Of Dialectics and Rights

Some days ago I put up a post on a recent article in which libertarians were explicitly equated with communists.  We were promised, if them Awful Libertarians took over, catastrophes of like kind to those visited on the world by communism in the last century.  Seriously.  You have to read that article to believe it.  It’s as if the authors, whose biographical statements on the article would suggest average or better intelligence and thus information processing ability, have no clue that without exception the greatest monsters and destroyers not just of human liberty but of human life and human culture over the past 100 years have been without exception socialists.  And that socialism is both (i) leftist, and (ii) necessarily collectivist, which means (iii) it cannot be squared with libertarianism.  Not even a little.

Quite apart from the substance of libertarianism, relative to left-extremism (and all leftism is inherently extremist, since it recognizes no sphere of human existence which is not appropriate for government control: “The personal is political,” anyone?), are some distinctions in thought processes.  Libertarianism is principled, you see; leftism is not.  In fact, leftism even has a word (a euphemism, as to be expected) for its practice of insisting that X and only and always before and ever after X, until Y, after which point only Y and ’twas always thus and always thus ’twill be.  Until Z.  The left-extremists call it “dialectics.”  You and I, Gentle Reader, recognize it as the claim of entitlement to make the rules up as I go along, contingent upon what my momentary objectives may be.  It’s how the Soviet Union could go from war communism to the New Economic Policy to forced collectivization and de-kulakization in the space of a bit more than a decade.  It’s how today’s Hero of the Soviet Union could in a matter of days end up being labeled a counter-revolutionary Trotskyite and tool of the British, dragged from his bed and ground up in the Lubyanka, eventually to be shot in some execution cellar.

For an American illustration of dialectics in action, observe the left-extremists’ approach to rights protected by the constitution.  Exhibit A is abortion, a right to which appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution.  At all.  In fact, there nowhere appears a “right to privacy” in the U.S. Constitution.  It’s just not there.  You can — and must, I think — allow that the entire structure of the document, and not just the Bill of Rights, recognizes that — puts the lie to the contrary assertion, in fact — that the personal is most definitely not political.  Brandeis, who  launched the “right to privacy” movement in the modern leftist legal canon, called it the “privacy interest” (it’s been a long time since I read that article of his, but that’s how he phrased it, I seem to recall).  To recognize that something is an “interest” is not quite necessarily to concede that it is legitimate and worthy of some degree of respect, but it’s pretty nearly such.  What it is not is a “right.”  To say that something is a “right” is to peg it to a particular position in a hierarchical order of interests.

So a libertarian can recognize that there is a privacy interest, and that part of that privacy interest would normally include the management of human fertility.  But a libertarian will also recognize that a woman’s “right to choose” is but one interest among many on that issue.  For starts, the men who are those children’s fathers have an interest that is not illegitimate.  The child him/herself most definitely has an interest that cannot be disregarded.  Society at large has an interest in what it recognizes as human life, and how it is to be protected.  The structure of the American republic is an interest to the extent that how and at what level those other interests butt heads is resolved.  I once heard someone point out, in support of the argument that abortion necessarily implicates the 14th Amendment, that either those unborn children are “persons” within the 14th Amendment or they are not.  And if they are, then as “persons” they are entitled to due process and the equal protections of the law.  What that due process and equal protection might entail then has to be addressed.  I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question.  This is just my personal philosophy, but I’ve always thought that if something is not plainly and unambiguously a subject addressed by the U.S. Constitution, then it’s not properly a subject for federal-level action.

Which means that I don’t think the federal government has either the power or the duty to control abortion.  On the other hand I think the states do, and I think how they handle it is largely up to them.  What my personal thoughts on the subject may be is not material, at least not outside the state where I live.

But the leftists disagree.  Because one constellation of nine be-robed boobs back in the 1970s took a deep breath of airplane glue and went off on emanations and penumbrae and found a “right” to abortion on demand (on the woman’s demand, by the way; for some reason the “equal protection” of not wanting to be a parent does not extend to the father who’s about to spend 18 years paying for a child he did not want, and for the raising of which he may be wholly unsuited) where one does not exist, that right is graven in stone for all time.  Even a private person’s unwillingness to pay for it for someone else is taken to be an “assault” on that right.  Any diminishment at all of a woman’s right to kill her unborn child, all the way up to the moment of full gestation and nearly-complete birth (to be graphic about it, the procedure involves creating a breach birth, then stopping the baby’s head from exiting, and then, while the rest of the baby is out in the open air, sucking his brain out through a hole bored in the base of his skull for that purpose), is regarded as a War on Wymyn, and creeping totalitarianism.

Now, not all left-extremists will go so far as to support in plain language “partial birth abortion,” but the true leftists will generally back anything short of that.  And they’ll picket in front of the courthouse every time a law prohibiting such practices is being challenged.

