We do not derive our right to freedom of speech from the Constitution. More specifically, it does not “come from” the First Amendment.
[. . .]
The Constitution is not the source of our right to freedom of speech because freedom of speech is an unalienable right. What the First Amendment can do is recognize that already existing unalienable right by forbidding the government from abridging it. And that is precisely what it does.
We could put it as follows. The First Amendment does not confer, but protects, the right to free speech, a natural right that is logically antecedent to anything conventional such as a human document or the collective decision of a legislative body. It protects this right against government infringement.
There are two points here that ought to be separately noted. One is that the right is protected, not conferred, by the Constitution. The other is that the right is protected against government infringement. The government may not infringe your right to free speech, but that is not to say that I may not.
Suppose you leave an offensive comment on my weblog. I delete your comment and block you from my site. You protest and cite the First Amendment. I point out that said amendment protects your speech against government infringement only, and that I am no part of the government.
If you insist that you nevertheless have a right to express yourself, I will agree, but add that your right to free expression does not entail any obligation on my part to give you a forum.
Finally, to speak of the right to free speech as a 'constitutional right' or as a 'First Amendment right' can be misleading inasmuch as someone might be led by these words to suppose that the right derives from the Constitution. So it is best to speak of it as an unalienable or natural right.
This is a summary of a much longer and more carefully articulated 2009 entry.
Humans possess a natural right to life. This right entails the right to defend one's life. The right to defend one's life entails the right to acquire and possess the appropriate means to the defense of one's life. Appropriate means are means commensurate with one's situation. For example, if the criminal element with which one is likely to come into contact has at its disposal semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines, then such weapons figure among the appropriate means to the defense of one's life. So given the right to life, one can easily derive the right to the means of self-defense. Among these means will be various types of hand gun and long gun. Not all types, perhaps, but some. In this way gun rights are derivable from the right to life.
I see you're paying attention to current affairs. Very hard on the nerves. I can't do it. I tried to watch one Rep "debate": the most vulgar public display I've ever seen. Do you remember the saying "he who slings mud loses ground"? I think the "contestants" dug themselves mineshaft-deep holes that night. Shameful. Didn't try to watch the Dems, but I can imagine. I'll ask you a question: as citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)? Unlike some countries which legally mandate voting (Australia), US citizens have no statutory obligation to vote, but I'll guess you don't see that as exhausting the duties of a citizen.
That is a wonderful saying, "He who slings mud loses ground." I had never heard it before. I shall remember it. A variant occurs to me, "He who digs up dirt loses ground."
An interesting logico-linguistic point that should interest Slim: Constructions of the form He who Fs Gs, while featuring what is grammatically the third-person singular masculine pronoun, are not logically pronominal at all. The use of 'he' in such constructions is quantificational. Thus "he who slings mud loses ground" is replaceable both salva veritate and salva significatione by
For any x, if x slings mud, then x loses ground.
Now on to to Slim's question:
As citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)?
After Trump referred to his phallus, praising its size and efficacy, I turned off the TV. So there is no duty to listen to all the mud slung from side to side. But yes, one does have a civic duty to "attend to the debate" in the sense of informing oneself of both (i) what the candidates represent and (ii) their character as individuals. Why? Well, since we have benefited from civil order, we have a moral responsibility to help maintain it and pass it on. It is a question of gratitude, a good conservative virtue.
One ought to attend to both (i) and (ii). I am puzzled but also appalled at the number of Trump supporters who are blind partisans who are either unaware of or dismissive of the man's obvious negatives. They are so enamored of his populism that they are willing to ignore the man's character as if that has no bearing on his fitness for high office.
There is a reason not to go the way of the Aussies and make voting mandatory. As it is here in the USA, roughly only half of the eligible voters actually vote. This is arguably good inasmuch as voters filter themselves. If I were a liberal, I would say that eligible voters who stay home 'disenfranchise' themselves, and often to the benefit of the rest of us. (But of course I am not a liberal and I don't misuse words like 'disenfranchise.')
