Rights, Rights, and More Rights
In fact, there are no such things as rights. The common notion that we are born with some universal baggage, called rights, is nonsense. There is no right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. From wars and disease and famine, to accidents and crimes, to abortion, to self-destruction by any number of means, people die against their wills by the thousands every day. The liberty and happiness we all hope to enjoy is as much an exception as most believe it to be the rule. The current destruction of life, liberty, and happiness, worldwide, should be enough to convince anyone of the fallacy of our current concept of rights.
Much of our social interaction is founded on tolerance; specifically the tolerance or intolerance of each other's behavior. Tolerance, when it is universally taught and accepted, is called a right, and for many it has its own separate existence apart from social structure. Tolerance is not separate from any social structure. In fact, our limits of or refusal to limit behavior define our social structure. Tolerance belongs to the community or the state, not to the individual, and therefore there are no such things as individual rights. While community rights (tolerance) change with every new law.
So rights as they are described in today's societies are really just the types of behavior that are to be tolerated by all. Any behavior that interferes with the tolerable behavior of others is itself not to be tolerated (not a right). One fundamental purpose for constituting governments is to establish and enforce rules of social and economic behavior, since we come into the world without rights to protect us from the possible abuse of others.
The fundamental principle of government, from our primitive civilizations to that of Galactic governments is found in all cultures and all histories, and simply stated is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." No person can be free who does not live by this principle. No society can enjoy domestic tranquility if any of its citizens fail to adhere to this principle. No government can endure that does not enforce this principle. We are obligated to obey and uphold this fundamental principle at all times. It should not be the focus of our social interactions to say that we have individual rights. It is more important that we recognize our social obligation to support society's rules and communal liberty over any individual liberty.
Some members of every society do not live by this principle, and are given to interfering with the tolerable behavior of others, so some restrictions on social behavior must be established and enforced.
The inversion of the above fundamental principle is the foundation of past social revenge; "An eye for an eye, a life for a life . . ." To deny another person of liberty, means you accept that you may have your liberty denied. To deny another person of life means you accept that you may be denied life. Any act that a person may commit that transgresses the accepted laws of behavior denies that person protection from societal revenge.
It is common in our society to hear reference made to the work of the courts as dispensing justice. Whenever we agree with the ruling of a court, we say justice has been done. But the courts cannot dispense justice, because justice is not something that can be dispensed. Justice can be done, but not by the courts. Justice exists in a society only when the laws are obeyed, because we do justice to each other when we obey the laws.
When the laws are obeyed domestic tranquility is established in society. Justice and Domestic Tranquility are really the same concept, adherence to established law. To understand one, is to understand the other, because each is a definition of the other.
The inverse of justice is injustice. When someone transgresses the laws, thereby destroying the domestic tranquility, we say an injustice has been done. All transgressions of the law can be generalized as a breach of the peace. This is not said to equalize or trivialize all crime, but instead to point to the collective relationship of all our acts toward each other, as being acts that affirm domestic tranquility, or acts which breach the peace. With our multitude of laws there are no real gray areas of social behavior. Our actions both defend the community structure and maintain the domestic tranquility, or they violate the established law by attacking the community, trying to usurp its powers and defeat its social order.
So where do the courts come in? If no laws are transgressed, then no police or courts are necessary. However, since laws are often broken, we have contrived a system whereby we take collective social revenge upon the persons who commit these injustices. We do this through our police, courts, and prisons. Courts cannot dispense justice, but they can dispense revenge in one manner or another by restricting or denying the freedom to live and work in society. If this revenge or punishment is dispensed in such a manner that society is guaranteed that no further transgressions will be committed, then we may say that society has been returned to a state of domestic tranquility. However, if the courts fail to ensure the proper behavior of those brought before them; if there is little or no revenge sought against those that destroy the domestic tranquility; if there is no guaranteed rehabilitation; then the courts are aiding and abetting future crimes, committing an injustice of their own by preventing society from re-establishing domestic tranquility. Such failure in the courts will lead society away from the fundamental principle of government into a state of anarchy. If we fail to revenge ourselves as a society, we will do it individually. This would be anarchy, and would destroy our social structure.
After the alarm has sounded in the community that a crime has been committed, what are we told to think? "Innocent until proven guilty." Our social-judicial system does not operate under the principle "innocent until proven guilty." In the area of civil law where many frivolous suits are filed, and where degrees of liability are difficult to estimate without legal expertise, we may accept that the defendant is innocent until proven liable; but in criminal law we hire or elect legal expertise in the form of prosecutors to investigate, charge, and prosecute those whom they have sufficient evidence to charge with criminal behavior. The prosecutors are our representatives in the legal system. If they bring charges against someone, it is because they believe that person to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We hire these experts to formulate knowledge of criminal activity, based on factual evidence. If we are to believe the accused to be innocent, then we must believe that our court representatives are either corrupt or incompetent in pursuing the prosecution of innocent people. Though there are instances when officials are corrupt or incompetent, and instances when innocent people are put in prison or worse, these circumstances occur very seldom as compared to the great number of prosecutions ongoing. If the vast majority of criminal prosecutions end in conviction of the accused as being guilty as charged, then the idea that a person should be considered innocent (not guilty) after they have been charged, is ridiculous.
