The Rights of the Individual

I recently saw these words shared on a meme from the Young Americans for Liberty’s Facebook page.

“A license is what you get when the government steals your rights away from you and then sells them back.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

A license is what allows society to know that the individual in question is qualified to perform whatever the relevant task is. Let’s take a driver’s license for example. I do not believe it is your right to get behind the wheel of a car without proving to the rest of society that you know how to operate the vehicle.

Is this an infringement on personal liberty? I don’t see how it is. I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All these things are cut short if someone runs into me with a car. Does the requirement of a license in order to drive eradicate car accidents? No. But does it lower the number of harmful incidences? Yes. It doesn’t need to be explained why that matters.

I also have no problem with my tax dollars going to a system that will enforce responsible driving behavior. Everyone who is capable of driving safely should have the right to drive, but society asks that you prove this to us first.

In the same way a violent psychopath doesn’t have the right to walk freely down the street, an incapable driver does not have the right to drive, and an incompetent doctor does not have the right to practice medicine. The types of people who view these regulations as an attack on their liberty are not interpreting reality as it really is. We live in a civilization in which every individual has moral responsibility to his or her neighbor. You do not have the right to hurt your neighbor, nor do you have the right to refrain from proving to us that you are a responsible and trustworthy citizen. If you want to own a gun and drive a car, you are obligated to prove to us that you can be trusted with these rights.

If these rules are a problem for you, that’s fine. Go live somewhere else, but do not claim you have the right to live in our society without following these rules that the rest of us have agreed on. We all share the cost of the roads, and because you did not build those roads yourself, you must obey the rules that come along with using those roads.

Contrarians, anarchists, neo-confederates, and so on, your opposition to government is childish. It is masked in pseudo-philosophical thoughts about the individual that would have value if it weren’t for the fact there are several other individuals in the world. Don’t get me wrong, concern for the individual is very, very important. But so is concern for the individual with respect to the rest of society.



  2 comments for “The Rights of the Individual

  1. July 11, 2015 at 12:47 am

    excellent post. I work for a state on a licensing board for nurses. Do people really want health care professionals having no one looking after them? Do they want nurses who abuse drugs and alcohol taking care of them?

    I was reminded of the quote that is often attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes but seems to come from earlier

    “Taxation is the price which we pay for civilization, for our social, civil and political institutions, for the security of life and property, and without which, we must resort to the law of force”

    • July 11, 2015 at 4:15 am

      Excellent quote! Thanks for reading

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