What I mean is that, generally speaking, the people who can vote but do not are precisely the people one would not want voting in the first place. To vote takes time, energy, and a bit of commitment. Careless, lazy, and uninformed people are not likely to do it. And that is good. I don't want my thoughtful vote neutralized by the vote of some dolt who is merely at the polling place to avoid a fine. And if you force a man to vote, he may rebel and vote randomly or in other ways that subvert the process.
Of course, many refuse to vote out of disgust at their choices. My advice for them would be to hold their noses and vote for the least or the lesser of the evils. Politics is always about choosing the least or the lesser of evils. The very fact that we need government at all shows that we live in an imperfect world, one in which a perfect candidate is not to be found. Government itself is a necessary evil: it would be better if we didn't need it, but we do need it.
I support the right of those who think the system irremediably corrupt to protest by refusing to vote. Government is coercive by its very nature, and mandatory voting is a form of coercion that belongs in a police state rather than in a free republic.
If you think that a higher voter turnout is a good thing, that is happening anyway as divisions deepen and our politics become more polarized. The nastier our politics, the higher the turnout. And it will get nastier still. So why do we need mandatory voting?
Fact is, we are awash in unnecessary laws. We don't need more laws and more government interference in our lives. And will a mandatory voting law be enforced? How? At what expense? Isn't it perfectly obvious to everyone with commonsense that we need to move toward less government rather than more, toward more liberty rather than less? (You may infer from this that Hillary and Bernie lack common sense.)
If you think about it, 'One man, one vote' is a very dubious principle. I think about it here. Voluntary voting is one way of balancing the ill effects of 'One man, one vote.' But isn't voting a civic duty? I would say that it is. But not every duty should be legally mandated.
Seldom Seen Slim has correctly guessed my position: the duties of a citizen are not exhausted by what is legally mandated. One has a moral obligation to stay politically informed, to do one's best to form correct political opinions, and to vote.
1. One's right to express an opinion brings with it an obligation to form correct opinions, or at least the obligation to make a sincere effort in that direction. The right to free speech brings with it an obligation to exercise the right responsibly.1
2. Free speech is rightly valued, not as a means to making the world safe for pornography, but as a means to open inquiry and the pursuit of truth.
3. Although free speech and free expression generally are correctly valued mainly as means to open inquiry and the pursuit, acquisition, and dissemination of truth, it does not follow that some free expression is not a value in itself.
4. The more the populace is addicted to pornography, the less the need for the government to censor political speech. A tyrant is therefore well advised to keep the people well supplied with bread, circuses, and that 'freedom of expression' that allows them to sink, and remain, in the basest depths of the merely private where they will pose no threat to the powers that be.
5. One who defends the right to free speech by identifying with adolescent porno-punks and nihilists of the Charlie Hebdo ilk only succeeds in advertising the fact that he doesn't understand why this right is accorded the status of a right.
6. The free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States constitution protects the citizen's right to free expression from infringement by the government, not from infringement by any old entity. My home is my castle; you have no First Amendment rights here, or at my cybercastle, my weblog. So it is no violation of your First Amendment rights if I order you off of my property because of your offensive speech or block you from leaving stupid or vile comments at my website. It is impossible in principle for me to violate your First Amendment rights: I am not the government or an agent thereof. And the same holds at your (private) place of work: you have no First Amendment rights there.
7. The First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press -- call them collectively the First Amendment right to free expression -- is not the same as the right to free expression. If the latter is a natural right, as I claim that it is, then one has it whether or not there is any First Amendment. The First Amendment is a codicil to a document crafted by human beings. It has a conventional nature. The right to free speech, however, is natural. Therefore, the First Amendment right to free expression is not the same as the right to free expression. Second, the right to free expression, if a natural right, is had by persons everywhere. The FA, however, protects citizens of the U.S. against the U. S. government. Third, the First Amendment in its third clause affords legal protection to the natural moral right to free expression. A right by law is not a natural right. Ergo, etc.
