Press release: Group rights are a dangerous illusion

Op Ed: Group rights are a dangerous illusion

If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one – if he had the power – would be justified in silencing mankind.
– John Stuart Mill

By R. Lee Wrights

BURNET, Texas (June 12) – It is popular and expedient in politics to champion taxpayer rights, state’s rights, patient rights, gay rights, people-with-disabilities rights, even animal rights. Name any group, or make one up, and undoubtedly someone will advocate for that group’s “rights.” The problem is – there is no such thing as “group rights.” Group rights are an illusion conjured up by politicians and special interests to increase their influence and power.

The simple, basic truth is that all rights belong to the individual. You are born with your rights and no power on earth can take them away from you. You cannot give your rights away. They end only when you die, and not a split-second sooner. Individual rights cannot be divided or multiplied; and, individual rights are superior to any other claimed rights. Individual rights mean you can adopt whatever culture you want and live any lifestyle you choose to live. We have the individual right to worship or not worship whatever god we want without interference from anyone else, so long as we do not interfere with the rights of other individuals to do the same. It is the fundamental and universal concept recognized by our nation’s Founders. As a result of this recognition, the superiority of individual rights became the foundation of the United States government.

The view that our rights are granted to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is equally incorrect and dangerous. As important and eloquently written as these two documents are, they grant us nothing. America’s founding documents merely recognized, and seek to guarantee the recognition, of the individual human rights shared by all of mankind. The Bill of Rights does not declare human rights are valid from a set date forward. The Bill of Rights is a proclamation to the world of something that has always been… the sanctity, superiority and supremacy of individual human rights. The Constitution is to serve as a warrantee of those rights, not a grant of privilege that allows us to embrace and enjoy them.

Individual rights are the “self-evident truths” Thomas Jefferson wrote about when he penned the words in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He was not expressing any new ideas or concepts. He was telling people something that had always been. Individuals have rights by birth that cannot be given or taken away.

Two people, 200 people, 2 million people, even the world’s populations combined do not have more rights than one person. There are no such things as “state’s rights,” there are only human rights possessed by people individually from birth. A “state” may have more influence, more power, and theoretically, a greater ability to protect individual rights. There is certainly strength in numbers, as they say. Labor unions have proven that numbers mean power in politics. But no group of individuals has more rights than any one individual, nor do groups acquire special rights by being organized.

Power and rights are simply not the same thing. The individual right to freedom of association allows people to band together to protect their individual rights. Such associations can become agencies designed to control, limit, restrict or even abolish the individual rights of people who don’t belong to that group. However, even if they are successful, any law that suppresses the rights of individuals can be nullified by the people.

As Jefferson wrote, “…law is often but the tyrant’s will and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” It makes no difference if that tyrant is a single person or a group of people united under common cause. The rights of the many are never greater, can never be greater, than the rights of the few, or even the one. If we accept the illusion of group rights, we also accept the legitimacy of tyranny. That is why when it comes to human rights, no number is greater than one.

R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.


Brian Irving, Press Secretary