This conversation is closed.

Given that there is such a thing as an inalienable right should such rights be taxed?

Thomas Jefferson said that it was self evident that we all have certain inalienable rights. If a right is inalienable it seems to me that it should be free. Yet, we have a right to life and that life is taxed through income taxes. We must spend part of our lives working so we have what we need to live. We have a right to property yet we have to pay sales and property taxes. If you believe that Jefferson is correct then should such rights be taxed as they are now in pretty much every country on Earth?

  • thumb
    Feb 1 2013: Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists.

    Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable.

    In contrast, legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system.

    Inalienable is defined as: impossible to take away: not able to be transferred or taken away

    Having the three terms defined helps me to understand better. If I accept these three definations then Natural Right are basically the same as Jefferson termed inalienable. Tese terms were argued at length by Thomas Hobbs, John Locke, Thomas Paine, among others ... and the consences was that there are two basic laws .. Natural and legal.

    A tax (from the Latin taxo; "I estimate") is a financial charge or other levy imposed upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many administrative divisions. Taxes consist of direct or indirect taxes and may be paid in money or as its labour equivalent.

    Since I am a simple person ... I say by the above definations as defined by both taxes and legal rights that only legal rights are or can be taxed.

    But I have been wrong before and can be timed with a egg timer until I am wrong again. I live in my own world but I am happy there as everyone knows me and accepts me.

    I wish you well. Bob.

    By the way I grabbed all thoese definations from the web. You can tell because they are spelled right.
    • Feb 1 2013: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. However, I disagree that only legal rights are taxed. If I have a natural right to property and my property is taxed then your conclusion is obviously false.

      Of course, There are a ton of philosophical and religious issues that can be brought up about whether natural rights exist or not and exactly what they are. If you believe in God then you must also believe that the Ten Commandments give everyone a natural right to life and property since they are forbidden to be removed from us by the highest power in the Universe. If you don't believe in God then things get a lot murkier and I probably don't have enough room to finish talking about it in just one reply, but I think you can get to the same conclusion using logic.

      I have similar ishues with spelling.
      • thumb
        Feb 1 2013: Robert,, I have learned a lot during this conversation. As you know property was a grant by the royals to title holders.

        "Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is, in reality, instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have property against those who have none at all."

        — Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

        In the USA we can thank John Locke for our right to property. also read Thomas Hobbs, James Harrington, Robert Filmer, William Blackstone, David Hume, etc ....

        Land is not a natural right .... unless you were a royal and that was a divine right.

        Robert I am a little lost on the rights to life and property in the ten commandments. The only association I could make would be to do not covet. Which number gives me those rights? I am christian but in my opinion I would not go to court with that argument .... remember that inalienable rights are those that cannot be transfered or given away ... does property meet that defination?

        I have enjoyed this discussion. Not all discussion are this respectful. Thanks.

        I wish you well. Bob.
        • Feb 1 2013: The commandments are sort of a negative grant of the right to life and property. If thou shalt not kill then the implication is that the person you were going to kill has a right to live. If thou shalt not steal then taking things from other people without their consent is forbidden and thus they have a right to property.

          The right to property, like all rights, stems from your right to life. If you don't have a right to life then all other rights are meaningless. If I want to deprive you of other rights in the abscence of the right to life then all I have to do is kill you. The right to property also doesn't mean that someone is impaired by some physical law of the Universe from stealing your stuff or that if you drop something you own it will jump back into your hand. It just means you have the right to possess things. Though the things themselves can be transferred your right to keep your stuff if you want cannot.

          I have also enjoyed this a lot and learned as well. Mission accomplished I suppose.
  • Feb 1 2013: "Inalienable rights" is an oxymoron. The Declaration of Independence was written because the people's rights were alienated. If rights were truly inalienable, they would be like natural laws, which are unbreakable.

    Human rights is a concept that was developed by humans in an attempt to develop a natural, rational basis for self governance. In the final analysis self governance is a choice. There is nothing natural about human rights. People must choose and define human rights. If the concept of human rights is to survive, then the concept must gain the support of the global community. This will be difficult because different people believe in different rights, and the priorities of those rights. Some people claim that the "right to life" means that the government must feed the hungry. Others claim that feeding the hungry makes slaves of the hungry; that any and all freedoms rest on the foundation of our freedom to starve. Some people insist on complete separation of religion and state, while others believe that the legitimacy of the government and its laws comes from the Almighty.

