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Over the past few decades, American culture has gravitated away from concepts of political morals and toward more of a sense of personal relationship between people, between citizens and their government, between individuals and religious beliefs, etc.  I've noticed this on every issue and from every part of the spectrum.  And one aspect of it that seems to be both a consequence and a cause of the shift is that a phrase that was once common in political discussions has become relatively rare, in my experience: "You have no right."

Instead of saying "You have no right" or asking "What gives you the right?" people instead focus on relational matters, such as the hypocrisy of a person's standards or the unfairness of their behavior toward one group over another.  The latter are of course important, but it suggests a growing solipsism in political affairs where the only way we can judge anything is by its associations rather than by any foundational moral standard.  That's a problem, because the worst and most malevolent ideas are always adept at manipulating perception while the best tend to be easily obscured unless someone cuts to the chase.

Think back to the Iraq War and the arguments we made against it: It's illegal, it's unjustified, it's unnecessary, it's expensive, it damages American credibility, it promotes terrorism, it distracts from missions that are actually necessary and legal, etc. etc.  And while the confused moderates who supported the war out of conformity could acknowledge these points, they were never moved by them.  But there was one phrase that they could never, ever deal with - that shut them up and had them floundering.  "What gives you the right to be in Iraq?"  

They were not the fascist imbeciles who still insisted Saddam Hussein had WMDs or was involved with al Qaeda, they were just going along to get along, so when you asked them what gave them the right to be there, they had no answer.  "What gives you the right to go into someone else's country that hasn't attacked you and murder anyone who tells you to leave?"  As long as they weren't the kind of people who would spout lies to cover for themselves, they had no answer - it's a powerful question, and it's powerful on every issue.

Under today's politics, abortion rights are usually advocated in the sense of saying that a woman has a right to choose, rather than that the state has no right to stop her from choosing.  The War on Drugs, meanwhile, is fought on practical bases - e.g., it doesn't work, it's too expensive, it drives violence and community degradation, it militarizes the police and isolates them from the community, etc., while the fundamental fact that there is simply no moral basis for criminalized drug prohibition is neglected.  "You have no right to tell me what I put in my body" is not a frequent argument in mainstream discussion even among average citizens.  

On fiscal matters, we tend to focus on the hypocrisy of the "wealthfare" elite rather than boiling it down to the hard diamond of truth that they have no right to do what they're doing - to incessantly, maliciously impoverish others while refusing to give back to society as they live in luxury.  That they're basically stealing.  The same could be said for many other issues too.

Try these out:

1.  You have no right to force women to be pregnant.
2.  You have no right to throw people in prison for victimless "crimes."
3.  You have no right to evade taxes while living in luxury.
4.  You have no right to impose your religious beliefs on others.
5.  You have no right to impose the consequences of your choices on other people.

Those two phrases need to be relearned and redeployed in political discussions:

The declarative "You have no right!" and the interrogative, engaging "What gives you the right?"  Nothing stops a mendacious asshole from making shit up in response, or dodging, or the usual tactics, but it's powerful nonetheless.  When they appeal to some narrow legalism in response to a fundamental moral question, you've won and everyone sees that you've won.  If they do anything other than engage with your premise, you've won and everyone knows you've won.  

Of course, they might respond in kind with similar questions on their own issues, but that's what you want - you want a rights-based discussion.  Such a conversation can only bend toward the benefit of greater liberty and progress.

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