Our Right to Liberty

Throughout human history, peaceful, honest, mentally competent people have been ruled by force, without their consent. They have been ruled: authorized, arranged, and attacked; abused and assaulted; blocked and bloodied; bridled, barred, and brutalized; bound and beaten; checked, curbed, and censured; contained, commanded, and compelled; collected, coerced, and confined; directed, detained, and disciplined; disarmed, destabilized, and destroyed; enrolled, enslaved, and exploited; fenced and fixed; fined and forced; guided, guarded, and grabbed; held and harmed; inspected, inhibited, and indebted; impeded and imprisoned; judged and juried; killed; leashed and lynched; limited and licensed; measured, muted, and murdered; managed, mandated, and manacled; marked, moderated, and modified; numbered; organized, ordered, and overpowered; occupied and oppressed; prevented, prohibited, and punished; questioned; registered, regimented, and regulated; reformed, restrained, and repressed; stamped, stopped, and standardized; sacrificed and separated; suppressed, supervised, and subdued; searched, seized, and systematized; targeted, tormented, and terrorized; undermined and unheeded; vilified; watched; and zabernized.

Yet, no one, neither individual nor government, regardless of majoritarian or other form, has the right to do any of the above to any peaceful, honest, mentally competent individual. No one, and no group, has moral authority to rule over even one single such individual – let alone an entire populace, requiring each of us to live our lives as they see fit.

We the People, as peaceful, honest, and mentally competent individuals, otherwise as diverse as we are many, have a natural right to freely govern ourselves, each according to personal conscience. It is time to claim that right.

We have been ruled by those who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so, often purportedly in our name, using resources taken from us and from our children, for long enough.

We have a natural right to live, make mistakes, learn, and pursue happiness. We have a natural right to discover the most valuable ways to serve one another, whether for material gain or from selflessness – with no one interfering with our mutually voluntary social or economic relationships. We have a natural right to equal liberty, broadly and objectively defined.

We have a natural right to live free – and the most important freedom of all is freedom from violence, which is inherent in rule by others. At the core of every human rights violation and every act of violence is a failure to uphold individual rights and liberties.

If we want a genuine and lasting peace among ourselves, we must fully uphold each individual’s natural right to self-governance – to live according to personal conscience and free will – without exception. We must agree to first, do no harm: not to initiate, threaten to initiate, or unreasonably risk nonconsenting contact with another’s person or property; nor to appoint another to commit such violence in our name. (The last is most difficult, as it requires a principled, dedicated dismantling of unjust rule.)

As injustice, suffering, and death caused by one’s own government is far more likely than that caused by war or by individuals, and as we are better able to restrain our own government than that of any other, we should first commit to restricting the rule of our own governments.

If we do this – if we fully claim our right to liberty – we will all live in a land of true peace and great prosperity, each in accordance with personal preference.

– Elinor Swanson (Billings, Montana)