Consent and the Nature of Rights

June 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I was recently to a physician, and as is standard these days there was a stack of paperwork that needed to be completed.  Patient information forms, medical history, office financial policy, HIPPA, and consent forms.  What caught my attention was the consent form.  Why is it necessary?  If I scheduled an appointment, is it not obvious that I would like to be examined?  While it is logical to come to such a conclusion, consent must be specifically given.  Consent is an important concept with far reaching implications.

From whence does this idea of consent come?  It comes directly from the principle of ownership.  Consent is the engine through which you allow others to utilize, institute change, or exert influence over your person, your property, or other items that are under your control.  Why is consent necessary?  It is the difference between a beneficial transaction, and an act of aggression.  It is choice.  When you enter into a contract you are consenting to its terms.  When you accept a job offer you are consenting to work for an agreed number of hours at an agreed wage and to abide by company policies and procedures.  Every beneficial interaction between individuals requires, at some level, consent.  When you go shopping at a grocery store, you consent to exchange the required sum of currency for the goods sold by the store.  Likewise, the store consents to exchange their goods for your currency.  If either party were to withdraw consent, the transaction would be an act of aggression against the non-consenting party; the crime of theft.

This seems pretty straight forward. When we think of the mechanics of our daily interactions we find that we consent or deny in all of them.  Even when it is not obvious, we all either give or deny consent every day.  Consent is a foundational component of human action.  Discrimination, choice, voluntarism, acceptance, rejection… all of these words are effectively synonyms for consent.  When you choose A over B you are consenting or accepting A, while rejecting and discriminating against B.  When you act voluntarily, you are consenting to the action you take.  On the other side of this, any action that is forced upon you, any scenario in which you deny consent but your choice is ignored – than the act against you, your property, or your ward is an immoral act of aggression which you have every right to utilize defensive force against.

What of government and our interactions with it?  Do those interactions depend on our consent, as they would in a private setting between two individuals?  No.  They do not.  It could be said in the generation of the Founders (with a fair chance of being true), that those people gave their consent to create our government; to cede a minimal amount of power to it and to acquiesce to submit to it under the terms of the Constitution.  What generation since can the same be said of?  It is generally accepted today that by being born in the United States, given citizenship at birth, that you are somehow bound to be governed by an agreement that you did not consent to.  This theory rests upon the notion that rights and freedoms come from the government. That if you wish to enjoy rights, you must submit to abide by an absurd number of laws (the Library of Congress admits that the task of tallying the total number of federal laws is “nearly impossible“), and you must support with your hard earned money the bloated, corrupt and sickly monstrosity that is the full girth of the Federal Government. If you do not consent to the above terms that are forced upon you, men with guns come to your home and imprison you for breaking their law, which states that they have a right to your property.  When you believe that rights come from government, you are a slave.

Rights are natural.  Whether you believe rights come from God or from nature, you have rights because you exist.  It is as simple as that.  Your very existence is your ticket to complete freedom.  No government, entity, or individual has ascendancy to aggress against your rights, so long as you do not aggress against the rights of another.  Only when you consent to allow another influence over your rights does this change.

If you accept that rights are natural and exist because you do, it follows that any entity attempting to curtail your rights without your consent is committing an act of aggression against you.  Let us consider government from the prospective of a natural-born U.S. citizen.  By the act of being born within the geographical territory of the United States, citizenship is automatically given.  Essentially this is a one-sided arrangement in which the government consents to recognize you as a citizen, without your consent to be governed.  For all intents and purposes, government treats you as a slave-holder would; the children of slaves are condemned to the same life of servitude as their parents.  You had no control or choice in your birth, so it cannot be said that consent was given by you.  Merely, you are a victim of circumstance.  Just as your parents before you, it is expected that you will be a good little citizen and do as you are told.  You may exercise your right to smoke, as long as you only smoke tobacco.  You may exercise your right to marry, so long as it is to a person of the opposite sex.  You may even exercise your right to complain about taxes, as long as you pay them.  You may exercise your government-permitted rights within the confines of your government-appointed sandbox.  As long as you stay in your box, and do not exercise any of your rights that the government has deemed “illegal”, you will get on fine (probably).  But step outside the lines and government will send armed goons to beat you back into your place.

This may sound as if I simply do not want to, say, pay taxes.  Well, I do not.  However, if government provides things that I need, I have no problem paying for them.  Just as I would pay for them if I were to purchase them elsewhere.  The issue is that not only am I supporting the very few useful services provided by government, but I am forced to support the numerous government programs and activities that I reap no benefit from and which I strongly believe ought not exist or be continued.  The option to pick and choose does not exist.  The only option is to grin and bear it, or to abdicate citizenship and move elsewhere.  Sadly, there are few places on Earth that would afford less restriction to rights as no geographical location to my knowledge has yet fostered a society without government.  Alas, Galt’s Gulch is fictional.

A few thoughts on “rights”… it is common to hear people stay that they have a right to such-and-such.  Health insurance was one that this phrase was applied to frequently during the Obamacare debates.  Unfortunately, the people saying this were not saying that they had a right to purchase health insurance if they so choose.  Instead, they were saying that they had a right to health insurance that everyone else was forced to provide for them.  This sort of language bastardizes the concept of rights.  You do not have a right to anything that belongs to anyone else.  You do not have a right to initiate force or coercion against anyone else.  Likewise, you do not have a right to anything that exists as a result of force or coercion used against others.  If you want health insurance and you want others to pay for it, find a group of like-minded individuals willing to consent to pooling their resources to purchase insurance as a group.

If it were not for this great oversight, government might be tolerable.  If government acknowledged the natural rights of individuals and sought to gain consent for its encroachments into our lives instead of employing force and coercion I would have no complaint.  I simply desire the same level of choice with government as I have with all other interaction I take part in.  Should I not be given a choice, or should my choice be ignored and another alternative forced upon me, I reserve the same right as I would if I were being robbed, attacked, or harmed by another individual – to respond with defensive force to protect that which is mine by natural, divine right.

I will close with one final thought, taken from the Declaration of Independence –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” [emphasis mine]

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