Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wrong Turn on Rights

Anything carried too far becomes annoying at the least and very dangerous at the extreme. This truth, easily come to after rational observation and experiment, is often lost sight of by a humanity that really loves to overdo anything whenever it can. People often confuse their inability to control their destructive habits and passions with what they think of as their rights. Crude wants are not rights.

Despite their well-funded and emotionally extreme claims, organizations do not have rights. Only individuals do. States do not, despite two hundred years' worth of yelling about them; they have powers and obligations. At the height of the post-Civil War domination of the nation by business and its vanguard, the Republican party, in 1886, the misnamed Supreme Court established (in Santa Clara County V. Southern Pacific Railroad) that corporations are persons under the Fourteenth Amendment and had the same rights as their shareholders did individually. This monumental sea change which radically redirected the course of the United States and the lives of its unfortunate citizens is said to have actually been the result of an intentional misrepresentation inserted into the Court record by a reporter who as a former railroad president. In all this long while, this has never been corrected; once big business had its boot on our necks it was not about to remove it. The 2010 Citizens United decision confirmed this all-encompassing power by removing any limit on corporate funding in politics, once again hitting the "rights" note: any such restraint, they said, violated big business' First Amendment right of free speech. Bags of money do not constitute speech.

So corporate giants and monopolies now had the rights of individuals (the only place they should reside) but almost none of the obligations. When a person exercises power any way he chooses without regard to consequence, we call him a sociopath. This development was foreseen and feared by leaders such as Jefferson and Eisenhower; the latter must have felt like Cassandra.

On an everyday level, the same assertions of a right to misbehave and make others miserable or put them in danger occur. When their noise or careless action affects others and deprives those others of their rights to peace, security and safety, the line has been crossed from right to wrong. Like a boundary fence, your rights end where mine begin, and vice versa. Our cult of unthinking and egocentric individualism is as distasteful as its opposite, regimented totalitarianism. It is the tyranny of one.

1 comment:

  1. Government makes the laws that rule business for the good of the people, but are elected by the money of the business they set laws to and the power of the people is in theory. So for self existence and happiness, keep your head low, pay your taxes, and enjoy the freedom of not having bombs drop on your head.