Monday, August 4, 2008

Rights in Conflict

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to clear up a couple of things from my last one.
First, I'm not very happy with it. It wasn't exactly what I was going for, and to keep my posts individually fairly short, I couldn't do better than a brief and simplified summary of the events leading to the Revolution.
Second, I used several sources for the facts and didn't provide any citation. The facts I pulled mostly from a variety of websites (Google American Revolution). Some of the philosophy is pulled both from 1776 by David McCaullugh and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin R.C. Gutzman. There's also my own take of the wittings of Jefferson, Madison, and others.
So, on to the important stuff...
With the concept of inherent rights, and furthermore, the idea that these rights are universal, it's self-evident that rights are going to come into conflict. These conflicts fall into two basic categories, when the rights of individuals conflict, and when the rights of the individual conflict with the rights of the government.
As the former is the far more likely and more difficult to arbitrate, I will cover the latter first. When a government is properly exercising its rights, when they come into conflict with the individual right, it is the responsibility of the individual to yield to the government. At first, this might seem to be counter to my over-all theme thus far, but realize the conditional phrase. When a government is properly exercising its rights. When the government steps outside of its enumerated rights, the individual is no longer held to the correct yielding of their rights to that government. It is this very idea that forms the basis of the whole Declaration. And while these statements beg for a discussion of what should be done when a government steps outside its enumerated rights, I'm not going to do that now.
Instead, most of this will be about the arbitration of individual rights in conflict. First, this is the primary purpose of government. Government's main role in the daily lives of its citizens is to be a neutral arbitrator. This is not to suggest that it should pass preemptive laws to avoid conflict, but rather should provide service to resolve the conflict. This is not to suggest that laws against murder, thievery, and other such violation of the individual right are incorrect. But rather that rather than try to avoid all possible conflict, the government should focus on resolving the conflict if necessary.
Government's other major role in society is to provide for a safe and free society. The singular right of the government that allows it to provide this is the right of policing. It is the right to utilize violence to achieve it's end. The providing of a police presence is the right and responsibility of the government. It follows that the government also has the responsibility to ensure that this police presence is honest, professional, and respecting to the right of the individual. It also follows that it is necessary for a justice system beyond this police system to provide a check against possible overreach on the part of the police. This concept is clearly enumerated in the Constitution through the 4th through 7th amendments.
However, it is not the role of the government to determine the rights of itself or the people. This is the concept enumerated in the 9th and 10th amendments. Instead, it lies to the people to determine these rights, and to take the responsibility to practice them. And this is what it means to have self-governance.

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