Category: Natural Rights

Exploration of our natural rights: what they are and where they come from.

Social Isolation Is Damaging an Entire Generation of Kids

Social Isolation Is Damaging an Entire Generation of Kids

By keeping healthy children under quarantine, we are cruelly depriving them of the in-person free play and social interaction that are critical to their development and emotional well-being.

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). She is also an adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute and a regular Forbes contributor. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

I read an advice article at Slate recently where a mom of a nearly five-year-old daughter wrote in to express concern that her child hasn’t seen any friends in five months, since COVID-19 lockdowns began. She said:

Because of COVID, my husband and I have decided to skip [pre-K] altogether and teach her everything she needs to know before kindergarten ourselves. This doesn’t worry me academically, but I am concerned about her development and the loss of the social interaction she was going to experience.

The advice columnist responded that the mom shouldn’t worry about her child’s social isolation, saying:

She is part of a whole generation of quarantined 5-year-olds. It’ll take her a while to catch up once she reenters society, sure—but it’s going to take everyone a while.

This resignation to ongoing government lockdowns, endless social distancing, mandatory mask orders, and travel restrictions—even as the virus wanes in the US—is damaging to our social and economic health, and may be particularly problematic for children who are separated from their peers.

While some evidence suggests that young people are faring well outside of forced schooling, with less school-induced stress and anxiety, the same research indicates that children and teens are missing their friends dearly. Social isolation seems to be taking a toll. With most large, urban school districts planning remote-learning only this fall, the isolation is likely to continue for many children—unless parents step in to alleviate this loneliness.

An article in The Wall Street Journal exposed the impact of pandemic-related social isolation on children and adolescents: “‘Of all age groups, this virus is probably more socially devastating to teens than any other group. They are bored and they are lonely,’ says Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.”

Another recent Journal article reinforced these unintended consequences of the lockdowns and social distancing on adolescents, and particularly girls: “Adolescent girls already were experiencing record-high levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression before the pandemic, according to Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist and author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls ‘All of the things that a year ago were increasing girls’ depression have been exacerbated by the pandemic,’ [said] Dr. Pipher.”

Regardless of whether or not you think schools should reopen for in-person learning this fall, the reality is that kids need to be around other kids to play, socialize, and learn.

They don’t need this play, socializing, and learning to happen in schools.

In fact, they may find much more authentic, satisfying social play and learning outside of a conventional classroom. Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College, has written extensively on the importance of unstructured childhood social play for children’s health and well-being. In a June interview with NPR, Gray said:

Play is crucial to children’s development. And much of my research shows that over the last few decades, our children have been very play deprived. They spend so much time in school, so much time that homework after school, so much time in adult-directed activities which are not fully play — play is activity that children develop themselves — that children take control of themselves and their children learn to be independent and solve their own problems.

(To learn more about this, see Gray’s book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.)

If they were play-deprived prior to the pandemic, then many children may be more play-deprived now, as they have been cut-off from peers for nearly six months. Gray has documented the correlation between the decline in play and the rise in childhood and adolescent mental health disorders. This is something that is deeply concerning now as children, and especially adolescents, are even more distanced from their peers.

While technology has been a lifesaver for all of us during the pandemic, it has also consumed a much larger portion of children’s lives. A new report released this month by the Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that 63 percent of teens are using social media more than they did pre-pandemic, and more than half of their parents indicate that social media use is having a negative impact on their kids.

Perhaps more startling, the survey found that 68 percent of parents say that social media is interfering with their teen’s ability to have normal social interactions. Concerns about social media use and its impact on teen mental and social health were widespread before the pandemic, but it could be particularly troubling now as social media use soars while many teens remain separated from their friends.

The continued quarantining of healthy children and adolescents is misguided and deprives them of the childhood play and in-person social interaction that are critical to their growth and development. FEE’s Jon Miltimore wrote a great article recently saying this very thing, and providing international data on the low risks of COVID-19 on children. The health risks to children of the virus may be small, but the risks to children’s mental and emotional health from forced separation from peers is not. Miltimore writes:

The best scientific evidence we have shows that children have the least to fear from COVID-19. As the CDC points out, the common flu is far more dangerous for children than the coronavirus. A society that deprives children of the basic freedom to gather to play, learn, explore, and socialize does them a grave injustice, one that will result in far more harm than good. Fortunately, we have ample evidence and real-life examples that show the costs of quarantining healthy children far outweigh the benefits.

The OECD recently issued a report detailing the global harm the pandemic response is inflicting on children’s social and economic health and well-being, especially poor children. Its recommendation to combat these detrimental effects is to add more government interventions and mandates, particularly in social services, healthcare, and education.

But adding more layers of government involvement to fix the problems created by government lockdown policies puts expensive Band-Aids on injuries that could be alleviated by loosening the lockdowns.

