In the current climate, implicit rights that were once easily accepted have fallen by the wayside.
Two decades ago, if we had known the government would have the right to listen to all of our telephone calls, or control whether we can dig a well, or what color to paint a house, we would have screamed and resisted. Snooping on telephone calls was rare (except when I was 9 years old on our “party line” in the country); wells were seen as necessities and color control for houses was something seen only in the occasional nationally important historic district or special resort city.
The Bill of Rights would seem to protect us from a nanny government; if applied in a way that was faithful to the original intent. But as courts and government rulings have chipped away at enumerated rights, we have lost independence to the bureaucrats.
To bring us these rights back, we of course need to be vigilant, and observe the work of groups that fight to uphold the constitution, whether liberal or conservative. But more is needed.
The Constitution is clear; our rights do not end with the Constitution. Rights that are not enumerated are still not given to the government, a result of the 10th Amendment, which states the U.S. government only has powers in the Constitution that are stated.
Nevertheless, our society has in practice, largely forgotten this, and a federal government is now deciding what children eat at school, whether a tree or bush can be removed and how one interacts with their physician. And so we must go back and define rights for our time. In the Colonial era, early founders specified that the government could not quarter troops at a private home; today this would not even be a worry. But it is still on the books.
So today, what are the rights that we are worried about? How can we still remain free, yet accept our United States government as valid. To do this, we will need to state clearly what our rights are, even if some rights seem obvious.
Each of the below rights has extremes that do not diminish the basic right. For instance, a right to water does not mean one has the right to a complete aquifer that might water a private golf course. So just as one can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, one can’t snap up all the water or incinerate trash in Manhattan.
Some rights listed below are expanded from our current understanding. For instance, we currently accept taxation on gifts. However, this taxing practice has been abused by the government, applied unevenly and injudiciously, and contrary to good sense. And so we as a people now must reign that power in and take it back from the government, as is our right.
The discussion of whether to make civil disobedience at these laws is a personal one. A family who decides to have a fire in the fireplace when local rules restrict, or dig a well when city water is forced upon a residence, must weigh the personal cost of disobedience. In most cases, it won’t be worth it. However, as we re-establish these rights in the public mind and culture, perhaps carefully planned disobedience efforts could strategically force the courts to begin to act in favor of freedom.
This all being said, with these rights come responsibilities, and often, governments get aggressive with power precisely because people have failed to do something.
- A Right to Water: A citizen has the right to the water that rains upon his property. A citizen has the right to a reasonable use of ground water for personal use without the payment of fees and mandates. Concurrent to the right to water is the right to own plumbing fixtures that are of one’s own choosing. The bureaucratic “low flush” toilet and lame shower head means that often, we just flush twice.
- A Right to Fire: A citizen has the right to burn a fire in a fireplace, in yards safely in order to cook, keep warm and manage yard waste. Concurrent is the right to the light bulbs of our choosing. In the last decade, bureaucrats have regulated out of existence the cheap, landfill-safe lightbulbs we all loved.
- A Right to Exist: Citizens may be taxed on money and property, at a rate derived by the vote of duly elected representatives or by plebiscite. Citizens who choose to reduce consumption or production do not have to pay taxes to merely exist.
- A Right to the Night: Citizens have the absolute right to quiet at night, and peace by day.
- A Right to Animals: Citizens generally have the right to keep domesticated animals for food, health and safety. This right is tempered, however, by the rights of neighbors who also have equal rights to clean smelling air, safe rain runoff and reasonable demands for quiet. There are no rights to exotic, dangerous, ornamental or non-native animals; the ownership of these creatures, particularly in metropolitan areas, can affect the lives of others and so must be regulated to a common comfort level.
- A Right to Energy: Individuals have the right to live with the energy source they choose. Building codes and utility rules that restrict off-grid energy use, compel grid connections, push citizens away from fuels or regulate fire and heating are contrary to the freedom we expect in a democracy.
- A Right to Trade: Citizens who trade with neighbors for basic sustenance and family living have the absolute right to trade without tax, as long as there is no currency intermediary or third party. Once intermediaries or third parties are involved, the trade becomes commerce.
- A Right to Nationhood: Increasingly, trade agreements have been used to force other nations to subscribe to external laws. Any law enacted or proposed merely because of trade agreements must be considered suspect at face and in such a law, proponents have the burden of proving the law’s benefit to citizens.
- A Right to Sustenance: The basic items of food are a survival need of every citizen. Any regressive tax that discourages the ability of every income to purchase basic items of food is not only exploitative but contrary to good social policy that allows every person, no matter their income, the simple dignity of supporting themselves. This also goes to hunting and fishing. It is egregious that a tribe is allowed to kill an endangered whale, yet poor citizens must be licensed to fish for their personal needs.
- The Right to Possess: The idea of copyright was allowed to encourage the production of creative works, and allow for the profit on ideas and thought. Copyright was not, however, about servitude and policies. Contracts that retroactively restrict the ownership of items that had heretofore been sold are contrary to previous contracts between owners and creators. Copyright has also been extended repeatedly to the benefit of only a few large multinational corporations. Copyright must be rolled back, and
- The Right to Shelter: Land is finite, and in a capitalist society, sacred. Throughout history, different nationalities have lived comfortably in every manner and style of building, including tents, shelters, caves, castles and manors. Citizens have the right to build and liven on their own property for personal use, in their manner of living so long as the creation of the dwelling is not for corporate profit. Zoning ordinances that restrict this right are contrary to the provision that each individual has a right to his own personal safety and protection in a manner so which they choose.
- The Right to Husband Land: Environmental laws were passed because people were not good stewards of their land. But they have gone too far, and protecting property from nature is sometimes too difficult. People have a right to improve their land and their access to it, including drainage, erosion and navigation. Of course this right is shared with neighbors and the larger community, but in its most basic sense, people have a right to make decisions about their own land.
- The Right to Make a Living: Laws and private agreements that restrict lawful, safe and clean use of personal property for making a living are contrary to the core needs of a Free People.
- The Right to English Common Law: These rights build upon core values of centuries of English common law. Concepts like a Public Nuisance are a core concept in governing how individuals live within a community. These values are not universal, and take on different meanings within different communities.
- A Right to Citizenship: We all have rights given to us by our creator. However, each citizen of a country has privileges and rights that are reserved for citizens of legal age. Any law, enforcement regime or forgiveness program that restricts citizens and gives more rights to non-citizens is antithetical to the purpose of a duly elected government.