I have noticed an alarming trend among my fellow Americans. More and more, I hear the voices of Americans demanding that one individual’s rights be restricted or denied so as to protect some other right they judge to be more worthy. The notion that we should make firearms illegal for the implied purpose of protecting life is a prime example of this trend. It seems too many of us are too eager to take our neighbors’ rights while demanding that those things we value be protected. This observation has forced me to wonder: does America even understand the basic principles of liberty? Or more importantly, does she even value liberty any more than she values a childhood memory?
One of the most fundamental principles of liberty is that of reciprocity. The word has a simple meaning:
Definition of RECIPROCITY
2: a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other
The principle of liberty is just as simple: if you would claim the rights you value, you must not only protect them for your neighbor, you must be ready and willing to protect the rights your neighbor values but you do not. In short, if you want your right not to own a weapon, you had better be ready to defend my right to own one. Perhaps the freedom of speech is an even better example. If you want the right to speak your mind, then you must accept and defend your neighbor’s right to speak his – especially when you vehemently disagree. Labeling something to be “hate speech” and then declaring that to be sufficient cause to restrict your neighbor’s right to say whatever he wants is to declare yourself better than your neighbor by setting your right to speech above his.
The truth be told, that same neighbor may view your words as being hateful, but if you manage to prevail against him and have a law passed which is favorable to your desire to silence your neighbor, then you have not only trampled your neighbor’s right, now you have trampled the rights of every citizen by setting their government against your neighbor. When this process is applied to groups – even if they are labeled minorities and you claim your laws are designed to protect those minorities – whether you think so or not, you have assumed the role of the tyrant and started society down the path toward tyranny.
This is one of the many poisons of our politically correct culture: it destroys the popular understanding of and support for the basic principles of liberty. Whatever happened to the popular support for these words?
“I may not agree with what you say, but to the death I will defend your right to say it.”
Paraphrased by Evelyn Beatrice Halll, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G. Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906)
Whatever happened to our support for the individual rights of every American – whether we agree with or valued a particular right or not? When did we abandon the understanding that, if we do not defend the rights our neighbor values, then we risk having no one left to defend those that we do hold dear when next our rights are attacked? When did we forget that liberty requires reciprocity? We forgot when we accepted the lie that we had to restrict the rights of some to protect the rights of others – and worse – that we had to confiscate the rights of a few to make right for the perceived wrongs of the past.
The popular support for “group rights,” often advanced under the label “social justice,” is a perversion of the ideal of liberty. It is neither a right nor justice as it sets one person against another, one group against another group, and turns the People’s government into an organ of corruption and an enemy to all. This is a perversion of the founding principles upon which this nation was built. The notion of “group rights” or “social justice” is collectivist in nature: the antithesis of all things “American.” And as such, it is to be rejected.
But suppose the protection of minority groups is to be the goal of our society. Where, then, does this lead us? The answer is right back to where this nation was founded: in the protection of individual rights and liberties. Why is this true? Ayn Rand answered it best when she rightly pointed out what our founders knew all so well:
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
If we determine that we want our society to protect minorities, then we must protect the individual as being the smallest possible minority in society. Anything else is just as I said: a perversion of liberty and – as such – an absurdity. And though I do not often quote him as I believe his philosophy was counter to the founding philosophy of this nation in the manner by which he sought to achieve his goals, Voltair was correct when he stated:
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
So, what’s it going to be: will you stand up for your neighbor’s rights, or will you allow yourself to become the tool of tyrants?