    Jefferson was not completely correct, but his words constituted a big step in the right direction. If we take the words of the framers to be the last words on the subject of human rights, we are completely misconstruing their efforts. The framing of the Constitution of the United States was an experiment in self governance. The framers started a work in progress, leaving the bulk of the work to future generations (us).
    • Feb 1 2013: I agree completely. However, I think we have strayed far from the path that the framers set us on.
  • thumb
    Jan 30 2013: No, i think such rights should not be taxed because inalienable rights are natural rights and such rights no body can give except God. Except for the benefit of the services rendered by the government to that life as a human being.
  • thumb
    Feb 3 2013: Robert, had you wanted to reply to my post below, it had reached the last level. I would still say the same things: that taxing successful people does take some of their life, liberty, and property, but not having charity is more of a threat to life, liberty, and property; and that wherever you live, you're going to be something of a slave because you're going to have to follow a bunch of rules, some of which you wouldn't follow unless someone outside yourself made you (i.e., the government).

    I'm going to add that I don't think the government wants to be in the charity business. If they thought private people would take up the slack, I think they'd get out. They don't want to be in the military business. If they thought everyone would live peacefully, they'd get out. They don't want to be in the police business. If they thought nobody would commit crimes, they'd get out. They probably don't want to be in the government business. If they thought private, separate individuals could handle everything, they'd get out. Unfortunately, some problems government handles better, in my mind.
  • thumb
    Feb 2 2013: Again, Robert, your position below is not entirely unreasonable. The difficulty as I see it is that not enough people will contribute to charity if not forced to, and you will have millions of superpoor which actually brings down the quality of life for everyone. Yes, I could individually fight poverty, but as one person I cannot succeed completely on such a massive problem. I suppose that the government tackles massive problems that one person alone cannot solve altogether, and yes, does force some people to help. I do think many people don't mind contributing to general welfare, for example, my mother is worth about twenty million dollars, and she doesn't mind contributing to welfare as she doesn't want people to be starving and homeless. I still say there is a kind of balance, because if you contribute to charities, you get to pay less income tax.

    Thinking about the "slave" term: could we also say that by forcing us to follow laws that forbid murder, rape, and robbery, the government is "enslaving" us? I would say this is a kind of "slavery" I can live with.

    These are difficult issues, and you can make a great case for both sides.
    • Feb 2 2013: What is slavery about requiring people NOT to do something. The point of slavery is to make people do things you don't want to do yourself.

      I contend that forced charity does more harm than good. I left off a some reasons why that I forgot about in my other post. I'll put them here.

      Forced charity becomes a means by which politicians buy the favor/vote of those who are on charity. This encourages our leaders to come up with more ways to get people on charity so that their voting base is expanded. They get to come off as being for the little guy while in reality they are using him.

      It is a historical fact that every nation in history that has gone down the path of creating huge welfare programs has collapsed under the burden of paying for them. Present nations excepted of course because they haven't quite reached the point of collapse. The present sorry state of the finances of most nations means they are working on it though. Go to and check out the current state of US finances. Down toward the bottom you will see the off book debt that is money owed in the future for currently promised entitlement benefits. That total is something like $122 trillion ($122,000,000,000,000). The clock is real time so you'll see that the number is increasing rather rapidly. When the US requires corporations to report their finances they are required to report the portion of their debt that is financially equivalent to this debt since it is critical to judging the state of the company's finances. This means that the US's real debt to GDP ratio is about 760%. Economists usually say a country is in big trouble when debt to GDP passes %100.

      So as a result of helping the poor along with all the other things the government does that it has no business doing we as well as most other western nations are on the verge of a complete financial collapse. How many poor people do you think there will be then? Probably billions and there will be no one to help them.
      • thumb
        Feb 2 2013: Well, I would say that there are aspects of slavery that have to do with what one doesn't do. For example, one aspect of being a slave is that one is not to escape, or try to escape. I think you could say that any time someone is controlling your actions, controlling either what you do or don't do, there is an aspect of slavery. So if the government controls me by outlawing murder, I guess I'm somewhat of a slave. Maybe this is a kind of "good slavery."

        Technically, Robert, you could have a society where no government outlawed murder, or enforced laws against murder. Every man for himself. It'd be a pretty violent society, I would think. Would you want to live in such a society?

