Since I’ve been speaking for some time about the “Harm Equation” as THE tool that grants government its appropriate power upon The People, as well as being the mechanism by which that power is properly limited, I’ve given the matter of “harm” quite a bit of thought. (I should mention at the outset that what follows excludes the context of “accidents”. It deals exclusively with intentional actions.)
Let me begin by asking a question. If someone “flicked” you on the arm today (as one would a bug off the edge of a table) would you engage in violence in defense of self or file a battery report with the police? How about if the person did it twice today? 5 times today? 50 times? 100 times? The point of this exercise is to show that “harm” runs on a gradient.
Let us say for the sake of illustration that you would employ violence in defense of self or file a battery report after you were flicked by someone 50 times. Logic then dictates that while 50 may be your personal threshold to act, it must be “harm” when done just once. I make this point to highlight that most people never stop to think about what “harm” is. They think they know, when in fact they’ve thought what about what “harm” truly is to the same extent they’ve thought about what liberty is, which is almost always zero.
For Constitutional and legal considerations, I divide Harm into 2 categories; 1) physical and 2) impeding another person’s right to pursue happiness in the economic marketplace. These two categories are analogous to the human psyche that possesses intellect and emotion, both working together harmoniously.
The physical element of Harm is what probably 99% of the population defines as “harm” in terms of constitutionality. A few might, on a good day, think to mention being financially harmed due to breach of contract, or some other similar mechanism traditionally resolved in civil court actions. Yet even the few who might think to mention that would base their idea of financial harm on the existence of a contract. It would never occur to them that economic harm – in a constitutional sense – can be done to a person without a contract in operation.
Since physical harm is, for the most part, an open and shut issue, I’ll leave that behind and focus exclusively on “Impeding another person’s right to pursue happiness in the economic marketplace.”
Most people are aware the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness” comes from the Declaration of Independence and is the third broad category of rights enunciated by Jefferson; the first two being “Life” & “Liberty”. Yet few people actually ponder the implications of Jefferson’s sweeping categories.
One of the themes of Christianity is that the Pharisees interpreted Jewish scriptures in such a way as to adhere to the mechanical (or legalistic) aspects thereof while reading out of them the larger more important spiritual messages intended. I contend that the vast majority of Americans have done the exact same thing with the idea of unalienable rights. One long time friend of mine once postulated to me that “rights” are something each person possesses and can only utilize alone – on his own – and that if it involves another person it cannot be a “right.” I believe most people would agree with him. But then most people have never spent even an instant thinking about the specifics of how rights work. I believe he has to done to Jefferson’s ideal of the “Pursuit of Happiness” what the Pharisees did to Jewish scriptures; he read the deeper meaning out of it.
99.9% of men live within a society. This was no less true in Jefferson’s time (and the time of his greatest influence, John Locke) as it is today. The idea that Locke, Grodius, Pufendorf, Vattell, Rousseau, Jefferson, etc., were expounding on the rights of man in the sense that man can, ney must, exercise, enjoy, and secure those rights only as an island in the sea of society is an absurd proposition. And saying that each person possesses such rights individually in no way implies a lack of obligation to one another in respecting them.
According to Jefferson, the sole and exclusive reason for man to create government – and the sole legitimate purpose and end of government – is to secure the rights of The People. In order that such a stated purpose is actually meaningful it must be read to include ALL rights, and embrace ALL of the body politic. If any right is left out, or any portion of the body politic is excluded, then the words cease to have meaning.
At the end of the Civil War the slaves were freed and made citizens. Despite this, there was in much of the country a conspiracy to “impede another person’s right to pursue happiness in the economic marketplace”. The “other person” in this case being millions of black Americans. This conspiracy to impede the rights of black Americans in the marketplace took the form of denying them products, services, and opportunities in the marketplace. (That “conspiracy to impede rights” continued for 100 years, until it was made a violation of federal law.)
Impeding the rights of black Americans in the marketplace bound them as an economic underclass for 100 years. Is this what Jefferson meant when he wrote “the Pursuit of Happiness”; that other men could deny people their ability to “Pursue Happiness” in a meaningful manner by blocking them meaningful access to the marketplace? No rational person would admit that as a truth.
This conspiracy to “impede another person’s right to pursue happiness in the economic marketplace” was repeated time and again with other minorities as well. Each time it created a significant obstacle to “the Pursuit of Happiness in the economic marketplace” and created yet another economic underclass.
