What “rights”? What is it that you’ve lost?

It always stumps me when libertarians say things like this:

SPARTANBURG — Madison Evans cupped her cell phone with her sparkly blue fingernails and shot photos of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas during a campaign stop here Tuesday.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen him, and it’s awesome,” said Evans, a 20-year-old Greenville waitress, subtly bouncing on her tiptoes with excitement.

“We young people are awake,” said Evans, who posts articles about the long-shot Republican presidential candidate on Facebook daily. “We are all a big family when it comes to Paul. He’s talking about peace. He’s talking about giving us back our rights that have been stripped from us.”

Let’s run that last bit again:

He’s talking about giving us back our rights that have been stripped from us.

Say what? I have no idea what she’s talking about. What rights? What happened? Who’s bothering you now, dear?

This is why I’m not a libertarian. These things that bother them so much are not even visible to me. I don’t feel harried, picked on, bullied. Government in no way threatens me. I marvel at these people (the Paulistas) who think it threatens THEM. People who don’t get it that they are the government, who instead see as something OUT THERE menacing them.

I ask again, what rights that have been stripped from you? What is that you used to have, and don’t have now? To me, that sort of statement demands explication, but to Paulistas, it’s just an article of faith. They don’t have to explain, because they all FEEL it. They are put-upon, picked on, by the big, bad “they” out there.

And I don’t know what the stimulus is that provokes that response.

53 thoughts on “What “rights”? What is it that you’ve lost?

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    The right to be free from warrantless wiretaps? The Patriot Act, so-called, did strip some rights–you may not care about them, but they did take a hit.

    The right to be free from health insurance (oiks!)?

  2. Brad

    Maybe it would help me if I knew exactly how the Patriot Act affected young Ms. Evans’ life. What did she used to do, that she can’t do now?

  3. `Kathryn Fenner

    Ms Evans is not the best example. I was answering the question of what rights have been lost.

    Who knows–maybe she needs telephone privacy. The thing is, no one should have to specify which rights they need–self-incrimination, say–why would you need it unless you are guilty? Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no?

  4. Brad

    First, she used a first-person possessive — our rights, meaning that she is a member of the set of oppressed people.

    Second, per contra, counselor: If you are advocating that people vote for Ron Paul on the basis of your assertion, you should explain the basis.

    These people are advocating a radical remedy for a non-existent problem. It’s up to them to prove the problem exists.

    Libertarians are running our state. Or perhaps I should say, un-running it; destroying our civil institutions through malign neglect. I think it’s time they started backing up their assertions.

  5. bud

    Right to:
    injest into one’s body whatever one chooses, especially relatively harmless substances such as marijuana

    die with dignity whenever one so chooses

    talk on a phone free from the threat of wiretapping

    play video poker or any other game of one’s choosing

    choose a marital partner of the same gender is one so desires

    engage in any consensual sexual activity free from government intervention, including acts of prostitution, sodomy and others, provided the participants are all adults

    be free of the requirement for military draft and draft registration

    not be forced to pay for military actions that are not required for the defense of this country

  6. `Kathryn Fenner

    As I said, I was not responding to Ms Evans, but to you, but still, just because you don’t currently depend on, say, your right to an attorney, doesn’t mean you don’t have it or that it doesn’t have value to you.

    I’m no fan of libertarianism–quite the opposite–like you I am a strong communitarian, but I am also a fan of civil liberties. Two different things, if slightly overlapping.

  7. bud

    These people are advocating a radical remedy for a non-existent problem.

    You can only make that claim because the stuff you like to do (attend Rotary, join the Catholic Church, drink coffee at Starbucks) are legal and likely to remain so. For others, the stuff they like to do is subject to draconian laws that could land them in jail. Just ask Michael Phelps. Great athelete who endured a ridiculous ordeal at the hands of Sheriff Lott. What crime did Phelps commit? Apparently nothing that prevented him from winning a ton of Olympic gold medals.

    This is where Ron Paul is very appealing as a presidential candidate. He clearly understands the urgent need to address the growing problem of government infringing on our freedoms. The folks at Wikipedia understand this and are courageously fighting to keep one of our freedoms intact. If we bow to the temptation presented by the communitarian usurpers of our freedom we will soon find out there is no one left to defend what we like to do. And by then it will be too late.

    And that’s why, in spite of the many misgivings I have about his ability to manage our economy, I will enthusiastically vote for Ron Paul on Saturday.