        As far as governmental charitable programs go, well, I admit to not having the big picture. I would really hesitate to say whether I think government charity is sustainable. But it seems to me you're getting into a different issue, although I admit they're really hard to separate. Before you were asking if one can philosophically justify the government taking some of successful people's money to help poor people. Now you're getting into more of a practical question of what effects this has. Possibly I don't worry about it, because if it becomes unsustainable, we will simply adjust it.
        • Feb 2 2013: Certainly and perhaps the way I replied was a little short but here is the overriding principle. Society is built to protect the rights of the citizen. In order for the rights of one citizen to life, liberty and property to be respected the rights of all citizens to those things must be. Hence, no murder. You think I advocate no rules, apparently. That is not true. I only advocate those rules that lead to the preservation of our rights And by "our" rights I mean the rights of ALL of us.

          Just because I want to live in a society where everyone is free to pick their own associations and their own causes rather than something demanded by our overlords doesn't mean that people with similar beliefs can't work together to achieve their goals. I doubt seriously that you, me and your mom would be the only ones to come together voluntarily to feed the hungry. It would be every man for what he believes in. Nothing could be further from every man for himself.
    • Feb 2 2013: I also want to comment on your implicit endorsement of slavery. It seems slavery is OK with you as long as it serves what you think is a good purpose. You have no special moral authority just as the slave owners in the Old South didn't. They, like you, endorsed slavery for a purpose that they thought was just and moral. They were wrong and so are you.
      • thumb
        Feb 2 2013: Well, again, Robert, I believe you're talking about an age-old argument that has good arguments on both sides. I can't say I hugely love government, but I'm okay with a mix of government and private industry.

        I would say that if people have a right to life, liberty, and property, well, in the Constitution isn't the third one the pursuit of happiness, well, if someone is too poor to buy food I suppose they will die, which pretty much does away with their life, right? Or they will try to steal food from someone else, and in the process someone might die and lose their life, as the owner of the food tries to defend it; or the person stealing the food will get caught and go to prison, which does away with their liberty; or the person will successfully steal the food, so the other person loses their property. So starving people threaten the three values you named. It's not that government taking away successful people's money to feed poor people isn't taking some of their life, liberty, and property, because it is; I'd think rather the idea is that not feeding poor people is an even greater threat to life, liberty, and property. I don't know where you are financially, I think some of us who are doing okay are glad to know that if we ever became really poor, there is a "safety net" for us.

        Do you seriously want to do away with food stamps? Because I don't think you'll like the society you see, with beggars on every corner like India.

        You say you want to pick your association. I guess we've decided as a country that not enough people will choose to join associations that fight hunger, and thus we have to fight it with a certain amount of force, not a huge amount, but some.

        As far as slavery, I suppose in the strictest sense none of us are slaves, because we all have the right to leave and go to another country. But wherever we are, we're going to have to exercise great self-control. Freedom doesn't mean being able to do anything you want to do.
  • thumb
    Jan 31 2013: Uh, Robert, I'm still disagreeing with you below. You're asking why you can't opt out of government programs you don't like? Well, let's take food stamps as an example. Say you wanted to opt out. Then the government has to keep a record that you are opting out, which already becomes a burden. They have to alert the tax authorities that you have opted out, another burden. Whoever checks your tax return at the IRS each year will have to start figuring for your opt-out, and everybody else's optout, each set of optouts different. It will make checking tax returns much more complicated and time-consuming, I would think impossibly so. What if you change your mind about opting out? Then everybody has to be re-alerted that you've changed your mind. And what if you do become impoverished and need food stamps, but you've opted out. Some people will be honorable and let themselves starve to death. Other people will start robbing to get food. Some will start demonstrating in front of government offices, asking for the food stamps they opted out of, which means the offices will need increased all becomes a nightmare.

    You might opt out of having a pipe built to your house because you want to dig your own well. But possibly the government is thinking ahead, that eventually you will leave that house and the next person who occupies it will want the pipe. It's certainly easier to place the pipe now when they're doing everybody's.

    Most programs are too big to opt out of. Are you going to opt out of national security, so that when another country invades the U.S., the army will defend the house next to yours, but not yours. It doesn't work, we need a concerted front.

    If you don't like certain programs, you have a perfect right to try to change or eliminate them within the law.
    • Jan 31 2013: You are assuming that the government should run charity programs which it should definitely not. Charity must be given voluntarily for it to be just. If our resources are confiscated against our wills to be given to someone else then we are slaves. At least for that part of our lives we must invest to produce those resources.

      The government doesn't exist for any other reason than to protect the rights of the citizenry. If it is enslaving us then it is failing at its primary mission. We are not here for the convenience of the government but rather the other way around.