8. The right of free expression is a natural right. Can I prove it? No. Can you prove the negation? No. But we are better off assuming it than not assuming it.
9. To say that the right to free expression is a natural right is not to say that it is absolute. For the exercise of this right is subject to various reasonable and perhaps even morally obligatory restrictions, both in public and in private. There are limits on the exercise of the right in both spheres, but one has the right in both spheres. To have an (exercisable) right is one thing, to exercise it another, and from the fact that one has the right it does not follow that one has the right to its exercise in every actual and possible circumstance. If you say something I deem offensive in my house, on my blog, or while in my employ, then I can justifiably throw you out, or shut you up, or fire you and you cannot justify your bad behavior by invocation of the natural right to free speech. And similarly in public: the government is justified in preventing you from from shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater, to use the hackneyed example. You are not thereby deprived of the right; you are deprived of the right to exercise the right in certain circumstances.
10. The restraint and thoughtfulness exhibited in a responsible exercise of one's right to free speech is not well described as 'self-censorship' given the pejorative connotations of 'censorship.'
11. To suppose that government censorship can never be justified is as extreme as the view that the right to free speech is absolute.
12. It is silly to say, as many do, that speech is 'only speech.' Lying speech that incites violence is not 'just' speech' or 'only words.'
1If one cannot be obliged to do that which one is unable to do, then there cannot be a general obligation to form correct opinions.
Misattributed to Voltaire, the above saying yet captures his attitude. The parroting of the saying in the wake of the terrorist attack by Muslim fanatics on Charlie Hebdo is becoming tiresome. It is high time we take a squinty-eyed look at it. I will be arguing that it does not bear up well under examination.
Suppose you are talking with someone who publically asserts with a straight face, "No Jews were killed at Auschwitz by the Nazis." Will you defend your interlocutor's right to say it? And will you defend it to the death? I hope not. The right to free speech cannot reasonably be taken to include the right to state what is false, known to be false, and such that its broadcasting or public expression could be expected to cause social harm. (The characteristic claim of the Flat Earthers is false and known to be false, but not such that its broadcasting or public expression could be expected to cause social harm, and this for a couple of reasons: whether or not the earth is flat is not a 'hot button' issue; the vast majority consider Flat Earthers to be utter loons.)
Generalizing, will you defend to the death anyone's right to say, seriously and publically, whatever he wants to say? If you answer in the affirmative, then I will label you a free speech extremist, that is, one who holds that the right to free (public) speech is absolute. But what is it for a right to be absolute? And could the right to free speech be an absolute right?
There is a distinction between moral and legal rights. I will consider only whether there is an absolute moral right to free speech. Some rights are exercisable, other are not. The right to free speech is exercisable whereas the rights not to be killed and not to be spied upon are non-exercisable. Some rights are general, others are specific. The right to free speech is general: if any person has it, then every person has it.
To say that an exercisable right is absolute is to say that its exercise is not subject to any restriction or limitation or exception. This implies that an absolute right cannot be infringed under any circumstances. And if an absolute right is general, then it cannot be restricted to some persons only. So if the right to free speech is absolute, then everyone always in every circumstance has a right to free speech.
I believe I have clarified sufficiently -- for the purposes of a weblog entry -- the sense of ' The right of free speech is absolute.'
My thesis is that the right of free speech is not absolute. It is no more absolute than the other rights mentioned in (but not thereby granted to us in or by) the First and Second and other Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
Consider gun rights. Is the right to keep and bear arms reasonably regarded as absolute, i.e., subject to no limitations or restrictions? No. I would put you down as a fool if you said otherwise. Felons are not allowed to own guns, and for good reason. Ditto for children and the mentally incomeptent. The right to keep and bear arms does not extend to nuclear arms or biological weapons. The firing of guns is subject to various restrictions, etc. In this case it should be perfectly obvious that the right to keep and bear arms cannot be an absolute right.