  8. Brad

    Answers to Bud’s lost rights:
    — you never had that right, nor should you. People going around f’ed up on mind-altering substances are a hazard to others.
    — Suicide has never been legal, and shouldn’t be. Not a “right” you’ve lost.
    — This is the one that we could debate all day. I feel quite confident that you and that young lady are free to blab all you want without anyone listening. But that’s not enough for you. I get that. I just disagree.
    — You have a computer, don’t you?
    — Have any sort of relationship with anyone that you choose. You are freer to do that than at any time in the history of the country. Again, we could debate all day, but one fact remains. If anyone is being denied a “right” (which they’re not), it’s not a right they’ve LOST, because they never had it.
    — This is based in the fantasy that prostitution, for instance, is a “victimless crime.” But in any case, it is as available and as legal as it ever was.
    — Again, I could explain to you why registration is not a burden, but one is now more free from the Selective Service System, or as free as anyone has been from it, in living history. And certainly freer than during the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. There have definitely been no new requirements during that young lady’s life, or yours.
    — Finally, we come to the greatest misconception that libertarians harbor: That “consent of the governed” means that every single individual has to give his person consent to every single action that government takes in our representative democracy. Which, of course, describes anarchy. And no one has had the liberty you seek in the history of viable nation-states.

  9. Doug Ross

    Good list, bud.

    How about the right to buy a shirt on Sunday morning?

    How about the right to say whatever word I want to in a park in Columbia?

    What about the right to decide how I save for retirement and how I want to spend my own income? 13% of my earnings for 40 years will be taken from me to give to others in the way that others decide to use it. I have no access to that money, no claim to it when I die.

  10. Doug Ross


    As for your comment that this state is run by libertarians, that may be the most comical statement you’ve ever made. Where’s all the money going, then? Spending has increased every year except for one or two during the recession.

    We are run by a bunch of good old boys who use their power to get rich. That is so anti-libertarian, it isn’t funny.

    I think you’re just getting perturbed that Ron Paul isn’t going away like you’d like him to. You lost the “crazy uncle” theme a long time ago…

  11. Doug Ross


    I hope you will never alter your mind with any alcohol.

    Is there a law against assisted suicide? If there is then that means it was legal at one point.

    You do know the government has people/computers monitoring twitter/facebook/etc. all day long, looking for certain phrases?

    There are laws that prevent two same sex adults from having hospital visitation and medical decision making, adopt children, and on and on. Those laws were created specifically to remove rights from a certain class of people.

  12. Doug Ross

    I once could drive a car without wearing a seatbelt without the fear of getting pulled over by a cop.

    I once could go to the doctor without filling out a bunch of forms that the government feels are necessary to protect me. The same forms that made it more difficult to deal with doctors when caring for mt wife’s father who had Alzheimers.

    I once could buy a Coke from a vending machine in a school.

    I once could walk into a public school without having to scan my drivers license into a computer.

    I once could go play with my kids on a public baseball field before rules were put in place and fences installed around every school.

  13. bud

    That’s easy. Just a few years ago I could play video poker right here in Columbia and it was completely legal. I used to be able to buy certain cold medicines over the counter, but now I have to buy it from the pharmicist and sign a waiver. When I was 18 I could buy beer legally. My 20 year old twins don’t have that privelage. There was a time that I was required to drive my car on the interstate at 55 mph. That could return anytime at the whim of the government. I have to wear a seatbelt now when I didn’t have to as a young man.

  14. Doug Ross

    Take Social Security and Medicare as prime examples. I have no right to opt out of either, no control over how much of my income goes to either program. There is no Constitutional basis for either program. They exist by force, not by choice.

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    – you never had that right, nor should you. People going around f’ed up on mind-altering substances are a hazard to others.

    This from a man with a beer fridge?

    Rights are kind of like the “wilderness in Montana” we heard about in law school. You may never go there, but there’s some comfort in knowing it’s there.

  16. bud

    Actually Michael Phelps “crime” was being in possession of a bong. Drug paraphenalia (not the drugs themselves) was legal until sometime in the 80s. So why is a pipe shaped like a pipe legal but a pipe shaped like a cannister vaccum cleaner illegal?

  17. Kevin

    The only thing more cliche than someone saying “Obama/Washington has taken my rights away” is someone responding to that assertion with the standard reactionary “what rights? what happened? huh? huh?”

    It’s like the 20-year old girl who goes to an Obama rally in 2008 and is quoted by a reporter as saying she really likes Obama because he wants to “restore hope” and “bring the change this country needs” – and some righty blogger somewhere proceeds to berate her online with the standard “what change? what does that mean? change what? huh? huh?”

    Man these trite little back-and-forths get old in politics.

  18. Karen McLeod

    Brad. I haven’t lost any rights. Would it be Ok if the gov’t revoked the first amendment as long as they didn’t bother you? (eg. no freedom of religion, Roman Catholicism for all?)