      If another country invades this one then must I fight? If I am a free human being rather than cannon fodder then it is my choice whether to fight or not. If enough of us love our country enough to fight for it then the country will survive. If we don't then was it really worth saving?
      • thumb
        Feb 2 2013: Well, Robert, your position is not entirely unreasonable. But I still would rather live in a society where you don't have millions of superpoor people begging on the streets for the money to buy food, or breaking into other people's houses to steal food to put in their empty bellies, or dying of starvation on the street. If the government has to force the more successful people to give money to prevent this, I'm okay with it. There is a kind of balance, because if you freely give your money to charity, then you can take deductions on your taxes and not pay as much.

        You can call it slavery, but realize that government workers themselves pay taxes and help support programs, so they are just as much slaves as we non-government workers.

        You don't have to fight if another country invades, but currently the military will fight for you, as that is the way we have organized. I think we believe that we are more effective in having a trained, professional, cohesive fighting force, than each man fighting for himself. It's certainly true that other countries are going to come at us with a professional army.

        If you want to add more time to your conversation, the last time I looked it had only a few days, you can hit edit and add more time. If I already told you this and you changed it, I apologize.
        • Feb 2 2013: I originally set up the time limit for a week as I'm a bit introverted and communication is not my forte. Just testing the waters so to speak. If we need more time I'll add some on.

          You assume that just because we have the right to refrain from helping the poor that every single one of us will refrain from doing so. You also assume that there will be millions of poor no matter what system we use. I think that if people lived together in mutual respect of each others rights that poverty would be a small problem.

          My philosophy is that while it is wrong to see someone suffering and do nothing it is also wrong to force others to help in your place.

          I think that government forced charity is actually detrimental to society in several ways. First, there is ample evidence that it fosters dependence in the poor and thus makes it harder for them to become self sufficient. Second, It breeds resentment and even hatred amongst those that must pay. Third, it detracts from the sense of community and friendship that comes from people helping each other directly. If you don't want to live in a world with poor people begging in the streets then do something yourself with your time and your money to help those that are immediately around you. Only then will you see the good that was done with your own eyes and know for certain that this person or that is better off because you cared enough to do it yourself. After all, if you aren't willing to go out and act on your own to help others then how much do you really care?
  • Jan 31 2013: NO

    So, Gu L, just give up? Is that it?
  • Gu L

    • 0
    Jan 31 2013: well our freedom is taxed so might as well tax humor aswell
  • thumb

    Gail .

    • 0
    Jan 30 2013: too many hear the words, inalienable right to life, and they think that's what it means (hence no abortion). But it was commonly understood to mean an inalienable right to a natural life. If it was an inalienable right to life itself, then it would be illegal to die as well as to kill.

    Are you willing to live a natural life - without modern medical intervention? If you want more than that which you can produce through your own effort (work), then taxes become necessary FOR AS LONG AS we remain a culture that loves money more than people.
    • Jan 30 2013: You have brought up an interesting concept in your first paragraph. I'll think on it. From the religious perspective the answer to that is that we all have eternal life and, therefore, death is less of an issue.

      I don't want more than I can produce with my on effort and enginuity. You are right. If you want more than you can produce then you must take it from someone else. You don't mention other methods of taking more than your due, theft and slavery. Both concepts are closely related to taxation.
      • thumb

        Gail .

        • 0
        Jan 31 2013: Theft and slavery are VERY closely related to taxation. Our fiscal model makes us slaves. When we are forced, under duress or threat of duress, to work for the benefit of someone else's demands, we are slaves, and our work is stolen from us. When there is no other alternative for survival, our freedom is stolen from us, thus our ability to pursue happiness in more than an internal way.
  • thumb

    Gail .

    • 0
    Jan 30 2013: The "Declaration" says that we have certain inalienable rights,and among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can't know what his list would have been composed of if seen in a more complete form, but we do know that most of the original states included "freedom of conscience" in their lists of inalienable rights.

    Life is not taxed. Income is taxed. We do not have a inalienable right to money or to earn money. That's a choice, not a right.

    We must spend part of our lives working so that we can survive - but you are not required to spend part of your life working for money. You are free to go walk the Adirondack Trail, eating off the land and the offerings of others - heading north as summer approaches and south as winter approaches. There are also national parts and forests - if you don't set up a permanent site and obey Smokey the Bear's rules.

    I don't agree that we have an inalienable right to "own" property. The birds and bears don't "own" property. They merely avail themselves of the bounty thereof. The notion of property rights is a rather recent one in human history. I think that it is at the core of all that is wrong with America.