Is the right to own real property absolute? If it were, no use of eminent domain would ever be justified, when surely some uses are. Eminent domain laws are sometimes abused to benefit special interest. We cnservatives protest that absue. But the abuse of eminent domain is no argument against its judicious and limited use for purposes that truly serve the common good. Suppose there is a dangerous mountain road on which hundreds of people have lost their lives. The state engineers propose a bypass, but building it would involve the coercive taking, albeit with monetary compensation, of a little land from a fat cat who owns a parcel the size of Rhode Island, the coercive taking of a strip of land occupied only by a few prarie dogs. A rational and morally decent person would say that here the right to property must be limited for the common good. (And let's assume that the good really is common: the owner of the land himself must travel the dangerous mountain road.)
Third example. Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. That is a near-quotation from the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. But what if the free exercise of some religion includes not having one's children immunized for measles or other highly infectious diseases? Would a reasonable person maintain that under no conceivable circmustances would the government ever be justified in forcing a parent to have a child immunized in contravention of a religious precept? I don't think so. There are some truly loony 'religions' out there.
I could go on, and you hope I won't. In the three cases just mentioned it ought to be clear that the rights in question cannot be absolute. Now is there something about the right to free speech that makes it different from the ones mentioned above in a way that justifies saying that free speech is an absolute right when the others are not? Not that I can see.
I have heard it said that speech is just speech; it not like discharging a firearm in a residential area or seizing a man's property or forcing parents to immunize a child. But this is a lame response because speech is not 'just speech.' Not only does public speaking and publishing involve all sorts of actions, it can and does reliably lead to actions both good and evil. People are susceptible of exhortation. One can fire up a lynch mob with well-chosen words. I don't need to belabor this: it is obvious. Speech is not 'just speech.'
The right to free speech meets a limit in the moral obligation to not inflame murderous passions. There is no absolute moral right to free speech. Whether certain forms of speech should be legally prohibited is of course a further question.
I found your most recent post on a right to health care very interesting. It seems to me that much of the discussion of rights, not only about putative rights to health care, but about rights in general, depends on a certain controversial principle, namely:
If x has a right to y, and if z is a means of achieving y, then x has a right to z.
BV: We should distinguish between weaker and stronger versions of the principle:
P1. If x has a right to y, and if z is a means of achieving y, then x has a right to seek to acquire z.
P2. If x has a right to y, and if z is a means of achieving y, then x has a right to be given z.
Consider the following straightforward argument in support of gun rights:
(1) I have a right to life and security of my person. (2) If I have a right to life and security of my person, then I have a right to the means whereby these rights may be secured and protected. (3) Guns may be used to secure and protect my right to life and security of my person. (4) Therefore, I have a right to own a gun.
This seems to me very plausible, but of course (2) relies on the controversial principle identified above.
BV: I would say that the argument relies on (P1) but not (P2).
In similar fashion, any argument for the claim that each of us has a right to health care will probably have to rely on a similar premise. I can imagine an argument going something like this:
(1) I have a right to life and security of my person. (2) If I have a right to life and security of my person, then I have a right to the means whereby these rights may be secured and protected. (3) Affordable health care may be used to secure and protect my right to life and security of my person. (4) Therefore, I have a right to affordable health care.
As before, premise (2) relies on the controversial principle identified earlier. And, as you point out in your post, similar arguments could be run to establish that each of us has a right to food, shelter, and clothing.
BV: But again, all one needs is the weaker principle, (P1). If I have a right to life, then I have a right to sustain my life. A necessary means to that end is food. So I have a right to food. But all that means is that I have a right to seek to acquire food (by hunting, fishing, foraging, growing, buying, bartering, begging, etc.) It does not mean that I have a right to be supplied with food by others. I have no positive right to be fed. What I have is a negative right not to be impeded in my quest for food and other vital necessities. (Adults are under discussion, not young children.)
Here, then, is my question: what ought we to think about the controversial principle?
