The ‘natural’ rights zombie

Conservatism

Ryan Williams speaks not of “human rights,” but “natural rights.”[13] To say the difference is crucial understates it. As I noted in my dissertation, conservatives often reject the idea of “human rights,” asserting instead “natural right,” which they decline to define.[14] Here Williams seems to treat them as being derived from the Christian god,[15] which is consistent with my association[16] with “natural law,” law allegedly planted in “men’s” hearts by that same god, assuming a universal notion of good and evil, that in fact varied generally but particularly with the size of societies.[17]

“Natural right” is a much more constrained notion of rights than “human rights.” As such, I see it as being at odds with the Ninth Amendment, which guarantees “unenumerated rights.”[18] “Natural right” seems largely to reduce to the Bill of Rights, albeit apparently excluding the Ninth Amendment and placing heavy emphasis on a discredited (“states’ rights”) interpretation of the Tenth Amendment. This is all stuff to be terrified about beginning with the question of whose god allegedly endowed these rights: Was it the Old Testament asshole? Was it a hellfire and brimstone portrayal of that god? Was it a Jesus concerned with the poor? And what, with this overt Christian bias, would we say to people of other faiths, really?

Indeed, if we think that Donald Trump believed only his followers were “true Amerikkkans,” then Williams echoes this in only slightly more polished form:

But if [the Claremont Institute] thinks real Americanism is a belief in the principles of the American founding, we have to acknowledge that a good portion of our fellow citizens don’t agree with our principles and conclusions about what politics is for. If we differ on those fundamental things, we’re really two Americas.[19]

It should be pointed out that precisely what those principles meant remains in dispute, particularly as to the role of Christianity. But Williams takes it as a settled matter.

Emma Green, “The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War,” Atlantic, October 1, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/claremont-ryan-williams-trump/620252/


Artificial idiocy

John Naughton, “The truth about artificial intelligence? It isn’t that honest,” Guardian, October 2, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/02/the-truth-about-artificial-intelligence-it-isnt-that-honest

Sue Halpern, “The Human Costs of AI,” New York Review of Books, October 21, 2021, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/10/21/human-costs-artificial-intelligence/


Infrastructure

Politico is reporting that Democrats are no longer pursuing $3.5 trillion for their reconciliation package but a number 40 percent below that. They’re still figuring out what cuts to make to the package to bring it within that range.[20] I have not found this confirmed elsewhere and it’s probably worth noting that Politico’s claim seems only to be in a newsletter rather than an actual article.

It’s also worth noting that a number in the $2 trillion range[21] is much more than half way to Joe Manchin’s top-line number of $1.5 trillion,[22] particularly when one considers that the initial plan had been for $6 trillion.[23]

“That’s [Joe Manchin’s $1.5 trillion top-line figure] not going to happen. That’s too small,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s going to be somewhere between $1.5 and $3.5 [trillion] and the White House is working on that right now.”[24]

Dan Balz, “What will it take for Biden to bring fractured Democrats together?” Washington Post, October 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/take-biden-agenda-democrats/2021/10/02/79ea35b8-237e-11ec-8200-5e3fd4c49f5e_story.html

Maureen Dowd, “Sinema Stars in Her Own Film,” New York Times, October 2, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/02/opinion/kyrsten-sinema-congress.html

Jonathan Martin and Jonathan Weisman, “Biden Throws In With Left, Leaving His Agenda in Doubt,” New York Times, October 2, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/02/us/politics/biden-progressives-moderates-agenda.html

Marianna Sotomayor, “For Democrats and the Biden agenda, it’s becoming a matter of trust,” Washington Post, October 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/reconciliation-biden-trust/2021/10/03/ca9fb670-2385-11ec-8fd4-57a5d9bf4b47_story.html


Gig economy

Workers

Laura Forman, “At Uber and Lyft, Ride-Price Inflation Is Here to Stay,” Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-uber-and-lyft-ride-price-inflation-is-here-to-stay-11633345381


Pandemic

(Inter)national

Mark Berman, “As coronavirus cases mount and vaccine mandates spread, holdouts plague police and fire departments,” Washington Post, October 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/02/police-firefighters-resist-vaccination/

Michael Brice-Saddler and Jasmine Hilton, “Thousands of D.C. health care workers remain unvaccinated amid flurry of religious exemption requests,” Washington Post, October 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/10/02/dc-fire-religious-exemptions-covid-vaccine/

Mike Baker, “In Alaska’s Covid Crisis, Doctors Must Decide Who Lives and Who Dies,” New York Times, October 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/03/us/coronavirus-crisis-alaska.html


  1. [13]Emma Green, “The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War,” Atlantic, October 1, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/claremont-ryan-williams-trump/620252/
  2. [14]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  3. [15]Emma Green, “The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War,” Atlantic, October 1, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/claremont-ryan-williams-trump/620252/
  4. [16]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [17]R. H. Helmholz, Natural Law in Court (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2015).
  6. [18]U.S. Const. amend. IX.
  7. [19]Ryan Williams, quoted in Emma Green, “The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War,” Atlantic, October 1, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/claremont-ryan-williams-trump/620252/
  8. [20]Ryan Lizza et al. to Playbook list, “How Democrats could still get it done,” Politico, October 4, 2021, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2021/10/04/how-democrats-could-still-get-it-done-494562
  9. [21]Ryan Lizza et al. to Playbook list, “How Democrats could still get it done,” Politico, October 4, 2021, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2021/10/04/how-democrats-could-still-get-it-done-494562
  10. [22]Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett, “Democrats grit their teeth after Manchin lists demands,” Politico, September 30, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/30/democrats-grit-teeth-manchin-demands-514836
  11. [23]Daniel Strauss, “Can Pramila Jayapal Stare Down Manchin and Sinema?” New Republic, September 29, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/163811/pramila-jayapal-infrastructure-manchin-sinema
  12. [24]Marianna Sotomayor, “For Democrats and the Biden agenda, it’s becoming a matter of trust,” Washington Post, October 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/reconciliation-biden-trust/2021/10/03/ca9fb670-2385-11ec-8fd4-57a5d9bf4b47_story.html

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