Common sense demands that we support, intellectually and socially, those whom we have hired to represent and enforce our social structure. Criminals and their counselors are defeating our society as a system of law and order. When criminals violate the liberty and property of others, they are making war upon society, trying to defeat the law and order that bind societies. They are much more the enemy of society than foreign armies.
When we are charged with a felony crime against other persons or property, the court requires that we post bail to gain temporary freedom; we are guilty in the eyes of the court even if no other bias is ever shown. At trial, evidence is then presented to the court and a jury, which will then proclaim to society our guilt or innocence. In many cases bail is denied because a judge not only perceives considerable evidence toward guilt, but may also consider the defendant likely to flee from the community to avoid the consequences of being found guilty by a jury. Certainly guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and should never be assumed, especially if no charges are brought against persons except community gossip, hearsay, and fabrication. But when charges are brought, evidence is presented, and indictments handed down from a court, innocence must likewise be proven, if it is truly the case.
Actions in court are not supposed to be a competition of diverging beliefs communicated to the public for the purpose of establishing majority opinion. But rather a merging of testimony and facts, to arrive at the truth that society requires to re-establish domestic tranquility. A mature way to view these concepts in relation to a person charged with a crime is to realize that neither guilt nor innocence applies to a defendant that has been duly charged, until a jury has made a determination.
We sometimes fail to understand that tolerance, which we claim as necessary for ourselves may also be claimed by others, but for their own selfish ends. And that tolerance we would deny others may also be denied to ourselves, with or without due process. There is no law of self-preservation that is part of any social structure, as some would have us believe. The sacrifices made daily to save other persons and property at the peril of life and limb; the many instances of heroic bravery in wars; the lifelong sacrifices of one's comfort and leisure, so that one's children will be better fed, clothed and educated; are proof that we recognize sacrifice to be more noble than self interest. The coward runs from battle to preserve himself. The criminal preys on society for property and money, so that he may preserve himself. The profligate abandons morality and social responsibility to serve himself. Self-preservation only succeeds in destroying social structures. Anarchy knows no peace and guarantees no trust. The tolerance we require, we must also offer; and the social discipline we expect of others, we must also be willing to uphold.
To demonstrate that self is becoming the root cause of our social declension, consider the story from olden times about a survivor of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorra. As the story goes, this survivor was discovered by a caravan, living near the ruins of Sodom. Surveying the destruction all about them, the leader of the caravan exclaimed to the survivor that he must have truly feared the Law of God to have been spared. The survivor replied, "I was not spared because I feared the Law of God, I was spared because I loved the Law of God and I obeyed the Law because of that love and what it means; those who obey the Law are free from the Law." The selves of today are more and more disposed to abandon the principle of community and the preservation of family and society above the preservation of self. The transgressors of the law fear the laws, because they fear society taking social revenge against them, preventing them from doing their particular forms of anarchy and oppression. An important fact of most criminal behavior is that criminals have consciously chosen before hand to abandon their social obligations to support and protect society, and instead have chosen to prey on society without regard to the often-tragic consequences. And yet the increasing numbers of these transgressors, who continually use the current court system to evade accountability, is burying us. They offer excuses for inexcusable behavior, citing their demand to be treated and forgiven according to an established body of law, which they would gladly have destroyed, were it in their power to do so. They exhaust our resources and our access to the courts to deal with less serious transgressions. The criminal justice system is forced to barter with the flood of criminals, in hopes of redirecting behavior by threat rather than by restriction and education.
The majority of citizens have grown up in a society that offers them education and opportunity to labor and contribute to the needs of others. Currently less than half of our population is employed in productive labor, yet we enjoy an abundance of goods and services. We have constructed a penal system that maintains hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated at a very large expense to our society. These people are not put to productive and rehabilitative labor to ensure that they are not a continuing burden on society. They are not coerced to expand their education and skills, to be truly rehabilitated. A population of relatively young men and women, without financial obligations to themselves, their families or victims, should be put to work supporting the prison systems that must maintain their separation from society, until they learn to uphold and promote the community. Rather than being a burden to society, prisons should be fully self-supporting and able to offer help to the victims of crime.
Rights are not things, but instead are the fundamental behaviors that consensus tells us should be tolerated by all members of society. This leaves very little room for selfishness and no room for oppression. The fallacy of civilization is that it has declined from Ten Commandments, into legal libraries containing hundreds if not thousands of books on law (behavior); rather than inclining toward the Fundamental Principle of Government, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!"
There are acceptable behaviors and unacceptable behaviors, which must be learned and passed on to each generation. Failure to learn will result in failure to teach, which will result in failure of social cohesion. The use of the word "rights" will most certainly continue in reference to our behavior; but the personalizing and directing toward self will only continue to confuse our interactions. As individuals we expect toleration of our actions, but that toleration comes from the community, or state, or world, and therefore belongs to the structure of the community, or state, or world. It does not belong to the individual.
Sincerely Craig D. Hanks
The above article is chapter 15 in my book SOCIAL BENCHMARKS. Additional excerpts from this book and a link to purchase may also be viewed at http://beyondfarenough.blogspot.com/