BV: The first thing we should think about it is that it is ambiguous as between (P1) and (P2). I would say that (P1) is very plausible if not obviously true. But it needs qualification. Do I have a right to biological or chemical weapons? I have the right to repel a home invasion using a shotgun, but presumably not the right to repel such an invasion using biological agents that are likely to spread throughout the neighborhood. So consider
P1*. If x has a (negative) right to y, and z is a minimally efficacious means of achieving y,then x has a (negative) right to acquire z.
By 'minimally efficacious' I mean a means to an end that is an efficient and effective means to the end in view but not so powerful or extensive as to bring with it negative consequences for others. My right to buy food would then not be a right to buy all the food in the supermarket. My right to repel home invaders does not translate into a right to lay waste to the entire neighborhood in so doing. No doubt further refinements are needed, but (P1) strikes me as on the right track.
Although I am inclined to think that the principle is false, what is of interest to me is a more troublesome question. Any false general claim may have true instances. Are there true instances of this false general principle? How do we go about deciding which instances of the principle are true and which not? Can the principle be used to establish gun rights but not rights to health care or food/shelter/clothing?
BV: I should think that guns and butter are on a par. More fully, guns, food, shelter, clothing, certain medicines, bandages, certain medical appliances, e. g. sphygmomanometers for the hypertense, etc. are all on a par. Given that I have the natural negative right to life, then surely I have the right to pursue and acquire those things that I need to defend and sustain my life. What I don't have is the positive right to be given them by others or by the government, especially given the fact that the government produces no wealth but gets its wealth by coercive taking. (Not that I am opposed to governmental coercion, within limits. There simply cannot be a government that is not coercive. I am very pleased that the government has forced Bernie Madoff into prison, thereby doing to him what it would be a crime for me to do to him.)
So I don't think my gun argument suffers from probative overkill, 'proving too much.' The pattern of argument extends to food, shelter, and clothing, etc. But contemporary liberals are in the same boat: their pattern of argument extends to food, shelter, clothing, etc. But their extension does amount to probative overkill and a reductio ad absurdum of their original argument. If there is a positive right to health care services and health insurance (these are of course not the same), then a fortiori, there is a positive right to food, shelter, and clothing. But this is absurd, ergo, etc.
Food, shelter, and clothing are more important than health care in that one can get along for substantial periods of time without health care services but one cannot survive for long without food, shelter, and clothing. Given this plain fact, why don’t the proponents of ‘free’ universal health care demand ‘free’ food, shelter, and clothing? In other words, if a citizen, just in virtue of being a citizen, has a right to health care, why doesn’t the same citizen have the right to what is more fundamental, namely, food, shelter, and clothing?
I mean this as a reductio ad absurdum. I fear that liberals, being liberals, may just bite the bullet and embrace rights to food, shelter, and clothing.
Why isn't health care a commodity in the way that automotive care is? If I want my car to run well, I must service it periodically. I can either do this myself or hire someone to do it for me. But surely I have no right to the free services of an auto mechanic. Of course, once I contract with a mechanic to do a specified job for a specified sum of money, then I have a right to his services and to his services being performed correctly. But that right is contingent upon our contract. Call it a contractually acquired right. But I have no right to free automotive services just in virtue of the fact that I own a car. So why is it any different with my body? Do I have a right to a colonoscopy just in virtue of my possession of a gastrointestinal tract?
Of course, I have a right to life, and I cannot live without health care most of which, by the way, I provide for myself via proper diet, exercise, and all the rest. But the negative right to life does not entail the positive right to be given the services of doctors and dentists.
If you insist that people do have a right to medical and dental services, then you owe us an explanation of why they do not also have a right to food, shelter, and clothing, as well as to a vast array of other things that they 'need' such as cars and cell phones.
I've heard the fatuous Hillary say that health care is not a privilege but a right. First of all, who ever said it was a privilege? Second, it needs arguing that it is a right. And good luck with that. Besides, it is the fallacy of false alternative to say or imply that health care is either a right or a privilege. It might be some third thing.