    If you want to drop off the grid and out of the system, you will pay no taxes whatsoever. But if you want your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness protected, you must understand that your liberty ends where mine begins, and your pursuit of happiness cannot deprive me of life or liberty or my pursuit of happiness.

    Of course, if we were all to drop out of the system and head to the mountains, it would be too crowded there and we would destroy the place, thus our lives, our liberties, and our pursuits of happiness
    • Jan 30 2013: If we are to follow our founding principles and not be hypocrits then we all do have the right to life and property. Logically, I don't have to give up any part of my rights to live in a society that is based on the preservation and defense of those rights. I don't need to move to the hills.

      The core of all that has come to be wrong with America is the disrespect of the lives, liberty and property of its inhabitants that has become so rampant.
      • thumb

        Gail .

        • 0
        Jan 30 2013: But you do not live in a society that is based on those rights. You live in the USA.
        • Jan 30 2013: I believe I hinted at that in the last sentence of my reply.
      • thumb

        Gail .

        • 0
        Jan 30 2013: We are following our founding principles when we do NOT have an inalienable right to own real estate. Our whole fiscal paradigm was designed to prevent the poor form owning property, thus to be part of "natural law" that leaves poor parents losing the better part of their number of children born, due to poverty-related causes. This was all openly discussed
    • Jan 30 2013: Oh, and by the way, if you feel that we don't have a right to property then I'll be glad to take off of your hands any of the stuff you currently have in your possession that you admit that you do not have a right to own.
      • thumb

        Gail .

        • 0
        Jan 30 2013: There is a replacement for our fiscal paradigm (the social glue that holds our culture together) that doesn't claim ownership of anything - even if it's something that I made with my own hands. That's not the culture that I live in. I live in the USA - where it's illegal to sleep outside except in a few places.

        My comment about heading to the mountains was said in jest. The idea is so ludicrous, I thought that you would see that.
        • Jan 30 2013: My offer to take any of the stuff you have that you don't own still stands. If you don't want to give it to me then pick someone at random and give it to them. Until you do, your idea is just so much hot air. Or perhaps worn keyboard?
  • thumb
    Jan 30 2013: I would say we pay taxes for a higher quality of life. For example, if you want indoor plumbing, you'll have to pay taxes for the government to construct a pipeline down your street.
    • Jan 30 2013: Why? Can't a private company do that? It seems private companies can run phone and electric lines. Where I grew up the water was provided by a private company. I lived in the countryside so we used a septic system for sewer.

      How is my quality of life increased when I have to pay for government programs I don't want to participate in?
      • thumb
        Jan 30 2013: Robert, there may be places where a private company could do that. I would guess that they would first have to get permission from all the owners to tear up the street, and that would be quite time-consuming. As far as I know, the government can tear up the street without getting permission from every property owner. In fact, what if the pipeline really needed to be replaced, and one property owner said "No, I'm happy with it as it is," or "I don't have the money right now to pay for my share." What could a private company do, except deny the other property owners the new pipeline they need? Sue the one holdout?, that's expensive. Whereas the government just goes ahead and does it.

        What programs do you not want to participate in? For example, even if you don't collect food stamps, your quality of life might be increased because hungry people aren't breaking into your house to steal food. Or dying on the street in front of you.
        • Jan 30 2013: So then in you book it is a good thing when the government bullies people for what it deems to be their own good? The bottom line is that I have seen private companies do maintenance on what are essentially public works. They do have to work harder to make everyone happy when the government can just run over everyones rights with a steamroller. Your premiss that one guy in a thousand might not go along with the maintenance no matter what compromises the water company wants to make just don't hold much water.

          If I don't want to pay for food stamps, for example, it means that I have already done the cost/benefit analysis and decided that, for me, the costs outweigh the benefits. It doesn't matter If you or anyone else thinks I'm right. If you say that I must pay for them anyway because you will punish me if I don't, what does that make you?
        • thumb

          Gail .

          • 0
          Jan 30 2013: I find "faith based initiatives" morally repugnant and abhorrent. Why should I be forced, under the full might and force of the U. S. government to support morally objectionable spending issues? I also find war and all of the accoutrements of war to be morally abhorrent and very destructive of my society and the societies that we bully. There are lots of things that I wouldn't support if given the chance - even if failing to support one thing means that more of my tax dollars would be spent on something that is not a VIOLATION of my inalienable rights to life, LIBERTY, PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, and FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE.
  • thumb
    Jan 30 2013: the question sounds like a late awakening in the land of the fda, osha, fed, fnma, fhlmc, fdic and the like, doesn't it?