So that’s how the left-extremists treat a “right” that was invented from whole cloth and has no textual support.  How about a right that is actually spelled out in the text of the document?  The Second Amendment’s full text reads:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  That’s a single sentence, the subject of which is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” and the predicate of which is “shall not be infringed.”  The left-extremists point out to the introductory clause, the bit about a “well-regulated militia,” as somehow limiting the scope of the grammatical core of the sentence.  Of course, they ascribe no such limiting function to the preamble of the Constitution, which sets out that the purpose of the document includes “promoting the general welfare,” as opposed to robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Nope.  Can’t have that; if all the federal government had authority to do was promote the general welfare, then most of their beloved welfare state would be manifestly unconstitutional.

But the most salient point is that the right to keep and bear arms is actually right there in the document, in contrast to the “right” to kill your unborn child.  You don’t have to get to the right to keep and bear arms by emanation or penumbra.  You can argue in good faith whether it ought to be there, but you cannot honestly deny it exists.  And how do the left-extremists think about encroachments on that black-and-white right?

Why, they’re all for “reasonable restrictions” on a right the “infringement” of which is explicitly prohibited.  And they’re all for allowing each and every state to deal with it as they please.  Laboratories of democracy and whatnot, dontcha know.

Either a right that is spelled out in the Constitution is protected, or it is not protected.  If you don’t like the 2nd Amendment, get it repealed.  If gun control is so self-evidently something all reasonable people agree on, and it’s only the NRA that’s holding it up, then amend the Constitution.  It’s been done before; we got rid of the 18th Amendment because it turned out to be a Bad Idea.

The left-extremists also are pretty hep to “reasonable restrictions” on the freedom of speech.  This is the full text of the 1st Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  That’s also a single sentence, the subject of which is “Congress” and the verb of which is “shall make.”  The verb’s direct object — that to which the verb pertains and upon which is acts, directly — is “no law.”  There then follow a number of clauses.  The one which interests us here is “the freedom of speech.”

Whose freedom of speech?  It doesn’t say.  It most specifically doesn’t say “except commercial speech,” or “except for speech in connection with election campaigns,” or “except for speech which offends some groups of people,” or “except for the speech of aliens resident.”  There is apparently only one freedom of speech, by the way, viz. “the” freedom of speech.  Thus if there is freedom of speech at all, then everyone has the same freedom of speech.

But what’s prohibited?  Congress “mak[ing] a law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”  Congress is the only operator who is prohibited from acting by that amendment.  Contrast the 2nd Amendment or the 4th Amendment, which are not confined in their operation to a specified actor.  The people’s right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”  Period.  No matter by whom.  From the 4th Amendment, we have, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]”  The right “shall not be violated.”  By whom?  By anyone.  But notice that when the Framers put that right together they explicitly shoved in a “reasonable” standard, which is wholly missing from the 2nd Amendment.  Let’s look at the 5th Amendment’s just compensation clause.  “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  By whom?  There is no limitation in the text; the answer is thus, “By anyone.”

The men who wrote, who debated, and submitted to the states the original twelve amendments (ten of which were ratified) may have been many things, but they were not careless in their language.  Those who want to argue that the 2nd Amendment applies only to permit the states, as states, to maintain militias, have to explain why the expression “of the people” is used repeatedly in the Bill of Rights, and in each case it applies to something that cannot with a straight face be read to be an attribute of a state’s geopolitical existence.  A state cannot have a “person or house” to be protected from unreasonable searches, can it?

Most destructive of the left-extremist position on 2nd Amendment interpretation is the 10th Amendment, which reads, in full, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  How about that?  When the Framers wanted to mean individual humans, they knew to differentiate them from the states, and when they meant to say a right belonged to “states,” why, they just came right on out and said, “states,” instead of some code word, like, for example, “people.”  Lord love a duck!  These amendments were written by the same people, at the same time, and debated together, and voted on together.  There is simply no intellectually honest way to argue that the expression “people” means “states” in one amendment, but does not in another.

Why is it important that rights which are spelled out are enforced as written?  Because if they’re not, you get results like this one, reported in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  “Front National Politician Sentenced to Prison.”  Nine months.  For what?  For comparing another French politician to an ape.  The aggrieved politician is the justice minister, and she happens to be black.  France is not without its own racial baggage in respect of African slavery, but like Britain it was smart enough to confine it pretty much to its colonies.  It never existed to any meaningful extent in Metropolitan France.  Even so, what has been said, and done on the floor of the National Assembly, so far transcends the bounds of decency that it has to count as indefensible . . . morally.

We’re not talking about morally indefensible words, however.  We’re talking about putting someone in prison for nine months for calling a public personage an ape.  Think this is something new?  Think this is just something cooked up by the Koch Brothers, or the Klan, or the Front National?  Let’s see if we can’t find something in the Wayback Machine.  Something from . . . oh hell, the 1860s, for example.  Something like this:

Lincoln as a monkey

This attitude of hostility towards the freedom of speech is not unique to France.  It’s not even unique to people who want to keep the Koch Brothers (but not George Soros) from participation in the electoral process.  It extends all the way to people who simply want to shut up those who annoy them, those with whom they disagree.  And like all left-extremists, they will stop at nothing, because for the left, the ends very much justify the means, in all situations.

If rights are what you call them, so that we may have a constitutional right to kill unborn children upon a single person’s whim, then rights are what we call them, and you get nine months for calling someone — a sufficiently powerful someone — an ape.  With one comes the other; they are twins and cannot be separated.

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