My view is that health care is a commodity. You either provide it for yourself or you hire someone to provide it for you. In the latter case, you must pay for it. It is no different in principle from housing. Just as there is a 'housing market' there is a 'health care market.' If there were a right to health care, then there would also be a right to housing. But there is no right to housing. Therefore, there is no right to health care. Do Obama and his ilk have a reasoned response to this argument?
Talk of this and that as a right is mostly empty blather. One ought to reflect on what it could mean to call something a right.
Rights and duties are correlative. My right to X generates in others the duty to either provide me with X or not interfere with my possession or exercise of X. Thus my right to life induces in others the duty or obligation to refrain from injuring or killing me. So if I have a right to health care, then others have the duty to provide me with it. Think about that. But who are those others? The government? The government has no money of its own; its revenue comes from taxing the productive members of society. But why are these productive citizens under any obligation to provide 'free' services to anyone? Taxation is by its very nature coercive. How does one justify morally the taking by force of money from one person to give it to another? Why should productive citizens who take care of themselves pay for those who abuse their bodies? There is also the practical question of whether the productive will allow themselves to be fleeced. Not to mention the fact that the government infantilizes the population by doing for them what they ought to be doing for themselves and removing their incentives to taking care of themselves.
Government should do no harm. Primum non nocere. But a government that weakens and unmans its citizens, turning them into dependents on the state, does harm. This is entirely consistent with people caring about one another and taking care of one another within the free associations of civil society that lie between the individual and Leviathan. It is also consistent with a modicum f regulation, oversight, and mandating from the side of the state to prevent the truly needy from ending up on the skids.
If we meet in the desert and you are out of water and food, I will give you some of mine, ceteris paribus. But I am under no moral obligation to help you; you have no right to my supplies. My helping you will be supererogatory and reflective of my being an especially nice guy. Similarly, you have no right to insurance or medicine or a pap smear or a sigmoidoscopy, and I have no obligation to contribute via taxation so that you may get these things.
Nor do you have any right to contraceptives or abortifacients to be supplied at taxpayer expense. Besides, forcing people to pay for what violates their moral sensibility is a moral outrage. Abortion is a very great evil even if liberals are too morally obtuse and willfully stupid to understand it.
Positive rights, rights to be given this or that, need arguing, but I hear precious little by way of argument from liberals.
A government big enough and powerful enough to provide one with ‘free’ health care will be in an excellent position to demand ‘appropriate’ behavior from its citizens – and to enforce its demand. Suppose you enjoy risky sports such as motorcycling, hang gliding, mountain climbing and the like. Or perhaps you just like to drink or smoke or eat red meat. A government that pays for the treatment of your injuries and ailments can easily decide, on economic grounds alone, to forbid such activites under the bogus justification, ‘for your own good.’
But even if the government does not outlaw motorcycling, say, they can put a severe dent in your liberty to enjoy such a sport, say, by demanding that a 30% sales tax be slapped on all motorcycle purchases, or by outlawing bikes whose engines exceed a certain displacement, say 180 cc. In the same way that governments levy arbitrary taxes on tobacco products, they can do the same for anything they deem risky or unhealthy.
The situation is analogous to living with one’s parents. It is entirely appropriate for parents to say to a child: ‘As long as you live under our roof, eat at our table, and we pay the bills, then you must abide by our rules. When you are on your own, you may do as you please.’ The difference, of course, is that it is relatively easy to move out on one’s own, but difficult to forsake one’s homeland.
The nub of the issue is liberty. Do you value it or not? And how much? Which trumps which: liberty or equality of outcome?
Then there are the practical considerations. Nationalized health care in the UK and Canada doesn't seem to work very well. See here. Apparently some Brits pull their own teeth with such advanced dental appliances as pliers and vodka. That was the way dentistry was done in the days of Doc Holliday who was, as you know, a dentist besides being a damned good shot.
I support the absolute right of all of these people to ridicule religion all that they want. I don't think the government should fund any of it, but I do believe in this fundamental principle: The right to ridicule religious beliefs absolutely trumps the so-called "right" not to have one's religious beliefs ridiculed.
