The Conversation

Unalienable rights never go out of style

In response to Rich Masochists Against the 8th Amendment:

One of the basic principles behind "unalienable rights" is that you don't have to justify their exercise.  You're never supposed to be on the defensive, explaining to those who choose not to exercise said rights why you should be allowed to keep them.  That's supposed to nip the kind of "social pressure" campaign liberals have been mounting against guns in the bud - a campaign in which, as I recall, someone proposed stigmatizing gun owners as though they were drug dealers. 

But American society has grown increasingly comfortable with the notion that government authority should have no arbitrary limits.  If the central government has a really swell plan that will improve everyone's lives, it should not be thwarted by the flowery writing on some ancient piece of paper.  And if a politically influential minority of citizens decides that a formerly unalienable right makes them nervous, there's no need to clear the correct, but very difficult, hurdle of amending the Constitution.  We can just stigmatize the people exercising that right, command them to justify it, reject their justifications, and perhaps settle on a "compromise" where they only give up part of their rights.

This stuff about rape whistles and complacency in the face of home invasions is going to get people killed.  And they'll die because their fellow citizens were smug.


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