    If it’s a freedom you enjoy, that the gov’t can now take from you (like phone privacy, or the right to trial by jury) then that right is lost.

  19. Brad

    I’m perturbed that I actually live under a government crippled by their fantasies. Which is why I challenge the fantasy.

    And you really haven’t been paying attention if you haven’t noticed that hatred of government and allergy to taxes have ruled this state for the last couple of decades, and had a big effect before that.

    South Carolinians have been held back our entire history by a belief that a big, bad government is picking on them. How did the slaveholding class sucker all those poor whites into fighting a war for them so they could keep their slaves? Simple: They told them that the big, mean, federal government was trying tell them what to do.

    This attitude has held us back, and wasted vast amounts of political energy, for too long.

  20. Brad

    I’ve seen one thing asserted as a “loss” that I agree with… HIPAA.

    But you know why we have to endure that irritation? Because people who felt they didn’t have enough “right to privacy” wanted the government to expand and protect that right — no matter how much pointless paperwork it created, or how it impeded the free flow of (potentially life-saving) information.

  21. bud

    Let’s turn this around. In what way is our government “crippled by their fantasies”? What are you missing that is a direct result of an “allergy to taxes”? Until very recently I couldn’t buy beer on Sunday and that felt pretty crippling but that was because of government intrusion NOT libertarian fantasies.

  22. `Kathryn Fenner

    re: “profanity in city parks”–that’s probably not a right you’ve lost, but you’d have to go to court to prove it.

    Brad– You have asthma and allergies–and you’re very public about that, but many people have ailments that unfairly impede their ability to be employed, and so on. Mental illness carries a significant stigma, and we do not want to discourage people from being treated just because they may become permanently unemployable.

  23. bud

    Rights are something we have to fight for constantly. Government exists to a large extent because to function it necessarily has to take away rights. To fight a war it may be necessary to take away a young man’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That may be necessary but it’s something that should never be taken lightly. To keep our air clean it may be necessary to deny a power plant it’s right to pump toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. In order to maintain safe roads laws are put in place to deny driving privelages to those who are intoxicated.

    But whenever a right is taken away it should be done so with careful deliberation and at times heated discussion. At other times the cost of denying the right is just too high a price to pay for the allged benefits. The Patriot Act seems to fall in that category. Other laws cannot be justified simply because they are an onerous attempt to usurp a given freedom for no particular reason other than a particular lawmaker thinks its a good idea and he is able to persuade others of the same. Blue Laws fall into that category.

    Rights are so precious and to deny them willy nilly as has happened so often we risk losing all that is near and dear to us. We must not cavalierly relinquish our rights because some legislator thinks it’s a good thing or because it may make one of his buddys rich.

    And this is where I strongly disagree with Brad. He suggests that few if any rights are at risk today. Rather he argues that libertarian thinking is the greater risk. To that I say not just no but HELL no! Or perhaps I should just say nuts.

  24. Doug Ross

    The best part of this is knowing that the view about government intervention in our lives being too much is the majority view. You’re in the “crazy uncle” category on this one, Brad.

  25. David

    I think this post is very useful in showing how often in our political discourse a minor detail or occurance (or threat of an occurance) becomes the end of the world as we know it. It’s why the phrase “War on Religion” exists. And the idea of President Obama “putting free markets on trial”. A top federal marginal income tax rate of 35% is tolerable but 39.6% is tyranny. Perhaps more people should ask themselves if what they are saying is intended to be a factual statement.

    I share your frustration.

  26. Brad

    There is absolutely NO doubt that on the Internet, libertarianism prevails. As it does in South Carolina politics.

    There are an awful lot of wrong people in this world.

    Is there an emoticon that is sort of a smiley face, but sort of serious? Imagine that after that last paragraph…

  27. Tim

    The idea of Rights are a convenient fiction. Anything anyone can take away from you if they have enough votes makes them privileges, not rights.

    As for the Bill of Rights, it protects your right to not have soldiers sleep at your house. In 215 years, there has not been a single supreme court case testing the notion, so how critical is it that we enshrined it? And for many who were alive when the BoR was written, it wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit. They didn’t have the ‘right’ to their own lives. And for all practical purposes, there was no first amendment protections for anyone until early in the 20th Century. And Brad, you must recall that in this state, reporters were sent to jail for protecting their right to keep sources confidential. Rights, as such, aren’t sacred, they are allowed by humans.

  28. Brad

    Yes, David. Another way to put it is that we’re moaning about “White People Problems.” I wonder how these folks would react to actual tyranny or oppression.

