Friday, February 7, 2014

The "Right to Be Left Alone" Applies to More than Religion

Recently, the New Jersey Star-Ledger's Left-leaning editorial board ran parallel op-eds based in opposite fundamental premises. 

One concerned freedom of—and from—religion, saying that we all have a right to our beliefs, but not at others' expense, as when a bus driver touched and prayed over, uninvited, a total stranger who was a passenger on his bus. The driver lost his job over the incident.

The second op-ed promoted ObamaCare. 

I left these comments:

On the same page that the editors tout Religion and the right to be left alone, they promote ObamaCare, under which the state dictates what kind of policies insurers can offer and individuals can buy; mandates that all individuals buy insurance; and forcibly redistributes wealth in order to subsidize healthcare for select individuals.

The right to be left alone is a fundamental principle of liberty, not just the First Amendment. People have as much right to control their own healthcare and wealth as they do to control their own beliefs in matters of conscience. No one should have healthcare, charity, or spending decisions forced on them any more than they should have religious or other beliefs forced on them.

The right to be left alone? I agree. If the editors really believed in this principle, their companion 11/17/13 editorial would have been titled, "Healthcare and the right to be left alone."

The Bill of Rights and the Right to be Left Alone

Correspondent NJ1776 replied to my comment:

    There is nothing in the Constitution or Bill of Rights about any right "to be left alone." Some very strange perversions of these documents have been proffered by people who would like to tailor these to accord with their own beliefs.
    One of the more absurd is the First Amendment provides people a guarantee of "freedom from religion." The only thing the Constitution states concerning religion is the Congress has no right to establish religion or any right to restrict it: essentially canceling itself out.
    Madison was the architect of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He believed the government has no right to interfere with personal conscience. He wanted no references to religion in these documents because to do so implied the government had authority in the matter.

My answer:

Nothing in the Bill of Rights "about any right 'to be left alone'?" The Bill of Rights was never intended to be exhaustive. That's why the Ninth Amendment reads "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The very concept of "unalienable individual rights" is to protect the individual, in the social context, from human predation.

The "right to be left alone" in this context means the right to be free from coercive interference from others, whether by private individuals or individuals in their capacity as government officials. Freedom means the government can not become a tool of anyone or any group for imposing its values on others by legal force. Freedom means the government's purpose is to protect individuals from private criminals who would initiate force against you. Freedom means each individual is free to pursue his own values, but not to coercively impose his values on others by any method. Freedom OF necessarily means freedom FROM. No other concept of freedom makes sense.

ObamaCare and the General Welfare Clause

NJ1776 followed up with a reference to the General Welfare Clause, implying that ObamaCare is justified under that clause:

My answer:

Viewed objectively, "general welfare" does not mean the welfare of some at the expense of the violation of the rights of others. ObamaCare forces some people to subsidize others. There's nothing "general" about that. What would "promote the general welfare?" A free market in healthcare, under which each person's right to pursue healthcare by his own effort and in voluntary contract and trade with others is recognized and protected. The general welfare clause does not promote collectivism.

The Founding of this country contains some contradictions. But, clearly, the fundamental purpose of the Founders and the Constitution, as laid out in the Constitution's philosophic blueprint—the Declaration of Independence—is to create a society based on equality of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. Promoting the general welfare clearly means to promote the Declaration's promise that "all men are created equal"; meaning, politically, equal protection of liberty and rights under the law. Protecting the rights of all equally and at all times is objectively the only meaning of "to lay and collect taxes . . . to provide . . . for the general welfare." On this, if the Declaration is the philosophic reference (as I believe it is), Madison was right and Hamilton was wrong.

Related Reading:

Constitutional Distortions- the "General Welfare" Clause

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