I basically agree with Mike's post. In particular, I agree that there is no 'right' not to have one's religious beliefs ridiculed, and I also agree that if one is going to violate people's beliefs in the manner of that 'artist' Andres Serrano then one ought to do it on one's own time and with one's own dime, as the saying goes. Adolescent purveyors of schlock who delight in offending the sensibilities of the 'bourgeoisie' or the 'booboisie' in H. L. Mencken's phrase have no right to taxpayer money. Dumb notions are rampant on the Left, and one of the dumbest is that a refusal of sponsorship amounts to censorship. This notion is beneath refutation, so I will say no more about it.
But I do have one minor bone to pick with Mike. He speaks of the right to ridicule religion as 'absolute.' I wonder what he means by this term. Does he mean that there are no conceivable circumstances in which the exercise of the right in question could not be justifiably limited or prevented? If that is what he means, then I disagree.
Consider property rights. Absolute? Are there no conceivable circumstances in which a man's right to property cannot be justifiably limited or infringed? Suppose I own half of Montana, and the federal government needs a few acres for a defense installation. It forces me to sell those acres at fair market value. I say that's a legitimate exercise of eminent domain. Or how about free speech? It is widely recognized that one cannot justifiably say just anything anywhere to anybody. The right to free speech is not the right to speech that incites violence in a situation in which an outbreak of violence can be reasonably expected to occur if the speech is delivered.
Same goes for the ridiculing of religion via speech, gestures, placards, and Serrano style 'art.' Suppose Marilyn Manson is burning Bibles on stage at some venue in Los Angeles near Biola. Some Biola students and there and are recognizable as such. Suppose the ridicule is ramped up to the point that the Christians in the audience are in danger of grave bodily harm. Then I say the right to ridicule meets its limit. But that is to say that the right is not absolute. It is relative to the circumstances.
Victor Reppert thinks that a conservative case can be made against immigration restriction but cites a libertarian article in support of his contention. But as I see it, it is important to distinguish carefully between conservative and libertarian positions on this and other issues, despite several important points of agreement. Pace Reppert, no conservative who understands his position can support open borders or tolerate the elision of the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. There are no conservative arguments for open borders. But let's turn now to the article in question. Here are some excerpts:
. . . the false dichotomy between civil and economic liberties. Both incorrectly bifurcated forms of freedom are rooted in the same set of property rights, first and foremost in one’s own person and, by extension, in the tangible property one acquires justly through homesteading, gifts and honest market transactions. If Big Brother tries to comprehensively regulate immigration, he can smash economic freedom of association. And if the state has the power to oversee our economic lives, our personal freedom will always suffer in the process.
This is the type of excessive rhetoric that libertarians are known for. Immigration laws obviously limit economic freedom of association, but to write that they "smash" it is to suggest that the limitation is some pure power move on the part of "Big Brother" without reason or justification. But there are a number of solid reasons for border control none of which is so much as mentioned in the article. I sketch some of them in Immigration Legal and Illegal. And what exactly is wrong with the distinction between civil and economic liberties? The word 'civil' derives from the Latin civis, civis, citizen and civitas, civitatis, state, citizenship. So I hope I will be forgiven for asking how a person could have civil liberties apart from his membership in some state or other, and how a person who has civil liberties in a state of which he is a citizen can have any civil liberties in a state of which he is not a citizen. As an American citizen I have the civil right to the presumption of innocence. But I don't have that right when I head south of the border. I can see how economic liberties are grounded in the universal right to life, a right that does not derive from membership in any polis, civitas, Staat, state. But civil rights and liberties are state-specific. The right to vote is a civil right, but Mexicans don't have the right to vote in American elections any more than Americans have the right to vote in Mexican elections. There is no universal right to vote wherever one happens to be.
