This article appeared in Consent #8 (May-July 1989)


- Greg Jones

{Mr. Jones is a supporter of the Freedom Party.}

In a newspaper editorial titled "Our democratic duties should take precedence over rights", the writer, B.E. Smith, implied in his definition of democracy that in the event of disagreement between an individual and the rest of society concerning that individual's rights, that the dissenter be required "gracefully to accept majority decisions which were not entirely to his liking."

There is another, better description for the process of forcing an individual to comply with terms with which he does not agree --- majority rule. In other words, whoever has the most people behind him, wins.

Like so many voters today, Smith claims that "duties" take precedence over rights. He says that the right to vote is our only right, and the only right of dissent is limited to the ballot box. By logical extension, this means that some of us have the right to enforce our wishes on others, and any freedoms that individuals now enjoy can be taken away by the whim of the rest of "society" during an election.

Having accepted this premise, it is not surprising that Smith would argue that we must obey all laws (whether or not they violate our rights doesn't seem to matter), and that we must be prepared to die for what the country stands for (regardless of how evil the government of the day may be). Since our only right, according to this line of reasoning, is the right to vote, this means literally that our lives may be disposed of by the rest of society at a moment's whim.

The concept which Smith and many others who accept his line of reasoning do not recognize is that of individual rights, specifically, the rights to life, liberty and to own property. Contrary to any other prevailing belief, rights are the only standard of justice, for a right to something pertains to a freedom of action.

Individuals in a free society are therefore free to exercise their rights to the extent that they do not interfere with the identical rights of others, and if it should happen that a person's rights are being infringed upon, then that person must also have the right to appeal to clear, objective laws to correct the wrong.

Any society the proposes to tell individuals what they may or may not do with their lives, their freedom and all they own is not a civilized society, but an unruly mob. The spectacle of an editorial writer proposing this very thing on the pages of a supposedly "free press" is a testament to how many are so willing to participate in the destruction of their own rights --- simply because they do not recognize the fundamental concepts on which their rights are based.

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