible that you take your collective conscience(s) and shove them as far up where the Sun doesn't shine as possible.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this site, I love you!

E. Homesteader said...

Thank you for this excellent article. I have shared it, as it speaks what has been in my heart for some time, better than I could articulate it.

fsy said...

To Anonymous with "questions and points":

The central basis of your hypothetical problems is your assumption that "there is only one pharmacy in town", or the like. This situation, known as monopoly, has many more disadvantages than the ones you list, and while government prohibition of monopoly is the cause of even bigger problems, the fact remains, irrespective of the issues that you raise, that monopoly (or its cousin, oligopoly) has to be avoided to have a well-functioning free society.

Anonymous said...

By the way Daniel thank you for allowing comments without my having to register and make up yet another new password; the NSA always offers to help but I know they are sooooo busy during the Christmas season.

Thank you for responding fsy but I'm afraid that monopoly et al is not my central point and careful reading thereof should have demonstrated that adequately.

Allow me to come to the point in a pointed manner. When a citizen is wanting a professional/commercial service that is legal and ethical, a provider of same may not refuse (speaking personally, aside from the legalities) to provide service to said citizen based on a personal construct of conscience, turning the person from citizen into a new class of witch or nigger. I marvel that you don't choke on the very idea but then I've always been told I'm an easy marveler.

Let's continue with pharmacy, keeping the discussion narrow and increasing the chance that we can reach a conclusion. When I have a prescription I cannot accept that I or anyone will be refused service based on any reason, any reason at all, other than medical. If you are unable or refuse to see the personal ethics of this view my imagination fails to find a further basis for conversation.

Peter38a (his mark)

michelle said...

It happened that my spouse asked the only kosher baker in town to bake him a cake for his birthday, which fell on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'av; she said that she could not agree until she consulted her rabbi; she then refused the commision because her rabbi said not to put such a stumbling block down before "the blind." There was no argument; he bought a cake at a store; and two years later asked her to make food at his wedding, having been so moved by her faith that he had decided to follow Jewish customs more strictly. His rabbi said her food needed kosher supervision because her kitchen lacked an outside supervisor, so he hired one. Each admired the other's faith.

DenisO said...

David; thankfully, your insight allows you to show us what is happening. We see it too, but may not understand why we feel so strongly. Once we understand any problem, that is the when we begin the process of fixing it.
I would only wish that you could explain where the suicide gene came from, and how it is becoming dominant in the West. All cultures are dominated by a need to survive; animal and human species honor families, esp. mothers, and they value children as the evidence of their genetic success. Abortion and homosexuality were despised in most cultures because all DNA demanded survival first. I find the drive for survival defines historic morality for all species, and that doesn't necessarily conflict with religion, I hope.
Instinctively, we reject abortion and homosexuality; it's in our genes, and we should understand and not feel guilty about resenting it being shoved down our throats and being forced to pay for them.
Regards,

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Denis, it's easier to ignore the survival issue when it appears to no longer be an issue because you're living so well and family no longer appears to be needed, just the state

just like it's easier to borrow without limit when you're a rich enough nation to have been insulated from the consequences of debt

The Political Hat said...

Spot on. The Left sees "rights" as nothing more than the dispensation of government, that freedom in not god-given or inate, but can only exist if the collective will says so.

I am reminded of the forllowing Reagan quote:

"Our natural unalienable rights are now presumed to be a dispensation of government, divisible by a vote of the majority. The greatest good for the greatest number is a high-sounding phrase but contrary to the very basis of our Nation, unless it is accompanied by the recognition that we have certain rights which cannot be infringed upon, even if the individual stands outvoted by all of his fellow citizens. Without this recognition, majority rule is nothing more then mob rule."

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