Individual Rights

A Definition of Individual Rights

by Dr. Ron Paul, 1987
Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Freedom Under Siege
pp. 36 - 39

If a precise understanding of rights is not generally agreed upon, a political system designed to protect individual liberty cannot be achieved. The signers of the Declaration of Independence declared that rights are inalienable; i.e., incapable of being lost or surrendered. To avoid any misunderstanding, something this important must be clearly defined. Lincoln pointed out the danger of a vague definition when he said:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty means for each man to do as he pleases with himself and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the products of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things called by the same name liberty. It follows that each of the things is, by the perceptive parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.

The world today, just as in Lincoln's time, is still in need of a good definition for the word liberty. But more than that, we need determined people who believe in and are willing to defend liberty. Those who dare to use the word liberty when promoting violence and tyranny must be clearly exposed. The tyrants must be identified and never confused as friends of freedom. If a battle must occur – which inevitably it must since liberty and tyranny cannot coexist – let it never be supposed that two factions advocating liberty are battling one another. The conflict must be clearly between liberty and tyranny.

In order to minimize the confusion, we must do our best to define rights.

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