Where do government rights come from (morally)?

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by kazenatsu, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Can terrorists and criminals be a government, or even a democracy? Or when they constitute a government do they hold some sort of mandate?

    This is a ethical/moral philosophical question having to do with natural rights.

    What exactly is it that gives someone the right to trespass onto the natural rights of others (as a government is entitled to do)?

    This is a very central question in political theory, or as far as normative political theory goes (i.e. what should be).

    In the Judeo-Christian perspective, the fact that someone was a king was a manifest sign that they had been appointed by God, in some sense, to be king, even if their rule was not altogether righteous and they did evil (which was frequently the case). The people had a duty, both temporal and moral, to be obedient to the king (with some exceptions when it involved something personally immoral or was incompatible with their duty to God).
    Obviously someone could not remain king if God did not allow it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  2. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with the premise of the question. Governments do not have rights, and they certainly don't have the right to trespass on the natural rights of individuals. Only individuals have rights, not governments. Governments are only legitimate when they govern with the consent of the governed, and when they trespass on the rights of the people, it is the people's right to reform or abolish them. To suggest that a government has any rights would give it equal or greater standing than the people it governs, and that is dangerous and wrong.
     
  3. WillReadmore

    WillReadmore Well-Known Member

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    Amen.

    And, we should have thought about that when we (or some) decided that corporations have human rights.
     
  4. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member

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    Realistically speaking- the government can do whatever it can get away with. That's all there is to it. Legitimacy is defined by The Peoples will and ability to resist. If few can or will resist an agenda, then it is legitimate. If many can and will resist, then its not. Its all about what we'll fight for and what we won't.
     
  5. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    Silly. No one thinks corporations have any rights. What we decided is that corporations have existence, and therefore can sue and be sued, make contracts, hire and fire, own property, and pay taxes. This makes the concentration of capital into large enough sums to be used for very large projects possible. And by any measure you'd like to choose, the concept has been a boon for society. We may have to soon start easing anti-trust laws that have been in place for 80 years because our (American) companies will have to compete with companies like Tata Group (India) that have their fingers in a hundred different industries, from food to automobiles.
     
  6. WillReadmore

    WillReadmore Well-Known Member

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    The original reason for corporations was as a liability shield.
     
  7. yguy

    yguy Well-Known Member

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    How the hell can they do all that and not have any rights?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  8. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    Name a right that a corporation has that doesn't turn on the underlying right of the people who compose it. There's a concept in law and philosophy called derived rights. These are not rights that are inherent in the entity that has them but are derived from the people who compose the entity. This is the fundamental concept behind the American experiment, that government has no rights but those that are derived from the people that compose the republic. The same principle applies to corporations, nonprofit organizations, unincorporated partnerships, and sole proprietorships. Even your local PTA can be considered to be an entity in the eyes of the law and thereby have derived rights while having no actual substance or rights of its own.
     
  9. yguy

    yguy Well-Known Member

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    That's the whole damn point. There being no such thing as a corporation that isn't made of people, all of whom have individual rights including the right to act collectively with other individuals, saying corporations don't have any rights is loonytunes.
    Conflating corporations with gov't entities shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the principles underlying that experiment. Every non-gov't entity composed of American citizens may be considered a quasi-sovereign entity, the only true national Sovereign being the People as represented by a supermajority of states. Gov't entities, OTOH, are utterly devoid of any sovereignty whatsoever, and lack even the right to self-preservation; and whereas quasi-sovereign entities can morally do anything they like as long as they respect the rights of others, gov't entities, being vassals of the People, may only act on Their behalf.
     
  10. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    You seem to be agreeing with me that corporations don't have any rights apart from the rights of the people who compose it, but then turn around and claim that they do have rights. Which is it? Tell me, can a corporation commit a crime? As far as the law is concerned, corporations can only commit torts, which are punishable by fines, while only the individuals in the corporation can commit crimes, punishable by imprisonment. To my mind, rights work the same way. The corporation itself is an imaginary entity that exists solely on a piece of paper. After that, everything turns on the people who make it up, the owners, managers, employees, and even to a lesser extent, its debtors and creditors. To have a "right" means to have an inherent something that cannot be given or taken away with impunity.

