Friday, April 9, 2010

Response to "In Defense of 'Rights Abdicated'", by David W. Cooney

It seems to me that our disagreement is on the nature and extent of the social contract.  I agree that contracts impose limitations on both parties, but only within the intended limits of the contract itself.  In my opinion, your conclusions, especially in regard to the Second Amendment, are only possible by going far beyond those intended limits. 
“Under the social contract, the author of any action does indeed relinquish his personal claim to the act in lieu of the delegate. When we say that our government is obligated in some way to perform a duty, the only way we can rightfully reclaim that obligation is by unauthorizing the government's claim. The people and the government cannot both act in the same capacity at the same time. That is the social contract which is fundamental to the existence of government.”
I agree with this completely, however you must keep in mind the intent of the contract itself. According to what you are saying, if I hire you as my personal bodyguard, to protect me from harm at all times, I necessarily give up all right to protect myself. That simply does not follow. For you are only hired to assist me in the area of protection, just as the government and local law enforcement is hired to assist us in securing our right to protection.

You say that the one hired and the one hiring cannot act in the same capacity at the same time. That is only true according to circumstance. If I hire you to negotiate a contract on my behalf, it is true that I cannot directly negotiate the same contract at the same time. (However, even in that case, you are not necessarily empowered to make offers I do not personally authorize, for you are hired to represent my interests; nor are you necessarily authorized to sign the contract and bind me to it without my final review and approval for ratification is a separate act from negotiation.) On the other hand, if I hire you as a bodyguard and someone starts shooting at me, there is no aspect of our contract that suggests we cannot both draw guns to shoot back.
“I consider the right to protection to be an inalienable right. However, this is not the same right as the right to bear arms, which would only provide a means of protection. There are other ways to secure protection besides bearing arms personally.”

True, but it does not follow that, because I choose, at this time, not to bear arms personally, I have contracted with another to bear arms on my behalf in certain circumstances, I completely waive my right to do so in all other cases. As I stated above, the restriction against acting in the same manner at the same time is not universal. It is a conditional obligation even in social contract theory.
“I know that you won't be able to fulfill the obligation under the contract and therefore I retain the right for myself also. This equates to delegation made in bad faith.”
 “It is a fact that David's rebuttal is in complete agreement on this point since it specifically uses the language of bad faith”
This is a gross misinterpretation of what I said. The government, federal and state, are authorized to take up arms as a means of securing our right to personal protection against other governments. The police are authorized to take up arms as a means of enforcing the laws and apprehending criminals. These are the limits to the authorization and therefore the limits to the social contracts themselves. Therefore, those who argue that the Second Amendment does not constitute an abdication of our personal right to bear arms do not make the social contract one of bad faith. Indeed, all contracts are based on the assumption of good faith when entering the contract, but also include, at least by implication, protection against any party acting in bad faith once the contract has been established.

Therefore, as long as the government is not a tyranny, it maintains the right to act on our behalf. As long as the police enforce the law and apprehend criminals, they maintain the right to act on our behalf. However, what protection do we have if the government or the police fail to act? Have we, by entering this contract made ourselves completely helpless without them? That is nonsense. The only way to secure the protection against bad faith actions in the case of arms is by retaining the personal right to bear arms. This is completely consistent with the social contract.

Your argument is based on taking the social contract far beyond its intention. You twist my statements about the limitations of the police to make them sound as though I am claiming that, because the police cannot protect everyone, everywhere, and at all times, this constitutes bad faith, because of which we can once again reclaim our personal right to bear arms. That is incorrect. The specific things I listed, and which you quote, are precisely the original limitations of the social contract we have established with the police when we empowered them. Therefore, the social contract itself never constituted grounds to deprive ourselves of the personal right to bear arms. For the police are only hired to assist us in our right to personal protection and typically fulfill this obligation very well. However, the implied limits of the social contract (the fact that they cannot protect everyone, everywhere, and at all times), along with the only means to enforce our rights in those cases where some police office may actually act in bad faith, not only imply that we maintain the personal right to bear arms, but actually necessitate the retention of that right even if we do not personally choose to exercise it.

“In other words, there arise ways in which we may not bear arms and we must also procure special government permission in order to conceal and carry them. With regards to our rights, we become casuists, subdividing rights and applying them to specific cases.”
This is completely wrong. Authorizing the government to act on our behalf in defense of the country and authorizing the police to act on our behalf in defense against crime does not logically result in our needing special permission to own, carry, or even to conceal arms. For the very limits of the authorization does not grant the government complete control over the use of arms; that would be beyond the intent of the social contract and a violation of it. The fact that this argument fails to appear before the 20th century, or maybe the late 19th, even though governments and local law enforcement have existed for millenia, shows the complete absurdity of the argument. Historically, the only people government armies and local law enforcement were ever authorized to disarm were slaves. Free citizens, for that matter, even the partially free serfs of the early Mediæval period were allowed to own, carry, and conceal arms on their person.

“By my argument I do not deny that there can be other reasons for the right to bear arms and in fact I made this very point: The power to bear arms may still not be infringed even if the antecedent is false..”

“If the second amendment is a definition, then it is a biconditional proposition and it is absolutely true beyond question that there exist no other reasons to suppose we have a right to keep and bear arms other than to secure the State against the tyranny of federalism.”

“Instead, we continue to grant federal power for a professional specialized military force against which the State cannot be secured by militia. The right to bear arms is clearly abdicated for this reason. What we retain is a regulated privilege to bear arms.”

The latter statement only holds true if it can be proven that the former statement is true. However, no such proof exists. Just because the US Constitution makes no mention of other reasons for the right does not mean it is making an absolute definition. The most we could conclude on the matter is that the authors of the Constitution considered the reason given as sufficient to satisfy the concerns of the Anti-Federalists and therefore, no mention of other potential reasons was necessary. Therefore, it would follow that the Constitution is neutral regarding other potential reasons for the right.

“Freedom is sometimes found in the transfer of obligations. If, rather than a personal obligation for the security of the State, or for the education of children, or the maintenance of health, or the production of goods etc., we elect to pay (probably a tax or a wage) for someone else to do the job for us, then we can be theoretically "freed" from the obligation. One meaning of freedom is not having obligations to distract us from the other pursuits we feel are necessary to our happiness.

How curious is it that we often give up rights in order to become free and that freedom has come to signify dependence on others rather than independence?”
Again, hiring someone to help fulfill a right does not signify an abdication of the right, or obligation that goes with it. If I have an obligation to educate my children and cannot do so myself, I have the right to hire someone to do what I must, but cannot. That is merely an exercise of my rights in regard to the obligation, but it does not remove that right or obligation from me. Therefore, I do not transfer to the other the right to decide what constitutes a good education and completely abdicate my right to all say in the matter. The obligation to educate my children remains with me along with the obligation of evaluating how well the person hired is performing his side of the bargain. If I find him lacking (acting in bad faith after the contract was entered), not only do I have the right to either take on the burden of educating my children myself (home schooling) or finding another educator for the task, I have the obligation to do so. When the law removes those rights from me, I have ceased to be a free person.

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