So what can parents do? While they may not be able to lift government orders, parents can lift some of their self-imposed social distancing practices to help their children and teens avoid continued isolation and the damaging consequences that can arise from being disconnected from their peers.

Take the steps to connect your children with other children for play dates and social interactions, and encourage older children and teens to reach out to their friends to organize in-person get-togethers.

If schools aren’t open for in-person learning, consider creating a “pandemic pod” this fall for consistent group play and learning, and encourage teens to gather for small, in-person study groups and co-learning. Push back against the creeping government control of family life, and question the politicians and pundits who keep telling you, and especially your kids, to stay home.

The Ascendant State

The Ascendant State

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes the word “ascendant” as “supreme or dominating, rising, gaining power or authority.” Is it fair to use this word to describe today’s governing authorities? I think so. In our last quill “Our Natural Rights: Unpacked” we touched on the relationship between our natural rights and the need to protect them. Beyond the legitimacy of each individual to defend their rights lies the role of collective groups of individuals. In Libertarianism, the non-aggression principle (NAP) states the use of force is only permitted to defend one’s rights to life, liberty and property. If these are the only circumstances in which an individual’s use of force is legitimate, a collective group of individuals should be bound by the same laws. Acting as a collective, how is the state doing in this regard? In this quill, we will demonstrate how the state’s use of force neglects its actual mandate, instead infringing upon our rights to life, liberty and property.

Every individual has the right to defend themselves from bodily harm. We see this throughout the modern free world, often reading media accounts of would-be victims fighting off, sometimes even killing their attackers, with little to no legal consequences. This demonstrates the state’s recognition of our right to defend our own well-being. Moving from the individual to the collective, we would hope to see the same reasoning. Instead, we see countless laws which negatively impact and jeopardize the individual’s right to life. One example of this is found under section 19(1) of The Canada Health Act which impedes service providers from charging patients for any service deemed insurable. This policy has contributed to longer waiting periods as patients willing to pay for services are not given that option. In some circumstances, longer wait times can mean the difference between life and death. Another example is the way in which the state employs its police force. There are many resources on the current state of policing and the problems that exist. Police brutality obviously comes to mind. When a collective group of armed individuals enforce unjust laws (as they pertain to the NAP) to the point of bodily harm, they are no longer protecting the individual’s right to life. Policing is no longer about protecting the security of the person but rather the enforcement of laws. Our right to safeguard our physical well-being is eroding before us; and it will most likely get worse unless ideologies change. 

Now what about that right to personal liberty? Personal liberties normally found within a liberal democracy are freedom of speech, religion, assembly, freedom to exchange goods and services on the open market, freedom of movement from one territory to another within a nation, just to name a few. Referring back to the NAP, we see why one should really question the state’s legitimacy when interfering in these areas. There are elements of hate speech which can arouse violent actions; so we can concede that action in this area is sometimes required. 

We have seen emerging policies with regards to the usage of gender pronouns. An unclassified Canadian Armed Forces message recently revealed that the use of gender specific pronouns will no longer be acceptable when writing employee performance reviews. Caution needs to be exercised when dealing with this issue, as it leaves no room for consenting individuals to determine which pronouns they prefer. Breaking this new rule would most likely result in legal consequences. Ask yourself: Does mandating the use of certain pronouns on consenting individuals amount to protecting their rights or infringing upon them? Would the state be justified in removing our ability to call strawberries “red” to avoid alienating people living with colour blindness? We could go into greater detail but if you see the over-reaching effect the state can cause in areas such as compelled speech, the point has been made. Now onto the question of property – our stuff.

On the surface, many feel the state adequately protects our right to property. When anything belonging to us is criminally taken or destroyed we call the police to investigate, hopefully bringing the person(s) to justice. This, however, does nothing to return our property.  Our reliance on insurance policies to compensate us gives us a false sense of justice. When we look at the direct relationship between our property and the state, we see a different reality. In Canada, as a property owner, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect our property rights. The state has the ability to expropriate (eminent domain in the U.S.) your property when deemed to be in the best interest of the public. In addition, a landowner can never achieve complete ownership of their land, as a yearly property tax is due in order to maintain ownership. I don’t want to head too far down the road of taxation; but it deserves mentioning. Regardless of taxation’s outcome, whether an individual nets benefits from the services, forcible taxation with a penalty of imprisonment for not paying is a violation of property rights. I’m not claiming taxation never brings good initiatives, only that involuntary taxation could be viewed as a form of theft. Referring back to the NAP, if the collective group is legitimate only when mirroring individual action, how does taxation fit into this? When was the last time you cleared the snow from your neighbour’s driveway without asking and then sent them a bill? Hopefully never.

In conclusion, I hope many come to understand that collective right is based on individual right; and state action is only justified when upholding individual rights. On this very point, Frédéric Bastiat, French economist, writer and a prominent member of the French Liberal School wrote, “If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, non-oppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable…” We urgently need to re-examine our relationship with the state, as well as our measure of personal freedoms, and work towards rejection of ascendant governance to uphold individual liberties.  