    Which makes me wonder if we're not coming from the same viewpoint on rights. Most people these days believe in positive law, that the only rights that you have come from the law or the government, while I still believe in natural law, that your rights are inherent to you as a human being, that they do not come from the law or government but precede law and government and stand above them. In that sense, a corporation cannot have any rights because they do not precede the law and government, but are entirely the product and creation of law and government. The only powers they have were granted to them, they do not exist as rights. And government can and does change the powers and responsibilities of corporations on a regular basis.


    While I agree with you as far as government is concerned, I feel the same is true of all organizations, that they may only exist and serve the people that compose the group, and if the organization is failing in that regard, the people can change it or disband it.

    p.s. It's not entirely true that there are no corporations that are not made of people. There are some corporations that exist only on paper and have no real existence. There are some corporations that are purely shell companies, that exist solely for the benefit of the parent corporation. Then there are some corporations that are owned entirely by two or more other corporations and have no employees, no physical location, and no individual (people) owners.
     
  11. yguy

    yguy Well-Known Member

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    Both, obviously.
    Morally, of course it can.
    Yes, that's a popular myth. If you've ever been gainfully employed by a corporation, this might be a good time to ask how the hell an imaginary entity managed to cut you a check that didn't bounce like a superball.
    Again, that's the whole damn point.
    Again, false dichotomy. Every person has unalienable rights, and every citizen also has positive rights like suffrage and the ability to sue in civil court.
    No, the corporation is the people that compose the group.
     
  12. dairyair

    dairyair Well-Known Member

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    The only true rights anyone or anything has is might.
    Unless there's a group of enough people, who collectively, want to grant rights and have some enforcement mechanism to protect those rights.
    But since enforcement is still needed, it still comes down to might makes right.
     
  13. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    No, there's a fundamental difference between the corporation and the people who make it up because you can change all the people and the corporation can continue unchanged. You can change all of the owners of a corporation (the stock) and it will continue unchanged. The same is not true of a polity or a nongovernmental organization. Change the people and the whole of society or the organization changes. Change the ownership of a sole proprietorship and it becomes a very different animal.

    Positive rights, okay. I would term those powers rather than rights. The corporation has the power to sue and be sued, cut checks, etc., but rights only apply to individuals.


    Realistically, you are right, but the philosophy behind each approach to rights, natural v. positive, is important because it makes the distinction between who comes first, the individual or the state. Natural rights say the individual comes first and the state comes after, that it is the individual who has rights and the state has limited authority. Positive rights say the state comes first and the individual comes after, that the state has unlimited authority and grants rights to individuals. This is the true novelty of the US Constitution, that it didn't grant rights and powers to the people, it granted rights and powers to the government from the people. You can find the same distinction in religion. Protestant Christianity says the individual reigns supreme and the only person between you and God is Jesus. Catholic Christianity posits the church as standing between you and God and the church reigns supreme. Islam conflates religion and politics and makes the law of Allah as reigning supreme, and the individual counts for nothing. To defy the "church" in Islam is to defy the state and God besides. This is why when Westerners talk about "freedom", the concept is alien to Muslims.
     
  14. dairyair

    dairyair Well-Known Member

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    IMO, the only rights anyone has is agreed upon by likely a majority, although that isn't necessarily a requirement.
    But, then any rights agreed upon, needs an enforcement mechanism or else anyone can violate the agreement without penalty.

    And if some force can defeat the USA military, it is quite possible, the rights we have per the constitution won't mean diddly squat.

    I do view philosophy and religion as similar ideals. Each person develops their own interpretation of some doctrine or system.
     
