Inalienable Rights

Inalienable rights are universal non-transferable rights that arise from intrinsic human properties and are independent of the laws, beliefs, and customs of a society. Arrangements seeking to violate inalienable rights are thereby invalid, as those arrangements would improperly treat people as nonhuman.   One example of an inalienable right is a person’s decision making capacity, basically their ability to determine their personal actions.  A person’s decision making capacity can never be transferred to another party. At best a person can agree to cooperate in any activity. Despite the coercive pressure that may be applied, a person can always choose whether or not to participate in an action.  It is always an individual’s decision whether to follow another person’s orders or suggestions. There are alternatives to compliance that can be chosen in any situation: refusal and resistance. In the case of slavery there was the option of running away or revolting. In the military solders are required to disobey illegal orders, in the recognition that they retain personal discretion over right and wrong. Within the political sphere it is understood that citizens cannot alienate their decision making capacity to a governing body, it can only be delegated. That is the reason a person cannot sell their vote, or rent it for a temporary period of time. In the same manner, a worker cannot alienate their decision making capacity to a boss or owner of the business.   The point is that in each of these cases the purported alienating transaction fails to negate the personhood of the subject. Slaves are still human, even if they are sold. Their decision making capacity was never alienated to the master. Soldiers do not magically become weapons that blindly follow the orders of superiors once they enlist. They cannot transfer authority to their commanding officers. Subjects under a dictatorship do not become nonhuman because they have no formal vote. And workers do not become tools of production at their job with no say in how or what they create.   It is not the coercive nature of these situations that is under debate. It is the inconsistency between the underlying reality of intrinsic personhood and the social constructs that pretend it can be negated. Those constructs that are incompatible with basic human rights must be abolished. This bans potentially non-coercive (willful and voluntary)  transactions between consenting individuals such as vote selling, vote renting, the self sale into slavery, and the self rental.   While there is much work to be done in shifting public opinion and practice on the last point, abolition efforts have largely won on the three out of four of the issues already. That is something of a track record of success for human development and is an indication that with some effort the last dehumanizing practice of renting humans can also be toppled.

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