Unalienable rights and inalienable rights are considered by many people to mean the same thing. This two-part post deals with both in turn. A subsequent post will deal with the application and implications of both. (For easy pronunciation of these words I suggest Un-a-lean-able; likewise In-a-lean-able)
The fact that unalienable rights and inalienable rights are identical in meaning is often explained by the Latin negative prefix ‘in’, versus the English prefix of ‘un’. Although this notion can be written off as nonsense, we should be cautioned to learn the vital difference between them, even though they share a common thread.
What are rights
A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. —Ayn Rand
Our fundamental (natural) right is the right to uphold and sustain our life. Since rights belong to each, and we each live as individuals, then rights are individual rights. Because there is no collective lung, heart, brain, or digestive system to be sustained, there is no combined life to be maintained by collective ‘human rights.’
A natural right in the strict sense is that which is naturally under a person’s control, his body with its faculties of movement, feeling, thought, and speech. By extension, a natural right is what a person brings under his control without violating any other person’s natural rights. ―Frank van Dun
This does not say a natural right is one’s action, rather it is the right to action. It does not say that one has a natural right to a thing, or some outcome, e.g., to an education or health care. It says a natural right, is (self) control over our faculties, without violating another’s rights. Without individual rights, no freedoms are possible. It follows that actions which preserve others right to life guarantee our own. Then the converse is true also. Actions that violate others rights forfeit our own. Individuals may associate, cooperate, and collaborate, but no associative dealing can negate our free and unalienable right to life. Natural rights must be protected if we are to be free.
To understand unalienable and inalienable rights first gasp the keyword ‘alien.’ It is from the word lien, the etymological root of which is the Anglo-French lien, meaning a loyen bond, restraint, from Latin ligamen, from ligare to bind. Thus if lien means to bond or bind, then its opposite connotation means to undo that bond; to alienate one aspect or element, from its other(s). Where a part cannot possibly be split, divorced, or separated, then the bond is undoable, meaning it is unable to be broken. Hence the word, unalienable serves to indicate that the bond is unable to be severed by any means whatsoever.
This understanding leaves the word ‘inalienable’ with no definition, which may explain why the two words are considered interchangeable.
For example, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) has an entry for “inalienable” (defined as “incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred”). But under ‘unalienable,’ the dictionary says that means ‘inalienable.’ Do you see the switch, how ‘inalienable’ is falsely defined ‘unalienable’? For what reason we might ask.
‘It is impossible for any individual to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of an “unalienable Right”. It is impossible for you to take one of my “unalienable rights”. It is likewise impossible for me to even voluntarily surrender, sell or transfer one of my “unalienable rights”. Once I have something “unalienable,” it’s impossible for me to get rid of it. It would be easier to give up the color of my eyes or my heart than to give up that which is unalienable,’ —Alfred Adask
Unalienable rights are of Creator
Thomas Jefferson phrased the Declaration of Independence to indicate that all men are created with certain inherent rights premised upon the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God.’ Specifically, all men are equally endowed by their Creator with ‘unalienable rights’ to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
It is important to note that Jefferson carefully chose the distributive plural ‘laws,’ to purposefully distinguish the ‘law of nature’ and the ‘law of God’ who is over nature. Using the two phrases to signify the same thing, Jefferson effectively stated that the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God’ are the foundation for unalienable rights.
Unalienable rights are immutable
No man or woman can live for his or her sake without also having the immutable right to his or her life. No directive or proclamation of Man can ever erase these essential facts of our nature. This right is not transferable by any means. It is incapable of being aliened. Our life, and our right to live are inseparable. Unalienable Rights are the fundamental moral law of our nature to sustain and maintain our life, respectful of, and within the equal rights of all others. This understanding is what Jefferson referred to as ‘self-evident truths.’
Creator has determined that our right to live is refused manipulation, cancellation or denial, and that each individual exists for his own sake and not as the servant of any other being. The only life one has a right to control, coerce, rule, confiscate or terminate is one’s own. Notwithstanding all the above, free will allows for our right to life to be politically overruled for nefarious purposes. Today it is, made legal, but legal is not lawful.
In summary, because a natural right is immutably the right to action, unalienable right is our right to action.
This leaves the phrase inalienable rights with no plausible definition. Part two of this post corrects that problem.
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