  15. yguy

    yguy Well-Known Member

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    This is all bloody nonsense. Any organization is subject to change based on the will of whoever controls it. A corporation known to be on the edge of bankruptcy will undergo radical change under new ownership, and a sole proprietorship can be unchanged from a public perspective if the new owner wants nothing more than the same success enjoyed by the previous owner.
    Seeing states' rights have been a thing longer than either of us, I daresay your definition of rights may be safely written off as speciously eccentric.
    Dunno where you get that idea.
    No, the state - i.e., the United States - is sovereign and the federal gov't has limited authority.
    Yes, the People, as represented by a supermajority of states, exercising Their unalienable right to act collectively, gave Their vassals in the federal gov't authority to execute Their will. How the hell you get from there to the individual coming before the People is a complete mystery.
     
  16. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    States' rights are a myth coming from the Civil War era. Note how you worded it, too, the people represented by the states, not the states on their own authority, created the Constitution. As to where I get the idea, the correct answer is John Locke and Thomas Jefferson: "governments come about to secure the rights and to gain just powers from the consent of the governed". That goes for state governments no less than federal governments. So no, the state is not sovereign, the people are sovereign and the state is and by rights ought to be the servant of the people. When it stops being a servant and starts acting like a master, it's time to change the government.
     
  17. YourBrainIsGod

    YourBrainIsGod Well-Known Member

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    Corporations have individual rights when it’s convenient. And they don’t when it’s inconvenient, such as when they commit federal crimes. You can fine the corporation for a margin of what they made in profit, but you’ll be hard pressed to put the people involved in jail where they belong.

    Being competitive should not negate our understanding of justice.
     
  18. xwsmithx

    xwsmithx Well-Known Member

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    What about the right of rebellion? Thomas Jefferson, noted above, gave humanity a blank check for rebellion against any government that oppresses natural rights. Obviously the state cannot give anyone the right to rebel against itself, nor would it, nor can a majority give anyone the right to rebel or else it would change the government through lawful means. It can only be the right of a minority of people, perhaps as few as one, with no enforcement mechanism required or necessary. So is there a right to rebel against the government? If so, then that is a natural right that precedes or supercedes the state. What about the right to protest? In the US, the right of protest is protected by the Constitution, but in many countries, there is no such right, but people do it anyway. Are they right or wrong to do so? What enforcement mechanism is required to protest? Where does the right to protest come from if not natural rights? If protesting is illegal, then does the right to protest go away? Or does it remain? What about property rights? If a communist government is instituted and government agents come to take your property away and you fight back, are you right or wrong? What gives you the right to claim your property as your own if not natural rights? What enforcement mechanism is necessary for you to believe that you have the right to own and possess property? This is why I think the philosophy is important and not the "might makes right" reality. If you believe in "might makes right", you become a passive vassal of the state since the state is mightier than you. But if you believe in natural rights, you become an active participant of the state since the state is you. If you don't like what the state is doing, you can become active in changing it. The correct reply to "might makes right" is "the pen is mightier than the sword." Or as I term it, thought precedes action.
     
  19. dairyair

    dairyair Well-Known Member

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    Yes, there is. And the winner is the one with the might. Our checks and balances have done a good job of protecting rights we deem important.


    That natural right can only exist if the enforcement mechanism allows it to exist. Or the opposing force, overthrows an enforcement mechanism and installs that natural right. Again, the might makes the right.

    A protest can be of many forms. Allowed to protest by the state. A forced protest by unhappy people. Or any other reason to protest.
    We have a constitution that says we can peacefully protest. As of now, the gov't keeps that right in place. What if the gov't decides no protest is allowed? I bet there'd be an uproar from the people and then a fight would take place to determine if protests can happen or not. The winner of that fight would make the rule of a right to protest or not protest.

    The right to claim my property is protected by the gov't. But eminent domain can take that right away. And has.
    Fighting back is neither right or wrong. But the winner will keep said property.

    I don't believe in the might makes right. I prefer we have rights spelled out, and our gov't of the people keep those rights active.
    But when push comes to shove, as sometimes does, might will make right. Whether one agrees with the outcome or not.
     
  20. BleedingHeadKen

    BleedingHeadKen Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Ideological faith. Nothing more. There is no objectively legitimate source of government authority.
     

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