Earlier I said that for Jefferson’s three sweeping categories of rights to have meaning they must apply to ALL of the body politic. Did the right to Pursue Happiness in the economic marketplace extend to blacks from 1866 into the mid-1960s? It did not. Did it apply to the Chinese? It did not. Did it apply to the Irish when they arrived? It did not. The Italians? It did not.
Is it an unalienable right to Pursue Happiness in the economic marketplace on equal footing with all others? It must be so if we believe in the right to Pursue Happiness at all because they are inexorably linked.
The idea that one can actually Pursue Happiness anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances, while being denied meaningful access to the economic marketplace on equal footing with all others is an absurdity.
Let’s now put this situation in modern context. Let’s use the baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.
Federal and state laws have long prohibited impeding meaningful access to the economic marketplace regarding specific minorities, and so the reprobates engage in such conduct only rarely these days; when they think they can effectively conceal their actions. But many states have not enacted statutes protecting homosexuals from having their “Pursuit of Happiness” impeded by denying them meaningful access to the economic marketplace. Homosexuals are the newest group targeted for a denial of the Pursuit of Happiness by these reprobates.
The reprobates would have you believe that each singular denial is “unimportant” and does not impede homosexuals from meaningful access to the economic marketplace. But just as such people are moral reprobates, they are also liars.
It should be readily apparent to any intelligent and decent human being that such deprivation of rights were dismissed with the same false rationale 100 years ago.
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can get a job somewhere else.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can get clothing somewhere else.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can buy his food somewhere else.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can get that medicine for his nigger kid somewhere else.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can find another restaurant at which to eat.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can find somewhere else to live.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. He can rent a room in some other hotel.”
“I’m not impeding that nigger’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace. It’s my right not sell a car to a nigger.”
And on and on the justifications go.
So what was the end result of all these actions that “didn’t” impede black Americans from meaningful access to the economic marketplace? It forced black Americans to live as an economic underclass for 100 years while white men claimed each denial was “unimportant” and “did no harm”. The effect was as “the death of a thousand cuts”; one cut does almost nothing, but a thousand kills. Every time a white man impeded a black man’s meaningful access to the economic marketplace he’d claim it was such a small thing it didn’t matter and you should shut about it and respect his rights. And the progeny of those bigoted assholes are doing the same exact thing today, merely focusing their harm on a new unprotected group.
You will recall I began this article asking you when being “flicked” would rise to a level of justifying violence in defense of self or the filing of a battery complaint with the police. We discussed that though 50 flicks may be your personal threshold, the act of a single flick must be considered “battery” or else no wrong can be declared at 50 flicks. After all, 50 acts of non-battery equals no battery. Likewise, a single denial of access to the economic marketplace is a deprivation of the right to Pursue Happiness. To hold otherwise is to say there is no deprivation of the right of Pursuit of Happiness when the denials are in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions. Our own national history has repeatedly proven that to be a corrupt and fallacious view parroted by bigots and the unintelligent.
Bigots and the unintelligent cry, “But what about my right of free association? You can’t force me to associate with someone against my will!” Such pathetic claims are specious and irrelevant. Such claims are put forth as a supposed defense by those who see unalienable rights in a crass, Neanderthal-like, self-serving paradigm. It is a grotesque perversion of the true ideal of liberty.
Let’s set the record straight right here and now: No claim of a right can be used as a defense for violating another man’s rights. No right possessed by one person has the authority to deprive or impede the rights of another person. Phrased another way, once it has been established that a particular action violates or impedes an unalienable right of others, one loses the prerogative to claim his rights allow him to do so. Such is the argument of bigots and fools who wish to spout off about liberty with their mouths, while rejecting it by their actions. It is the cry of those who practice the corrupt “For me, not thee” version of liberty.
There simply is no Pursuit of Happiness in any meaningful sense when one is impeded from enjoying access to the economic marketplace on an equal footing with all others. Accordingly, impeding anyone’s access to the economic marketplace on equal footing with all others – even once – is both “harm” (in an incredibly real sense) and a violation of that person’s unalienable rights. And since the only legitimate role of government is to secure the rights of The People, those who would deny others free and open access to the economic marketplace on equal footing with all others are a proper target for the coercive remedy of the law.
Copyright – Dave Champion 2016