    As for Bud’s last assertion: “Or perhaps I should just say nuts.”

    Thank you, Gen. McAuliffe. I’d give a link for those who don’t know who Gen. McAuliffe is, but WIKIPEDIA IS DOWN TODAY!!!!

    Yet another white people’s problem…

  29. Mark Stewart

    One right in this state clearly has been trambled upon for decades: It is that no citizen of this state should have to walk under the symbol of slave-holding revolt to enter the Capital. That is an affront to everyone’s liberty, whether one can admit it or not.

  30. Brad

    That “rats” quote was the first thing I thought of when I read that Paulista quote this morning. But I’ve written a post based on that quote before, and didn’t want to seem to be repeating myself.

    I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one thinking that…

  31. Steve Gordy

    I try to be charitable when I hear comments from my students that sound like the young waitress. If there’s any advantage to getting old, it’s the ability to smile inwardly and think, “Just wait ’til life kicks you around some more, honey. Then you’ll understand.”

  32. Silence

    1) I’ll stop complaining about taxes when the government stops wasting my “contribution.”

    2) Nobody (or no government) has the right to own another person, be they a citizen or slave.

    3) Nobody has the right to the fruits of my labors, without my consent. A capitalist creates capital through his efforts, just as an artist creates art, or a musician creates music. The government doesn’t take 1/2 of the music or artwork….

  33. bud

    Tim hit on something very interesting. What we call “rights” are really just dressed up privelages. Which is all the more reason to wage war against anyone who would usurp those “rights”. Not sure why Brad and others are so cavilier about this. If history teaches us anything it’s that tyranny can creep up on you without warning. Vigilance is the enemy of tyranny, while indifference is it’s ally.

  34. Silence

    Here’s some: How about freedom to enter into a contract? I read in today’s USA Today that HUD is close to a deal with mortgage servicers to reduce the principal balance for up to 1 million borrowers. Those people entered into a contract and should pay every cent that they are supposed to pay, not go crying about it to the government, who will then go and strongarm lenders on their behalf.

    Continuing on the freedom to contract theme: Minimum wage laws, and laws that require employers to provide certain benefits also abolish an individual’s freedom to contract.

  35. Libb

    The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) of 2012 was quietly, and without any coverage by the MSM, signed into law on New Year’s Eve. I am not comfortable with the expanded indefinite detention provisions that give the military exclusive rights to handle such detentions. The loopchasm (thank you, Stephen Colbert) wording in this Act opens an ambiguous legal barn door with the very real ability to stampede over our rights of due process and habeas corpus.

    And, according to Matt Taibbi, our own illustrious Lindsey Graham doesn’t seem to mind that it could be used against US citizens:

    “One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law “basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and that people can be jailed without trial, be they “American citizen or not.””

    I understand that it is “terrorist” specific in its intent but the language in the Act doesn’t specify whether US citizens (think Occupiers) might be labeled “terrorists” and held under this kind of military authority with their rights suspended and this is most troublesome.


  36. Susanna K.

    I am surprised no one has mentioned the big one yet: property. Ron Paul himself said America is all about the right to “Life, Liberty, and Property.”

    This is where the hatred for the EPA and DOE come from. I’ve read of people becoming Libertarians when they discovered that they weren’t allowed to develop or pollute their own property because of laws designed to promote the general welfare.

    I myself am not Libertarian, but know people who are.

  37. Brad

    And “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”

    John Donne, the Shakespeare of communitarianism.

    But perhaps with this crowd of primary candidates, it’s best not to mention Europe…

    And no comment as to whom I was thinking of when I typed “clod…”

  38. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Silence: To paraphrase: Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

    Actually, the government totally has the right to take the “fruits of your labor”–in part to pay for the conditions that make harvesting the fruit possible and to keep others from helping themselves to your orchard, etc. No man is an island unto himself.

  39. `Kathryn Fenner

    And libertarians are usually not happy when a hog lagoon is proposed to be built next door, I find.

  40. Doug Ross

    “. I’ve read of people becoming Libertarians when they discovered that they weren’t allowed to develop or pollute their own property because of laws designed to promote the general welfare.”

    Please, please, post a reference to where you read this.

  41. Doug Ross


    Was it near the part where I read somewhere that communitarians join in order to get others to do their work for them? I swear I read that somewhere.

  42. `Kathryn Fenner

    as I said on this very blog, Doug–I welcome the Walmart and have taken guff from my peeps for it. The adult store is probably a better choice for that ‘hood than a bar–I’m not overly worried about someone driving “porned.” The paint color was unfortunate, but unless people pass appearance standards, tough cookies.

    I do hate it when people ascribe positions to me that I do not hold.

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