This also is a good time to question the entire idea of the national government trying to “seal the borders,” pick winners and losers among immigrants, decide who gets all the welfare benefits of being a legal immigrant and who is not even allowed into our golden door. Invariably, when the federal government imposes its way on immigration, we get some immigrants who come in with legal sanction and quickly become dependents of the U.S. government—whereas illegals are probably not net beneficiaries of the welfare state, legal immigrants might very well be.
I'm sorry, but this is hopelessly wrongheaded. Since the USA is a welfare state and under ObamaCare about to become even more of one, it is obviously suicidal for purely fiscal reasons alone to open the borders. Who would not want to come to this great prosperous nation of ours? Do I really need to spell this out? Only if the libertarians got their way and succeeded in shrinking the government down to 'night watchman' functions (the Lockean triad: protection of life, liberty, and property), would this fiscal objection to open borders be removed. But obviously this shrink-down is not going to happen. Given that the USA is a welfare state and will remain one -- the only real question being how much of one -- it is all the more necessary to control entry into the country.
Since conservatives often say our rights come not from the government but from God and the nature of man, it is not for the government to decide whether someone should have the right to live here or not—it is up to individuals and communities, which obviously are able to sustain a fair number of illegals.
This is very shoddy reasoning. Conservatives maintain that there are certain natural unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness (which is not the right to be or be made happy). These natural rights are not granted by governments but secured by legitimate governments. They are rights that one has irrespective of one's being a citizen of a state. But it does not follow that every right that one has one one has irrespective of citizenship. My right to vote is not a right to vote anywhere. When I lived in Germany, Austria, and Turkey, I did not have the right to vote in those countries, nor should I have had that right. Just as I don't have the right to vote anywhere, I don't have the right to live anywhere or travel anywhere. When I lived in Turkey I could not stand on my natural right to live in Turkey: there is no such right. I had to apply for a visa and be granted permission to live there for a stated period of time after I had paid a fee for the privilege. Now you might not want to call living in Turkey a 'privilege,' but it is surely not a natural right that everyone has just in virtue of being a human being.
The author says that communities have a right to decide who shall live in them. But a community is a political entity, a state writ small, and what goes for states writ small goes for states writ large.
. . . constitutionalists in particular should question the very notion that the feds have legal authority to crack down on the border, since immigration is not an Article I, Section 8 authority of Congress. Conservatives especially should follow Reagan’s example and embrace immigration amnesty.
This is just false. "Congress shall have the power to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization . . . ." (Article I, Section 8) As for Reagan's example, is this guy suggesting that conservatives should follow Reagan's example even in matters on which he acted foolishly or not like a conservative? Come on! Amnesty for those illegals already here and established may well be unavoidable. But this is separate form the question whether the border should be sealed to keep out additional illegal aliens.
A guest post by Peter Lupu. Editing by BV. BV will respond to PL in the ComBox. Here in his own words is the argument that BV presented:
1. Every human person possesses a natural right to life.
2. If every human person has a natural right to life, then he has a right to defend his life against those who would seek to violate this right.
3. If every human person has a right to defend his life, then he has a right to an effective means of defending his life.
4. Every human person has a right to an effective means of defending his life. (From 1, 2, 3 by Modus Ponens and Hypothetical Syllogism.)
5. In many circumstances, a gun is the only effective means of defending one's life.
6. In many circumstances, human persons have a right to possess guns, a right that is not conferred by constitutions but ought to be respected by them.
In “Deriving Gun Rights from the Right to Life” Bill presented a powerful argument on behalf of gun rights that is grounded on the right to life. The argument is based on the assumption that the right to life is a natural right and, hence, is logically prior to positive law, where by positive law we mean a law that is enacted by society. In addition to the principle that natural rights are logically prior to positive law, Bill’s argument features two additional very important principles.
I take the view that some rights are logically antecedent to anything of a conventional nature such as a group decision or a constitution. Thus the right to life is not conferred by any constitution, but recognized and protected by well-crafted ones. In simple terms, you don't have the right to life because some people say you do; they correctly say you do because you have this right quite apart from anything they say. The right to life is a natural right. It is logically antecedent to anything of a conventional nature such as the positive law.