[Audioblog length 4:19]
The situation at the US-Mexico border is uncomfortable for me. My wife and I are a bit divided over it. No, we aren’t fighting, we just lean towards opposite ends. What we agree on is that the immigration system is a mess. I don’t want to focus on our differences or what the possible solutions are. If this situation persists, I may revisit it to cover different aspects, but one detail about the caravan has bothered me: some of the men are said to be armed.
The Constitution of the United States is a document designed to muzzle the State against the People. The Power of the State comes from the People and the People are said to have been afforded Rights and Power from their Creator. The People cede some of that Power to the State, so that it can serve the People at large. Mostly, the larger, uniting government is tasked with settling disputes between the constituent states and ensuring the union of states is pleasing to all. The signers of the Constitution spoke on behalf of the People at large. There is an interesting writer I discovered recently who posits that he and I are not born with an obligation of fealty to the State because of where we were born. He was an abolitionist and a prolific defender of individual liberty. I haven’t read Lysander Spooner’s work, but heard interesting discussions around it. I clarify that to furnish this caveat: just because he said or wrote those words, I don’t know their full context and what I say may not fall in line with them. The idea stuck with me, because I love how empowering and freeing it is.
Why should I pledge allegiance to a flag or die for my country? What have they done for me? Do I abandon my morals to be a good citizen? What is a good citizen? All these questions stem from the idea that it is the State that owes an obligation to me, not the other way around. Put another way, I am free, I have Rights because I am a person. The State is shackled by the Constitution to mitigate the harm it can do to me, in deference to those Rights. The State is run by fallen Men and is framed in such a way to protect the most marginalized and vulnerable of us, the People, humans, not Americans per se, from their fallibility. This radical, but logical view brings to mind Locke’s Two Treatises, which I did read. In it, Natural Law and the Rights of the Individual are explored in great depth. As I recall, they are framed in terms of Property Rights. If someone puts labor into raw materials that don’t belong to another, they can stake claim to them. It is immoral to seize another’s property, hoard, overuse or ruin natural resources because one is denying others the opportunity to provide for their own sustenance and happiness through them. In the minimalistic world Locke presents, the idea of the use of force to defend one’s property is seen as good and necessary at times.
This approach to society makes sense to me; it seems moral and just. People are the holders of Rights and Freedoms, they are not granted by the State. Coming back to the armed caravan of migrants: why shouldn’t they be able to travel from country to country? Why shouldn’t they be armed? I think I should be able to openly carry my pistol. It is my Right. It is their Right, too. As long as we do not harm others with our guns, or knives or fists, their is nothing wrong with us retaining them. Maybe the armed members of the caravan are armed for protection, maybe to hunt animals in some wilderness expanse they are traversing, maybe they just want to take some of their valuable possessions with them as they travel to a new home. Maybe they are savage criminals, but that doesn’t matter until there is harmful action taken by them. I will close with a paraphrase of a core tenet of Individual Rights and Liberty: you Right to swing your fist ends at the other person’s nose.