Inalienable, God-given rights: why Ann Coulter and other “state-righters” are wrong

In her latest column defending Romney, Ann Coulter defends Romney’s indefensible, unjustifiable socialized medicine scheme (including its individual mandate) on the grounds that it’s a state program, not a federal one, and that somehow justifies it, as if state transgressions of individual libertiers were somehow acceptable. She furthermore defended it by saying that over the years, states have, for example, required people to wait in long lines, for many hours, at the DMV. Here are the relevant quotes:

“As Rick Santorum has pointed out, states can enact all sorts of laws — including laws banning contraception — without violating the Constitution.

That document places strict limits on what Congress can do, not what the states can do. Romney, incidentally, has always said his plan would be a bad idea nationally.

The only reason the “individual mandate” has become a malediction is because the legal argument against Obamacare is that Congress has no constitutional authority to force citizens to buy a particular product.

The legal briefs opposing Obamacare argue that someone sitting at home, minding his own business, is not engaged in “commerce … among the several states,” and, therefore, Congress has no authority under the Commerce Clause to force people to buy insurance.

No one is claiming that the Constitution gives each person an unalienable right not to buy insurance.

States have been forcing people to do things from the beginning of the republic: drilling for the militia, taking blood tests before marriage, paying for public schools, registering property titles and waiting in line for six hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to drive.

There’s no obvious constitutional difference between a state forcing militia-age males to equip themselves with guns and a state forcing adults in today’s world to equip themselves with health insurance.”

Ann Coulter is hardly the only person to make such claims recently. For the last several months other Republicans, including Pam Bondi, Andrew McCarthy, and Monte Kuligowski, have been making such an argument. They claim that state and local governments may impose any diktats and any schemes on their citizens and that this is okay – so long as it’s done by state and local governments. They believe that Big Government is perfectly fine – as long as it’s as the state level and not the federal level.

They are all wrong.

Firstly, Ann Coulter was patently wrong to claim that the Constitution places no limits on what the states can do. It does – in Art. I, Sec. 10, and in many amendments, including the 14th Amendment, which incorporated the Bill of Rights against the states, thus prohibiting them to violate any of the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

Secondly, in the first edition of his book, the 2010 edition, Romney recommended his socialized medicine as a “solution” for the whole country, as pointed out in one campaign ad by Governor Rick Perry.

Thirdly, Wwhile it is true that the Constitution contains few limits on states (albeit it does contain some, so Coulter’s and Kuligowski’s claims to the contrary are false), and does not explicitly prohibit states from e.g. mandating that their citizens buy insurance policies, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, and imposing any government mandates on citizens, other than those that are absolutely necessary for public health or public safety, is unconservative and immoral and is a Big Government policy. It is also a violation of every person’s inalienable, God-given rights.

Big Government schemes at any level – federal, state, or local – are patently incompatible with our inalienable, God-given rights. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers said that it is a self-evident truth that all men are created equal and all of them are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to protect these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed…”

Let’s consider this idea, which is an idea upon which America was founded.

Let’s first consider what “inalienable” means. My Oxford Guide to the English Language says “inalienable” means “unable to be taken away or given away”. In other words, if something is inalienable, it can never be taken away or voluntarily given away.

Therefore, if a right is inalienable, it may not be taken away or violated by anyone. Not the federal government, not state governments, not local governments.

So federal, state, and local governments – including state governors and legislatures – have no right whatsoever to confiscate these rights or violate them in any way whatsoever.

These inalienable rights were not given to people by their governments; they were given by the Creator, i.e. by God.

If these are God-given rights, and they are, no one other than God – no human form of government – whether federal, state, or local – may take these rights away. What God has given, only God may take away.

Words have meanings. “Inalienable” has an absolute meaning without any exceptions. “God-given” likewise has a strict, narrow meaning.

This is not a mere dispute about whether Romney’s socialized medicine scheme was right or wrong, or constitutional or not, or whether I am right or Ann Coulter is.

This is a battle for the heart of the conservative movement and of the Republican Party – and for the founding ideals of the United States.

If individual humans’ rights are really inalienable and God-given, that means no form of human government – whether federal, state, or local – may confiscate them or infringe on them. This means governments are not the owners of your rights, but merely their temporary, contingent stewards, subject to election by the governed from time to time.

If, however, state and local governments may trample upon your rights, it means they are not inalienable and are contingent on your state or local government tolerating them. This would mean that your state and local government may confiscate your rights anytime.

And that would mean that the whole American revolution was pointless.

Ann Coulter, Pam Bondi, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Monte Kuligowski, and other state-righters are wrong. The US was founded on the basis of individual rights, not states rights. The rights of the American people are inalienable and come from God. They predate and preexist the Constitution. No form of human government – federal, state, or local – may violate these rights.


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