Use of the word inalienable to mean unalienable is widespread. Ambiguous use of both Unalienable and Inalienable rights is rife, resulting in no definition of either taking root. Left without clear meaning, this post postulates a new definition for the phrase inalienable rights.
Right to property
Part one of this post established ‘unalienable’ as the right to actions that sustain our life, which properly should be self evident. Surely it follows we must also be free to keep the proceeds of our effort, the fruits of our labour. If not, our life-sustaining efforts are plundered and our right to live is denied.
‘Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave. Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.’ —Ayn Rand
Product of our efforts
John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher and political theorist, offered in respect to property that land is a raw material to which the ‘property of labour’ can be added, e.g., to improve a parcel of land. Wherefrom— ‘the land and his labour are joined such that the improved land, by the property of his effort, becomes his property.’
Locke’s context was more comprehensive than just land. In his ‘Classic labor theory of private property’, he asserted “the Labour of Mans Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.” Further, “that whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.”
Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) agreed. ‘Bodily labour, bestowed upon any subject which before lay in common to all men, is universally allowed to give the fairest and most reasonable title to an exclusive property.’
Protection of the right to life
The ‘Divine Right of Kings’ confounded Locke’s idea. By kingly supposition, ‘the king is the universal lord and original proprietor of all the lands in his kingdom.’ That erroneous and biased presumption is exactly what America’s founding fathers sought to escape. Their method expressly included ‘action’ (including to improve land and one’s life), by including the phrase ‘pursuit of happiness’ in the Declaration of Independence. Pursuit of happiness means pursuit of life. In other words, America’s founding fathers grasped the significance of Locke’s work, and in one phrase, encapsulated the natural laws concerning Mans life, his freedom to live it, and the right to enjoy the life sustaining fruits of his labours.
Accordingly, our declared right to seek and so acquire property is an “unalienable right”, encompassed and bound by the phrase, the “pursuit of happiness.” Do not be mislead, however. Our right to ‘seek’ offers no right whatsoever to the outcome of our life sustaining actions. We can work to a particular end with no guarantee of the right to use what we’ve achieved.
Two things are shown necessary, thereby. First to protect our right to action, and second, to defend our right to the product of our actions. ‘Unalienable right’ covers the first. ‘Inalienable right’ should properly cover the second, I submit. A new definition for ‘inalienable’ becomes straightforward. Because our labour is inherent in the product, right to the fruit of our labour is ‘inalienable.’ Because ‘labour’ cannot be subtracted from the finished product of our efforts, this ‘inalienable’ right is inherently unchangeable.
Inalienable Rights defined
Now the word ‘inalienable’ may be objectively defined as never before.
- Inalienable right is our right to the product of our action(s); the right of entitlement (or belonging) to that which our efforts have produced, including improvements and cultivations made to land. Wherefrom—
- Inalienable rights deny confiscation of our lawful property. Our (labour of love) right to it cannot be taken without violating our right to life’s sustenance.
Implications are immediately apparent—
- Products of our labour are ours by inalienable right.
- Theft, confiscation, destruction of another’s property and eminent domain are outlawed.
- Products can be traded, sold, gifted or bequeathed.
- Products can be subject to lien, i.e. rightfully kept until a debt owed by the lawful owner is discharged.
- Whosever denies our right to property denies our right to life sustaining actions.
Does that last point help explain why authoritarian states rule that equitable title be separate from legal title? Do you see how ‘authority’ may profit handsomely through ambiguity and people’s ignorance? Perhaps this is why the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, in Washington DC, has the word ‘inalienable’ engraved in twelve inch high letters, despite the Declaration of Independence used the word ‘unalienable?’
Unalienable or and Inalienable rights
Now the title of this post can be corrected. The phrase ‘inalienable rights,’ defined as that which joins life sustaining efforts to the ‘unalienable right’ to those actions, fully accords with natural law. Each ‘right’ upholds the other, but neither allows identical meaning, or their divorce.
Unalienable right is ‘right to act’ in support of our life.
Inalienable right is ‘right to the product’ of those actions.
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