Blogs > Liberty and Power > Natural, Not National Rights

May 26, 2006 1:43 pm


Natural, Not National Rights



Somewhere in my reading about immigration, someone made the deceptively simple point that it's not immigration we should be talking about but migration. That's another way of saying the focus has been on"us," when it should be on the people coming to the United States. The discussion has proceeded as if they have no rights in the matter but we do. We will let them come here if and only if we have a use for them. And"we" doesn't refer to a group of free individuals, but rather to a collective Borg-like entity with rights superior to any held by its constituents. The collectivist, and therefore statist, nature of the discussion indicates how far we've drifted from our individualist and voluntarist moorings.
Read the rest of my article at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Free Association.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Sheldon Richman - 5/27/2006

I'll leave it to others to decide which label more accurately gets at the essence: illegal alien or independent migrant.


Sudha Shenoy - 5/27/2006

"rights..are not transported...esp. when breaking the law." "..dilution of adherence, gratitude,& loyalty to the land they have [temporarily?] chosen..."

1. The overwhelming bulk of real criminals -- who have attacked the life, liberty & property of others -- are 'native-born' US citizens. They have committed real crimes. How about stripping them of their citizenship? Where's their 'adherence, loyalty,& gratitude to the land' they wetre _born_ in?

2. The overwhelming bulk of 'immigrants' into the US live there _peacefully_. What's more they have _chosen_ to come there. This is a clear & stark demonstration of _non_-adherence, _dis_loyalty, & _in_gratitude, right?

3. The overwhelming bulk of 'welfare' recipients (so-called) are 'nativeborn' US citizens. They, of course, adhere to, are loyal to, & grateful to, their govt for all these handouts.

4. The overwhelming bulk of immigrants into the US _work_ & work _hard_. This demonstrates their _lack_ of adherence, their _dis_loyalty & their _in_gratitude to the country they have _chosen_ to migrate to.


Charles Johnson - 5/27/2006

"But rights,even natural rights, are not packed into one's suitcase and transported from country to country, especially while breaking the law. Distasteful as it may be, and to the extent they're honored, natural rights are protected, recognized, and practiced under the laws and mores of the State, they are not free floating, trans border entities, ..."

Pardon? Of course they are. Part of the concept of a natural right is that it INHERES IN THE INDIVIDUAL wherever she may be, and under whatever conditions; they do NOT derive from the constitution of this or that state to which she may be subject at any particular time. It is precisely for this reason that they are described as "natural," not conventional, civil, or political, rights. If you want to devise a theory of something else that you call "rights," which governments other than the one that claims a particular subject's allegiance are not bound to respect, then you can do so, but you certainly have no basis for confusing the concept of natural rights with whatever it is you're on about.

"It lends itself to the dilution of adherence, gratitude, and loyalty to the land they have, [temporarily?] chosen, ..."

You say that like it's a bad thing.

I happen think that the revolutionary implications of the natural rights doctrine is one of its chief virtues, not one of its vices. Loyalty and gratitude must be earned; they don't just spring up out of the soil. And neither any actually existing State nor any self-appointed representatives of a blood-and-soil ambiguous-collective DESERVE one bit of adherance or loyalty, let alone of gratitude, if they go around invading the natural rights of people who have done no violence to person or property.


john j trainor - 5/27/2006

I propose that a rose by any other name is a rose. Change the nemae of a thing and you don't change it's essence.


john j trainor - 5/27/2006

Perhaps you should read "The Bill of Things Not Linked".
Sorry Chris, but the whole historical argument in favor of natural rights is made vis a vis government, and I might add, centerd on an understanding that nations/governments presume boundries and therfore citizenship.


Sheldon Richman - 5/27/2006

Agreed, Keith. And there is no obligation to obey an unjust law. The conservatives' demagoguery about "illegal aliens" is repulsive. Independent migrants are people who have stepped across a line defined by governments. How is that a crime in any objective moral sense? The American colonists that the conservatives claim to admire were proud smugglers, law-breakers. They tarred and feathered customs officials. They were also tax-resisters. Limbaugh and his loud-mouthed friends have shown themselves to be morally bankrupt. They have nothing worthwhile to say.


Keith Halderman - 5/26/2006

Personally I have always had a problem with the idea that someone is a criminal simply for existing in a particular space. Where is the intention to harm someone else? If 10 million people are violating a law maybe the prolem is not with them, maybe the problem is with the law.


Sheldon Richman - 5/26/2006

I propose that in lieu of the term illegal alien all lovers of liberty should use independent migrant.


chris l pettit - 5/26/2006

Rights are not linked to governments...and are the essential underpinnings of law as located in human dignity, equality and justice. As such, the right to freedom of movement is a key compnent of the right to life and an adequate standard of living (as identified by core minimum standards in international law).

Positivists are the scholars who deal with "rights" in context of government and "enforcement." In reality, law and rights exit the discussion, to be replaced by power relationships and the power of the "state," moral entrepreneurs, politicians, etc. FOr as much as the libertarian viewpoint is hopelssly incorrect in identifying rights as purely individual, as incorrect is the viewpoint that rights somehow gain their authority from power relationships instead of vesting in the common humanity that science demonstrates we all share. Nationalism is simply a new religion (READ: disease) to take the place of monarchs who can speak to god. Rights exist as individual entities WITHIN a communal context. They are interrelated and inclusive...and include economic social and cultural rights as well as civil and political ones (much to the chagrin of libertarians). If one constricts them to civil and political rights, one becomes as statist and power ideological as the positivists and statists that one complains about.

Bottom line...there should be no immigration laws whatsoever. Ideally, the rush of immigrants would cause the US to rethink its economic policies in dealing with the world and further the cause of rights and the rule of law based in dignity, equality and justice. Immigrants take US jobs? Good...forget your narrow minded ideology. Unfortunately, this would involve ending corporate welfare and actually having a judiciary that could enforce rights (including many of those that libertarians would not like that involve actually dealing with historical and social inequalities instead of burying our ostrich heads in belief in "the market").

So Mr. Trainor needs to reform his idea of rights theory and where they truly derive from in order to not be completely hypocritical...and while Sheldon's post has a good deal of anti-statist points that I find very useful...his usual overeliance on the "individualist" argument makes his quality statements lose much of their credibility and clout due to the fundamental flaws in his own position.

CP


john j trainor - 5/26/2006

The premise of the post is that non-citizens have the same, or nearly the same, rights as citizens. This has validity insofar as the persons involved have alien ID and have entered the country legally. But rights,even natural rights, are not packed into one's suitcase and transported from country to country, especially while breaking the law.
Distasteful as it may be, and to the extent they're honored, natural rights are protected, recognized, and practiced under the laws and mores of the State, they are not free floating, trans border entities,
Borders entail citizenship and vice versa, given certain requisites they are as much natural as natural rights and are in fact part and parcel of the structure of rights.
To assume transportability and equality of status is to remove from discussion the relation of rights to government and law, weaken the concept of citizenship, and give the migrants a claim on any country they can sneak into. It lends itself to the dilution of adherence, gratitude, and loyalty to the land they have, [temporarily?] chosen, thereby providing at least an impetus to rootlessness while adding another log to the fire of nihilism.
As if we don't have enough of the latter at present.

Subscribe to our mailing list