The Right to be Left Alone

In the exercise of logic and reason, a thing either is or it is not. That is the root of the concept of positive and negative rights. A positive right is a right that obliges action; a negative right implies the converse – no action.

For example, the First Amendment of our Constitution forbids government from some actions that create positive rights for American citizens:

“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.”

The concept of negative rights implies that while we do have a positive Constitutional right to free speech, we also have the negative right to not listen to speech of others, to essentially ignore them. Government cannot force us to listen, read, view or attend mandatory “educational” sessions of propaganda – although federally mandated public school policies like those of Common Core, the war on charter schools and home schooling are coming frighteningly close to a coercive breach of free speech and freedom of association.

While the United States Constitution’s First Amendment identifies the rights to assemble and to petition the government, the text of the First Amendment does not make specific mention of a right to association but the Warren Court held in 1958’s case, NAACP v. Alabama, that the freedom of association is an essential part of freedom of speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others.

If a negative right is one where it is understood that it requires no action, would it also not follow that we have a right to be left alone? If we have an affirmative right of free association, would it not also follow that we have the same negative right to NOT associate with others who do not share our views?

Does the government have the ability to force people to associate with groups they disagree with?

In NAACP v. Alabama the State of Alabama was attempting to force the NAACP to disclose their membership list in order to intimidate them from conducting activities in the state. SOCTUS found for the petitioner, Justice John Harlan II writing:

“Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner’s membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner’s members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment” and, further, that freedom to associate with organizations dedicated to the “advancement of beliefs and ideas” is an inseparable part of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The action of the state’s obtaining the names of the Association’s membership would likely interfere with the free association of its members, so the state’s interest in obtaining the records was superseded by the constitutional rights of the petitioners.”

This is a case that will likely be invoked in the IRS suits where they attempted to force the Tea Party groups to submit membership and donor lists as part of the approval process.

The whole point of this is to note that we actually do have an established right to be left alone and there is a mountain of case law to support that right – but as America becomes more and more collectivist, the right to be left alone and secure in your person is being steadily eroded. This is my main issue with Common Core in our schools, which it is a central planning exercise with our kids, run from Washington without the individual parents having the choice to opt out. Common Core’s goal is not knowledge; it is standardization, yet another communist goal.

When government with a collectivist twist is prosecuted on a people, it is inevitable that individuals and groups of individuals will be forced to associate with individuals with whom they do not agree. That “forced equality” is the very basis of the communist ideal and exactly what the Democrats mean when they use the term “equality” paired with any other noun, verb, adverb or adjective.

4 thoughts on “The Right to be Left Alone

  1. Excellent Utah !! You wrote another post wherein there was a line I thought should be on Billboards because it was so true…so succinct ! Here is another one which should be on BillBoards across this country.

    “… Government cannot force us to listen, read, view or attend mandatory “educational” sessions of propaganda – although federally mandated public school policies like those of Common Core, the war on charter schools and home schooling are coming frighteningly close to a coercive breach of free speech and freedom of association….. ”

    This and the one before are rallying statements………….. Well Done.

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