So, I’m sitting in a conference with a group of History teachers and we’re discussing the Constitution. A lady sitting next to me says, “I’m against any amendment that takes away a right from someone else.” On the surface, that sounds like a statement that would rally people and influence them to support her. But, let’s examine that statement a little further…
My first question is this: What is a “right”? Are we talking about John Locke’s basic human rights of life, liberty, and property? If that’s true, wouldn’t ANY law passed infringe on the “right” of somebody?
The answer is yes, of course. Americans love to throw around the word “rights.” It makes us feel good to say that we have rights that are protected by the Constitution. It makes us feel self-righteous, and consequently on the “right” side, when we claim someone’s rights are being violated and that it isn’t fair.
So, is it possible to pass a law that doesn’t infringe on someone’s right to liberty? Of course not. Every law passed is going to take away the freedom of someone to do something. In most cases, that’s a good thing. We want laws that protect our property. We want laws that make sure businesses act ethically. We want laws that protect our way of life.
What happens when our way of life takes away the liberty of others? Can we make the argument that it should be protected? If that were true, there would be all kinds of people who still wouldn’t be able to vote, so that can’t be right. I guess what it comes down to then is this: Whose liberty is more important? Who deserves to be protected under the law? Is there a right answer to that question?
Probably not. But while the conversation continues over laws in this country that should or should not be passed, let’s remember that blanket statements like “Let’s make sure we don’t take away anyone’s rights” is not a well-thought out argument. Someone’s going to lose a “right” somehow.
And if that’s the case, we need to make sure we examine our thinking before we speak…