Towards liberty

OA

Our Natural Rights: Unpacked

Our Natural Rights: Unpacked

Humanity has received this great gift: the endowment of our natural rights. But what makes up this gift? What’s in the box so to speak? Although we touched on them in the previous quill entitled “In the Beginning” we now turn to the task of unpacking all three rights and explaining what they mean for us when they are respected. The subsequent paragraphs are aimed at justifying and expanding on our natural rights to life, liberty and property. 

When looking at the right to life, it’s important to note that synonymous with the word “life” are the words “individuality” and “person”. Within the context of this discussion, these terms all refer to the same principle. As we begin, I feel compelled to ask this question: Does the right to life require much explanation? Without some level of assurance that others won’t arbitrarily take our lives or seriously harm us, how can we move towards human flourishing? In the absence of a secured right to life, both our attention and our efforts become solely focused on self-preservation and/or the protection of our loved ones. To illustrate this, let us look at the Huaorani tribe of Ecuador and their long history of revenge killings. Prior to their eventual reception of Christian missionaries in the late 1950s, the Huaorani permitted the killing of one another by way of spearing in order to resolve tribal issues. In a genealogy conducted during the late 1970s which spanned over five generations, data revealed that 64% of the tribe’s deaths came as a direct result of warfare and/or from threats of violence.[1] No surprise, that by the middle of the twentieth century, the tribe’s standard of living was still so primitive. Today, almost all of the Huaorani have chosen to cease their practice of revenge killings and some have found employment opportunities within the forestry and energy sectors which now operate in the area. Economic investments and expansions in the region proved much easier for the companies involved once the Huaorani began demonstrating a general respect for each individual’s right to life. This respect has resulted in longer life expectancy as well as improvements in their living standards. So respect the person but then what?

As we come to expect to live from one day to another, our thoughts can shift to the principle of liberty: also known as faculties. What is meant by the right to liberty? Simply put, “liberty” or “faculties” equates the freedom to use our talents or labour in the best way we see fit. What happens when we are free to exercise choice in our lives? We make decisions based on what brings us the greatest return at the smallest possible cost. The returns we refer to here are not solely financial as sometimes returns are simply a measure of overall happiness. What do I mean by cost? The choices we make in life come at what economists like to call “opportunity costs.” By definition, “Opportunity costs represent the benefits an individual, investor or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.”[2] Basically, if I choose option A over option B, what do I give up that only option B would have brought me? Do we notice how often the idea of choice comes up? Many take this freedom of choice for granted. Let us consider what life would be like if a centrally planned economy dictated how, where and when we applied our talents and labour. I’m terrible at tying knots. However, I have a gift for analytical work which involves numbers and forecasting. What if in a completely planned economy, the only employment offered me was as a Deckhand on a sailing vessel? Well, not only would the ship be in constant peril (I’m serious), the labour itself would require far more effort from me in order to fulfill my duties than an analytical desk job. Even if the position was found to be higher paying than the one better suited for my talents, forgoing the satisfaction and peace of mind which would come with the more suited position could present too high a cost for me to view the increased salary as beneficial. In some systems like Communism, this scenario is a reality. I prefer not to be told I’m going to be a Deckhand. Free labour markets coupled with the freedom of movement are key ingredients for respecting the individual’s right to liberty. So how does all of this tie into the right to personal property?

In his book “The Law”, Frédéric Bastiat has this to say about property: “Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.”[3] If we have no right to the fruits of our labour and these fruits are free to be plundered, what creates the incentive for us to labour in the first place? Would it not be quicker to plunder the next person’s goods in order to survive? On this, Bastiat adds, “…plunder…stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor” (5). How do we make labour less painful than plunder? Simple. Leave the fruits (wages/property) to the labourer. The right to property has profound implications on our overall well-being. Take for instance our homes. If anyone passing by were free to take possession of them upon finding them empty, we would have to ensure they were never left vacant. Do we see how this burden would drastically impact our ability to maintain and/or expand our production? The absence of property rights would necessitate that resources in the area of both time and capital be depleted in order to protect our personal property. Imagine having no legal claim to physical capital such as work tools, the very things that enable tradesmen to produce labour and sustain their lives. The tools disappear taking with them the person’s livelihood. Without the right to property, there are no incentives to production beyond that which is required to live a hand to mouth existence to survive. Once the right to property has been secured, humans can then pursue other ambitions and this is where we really start to see humans flourish. 

Before closing and in the event that their relationship to one another is still not yet clear, it should be stated that all three of the aforementioned rights are interdependent upon each other. Liberty comes from life, property comes out of labour, and life is sustained through our ability to keep the fruits of our labour. The interconnected nature of all three when respected is what lifts up human flourishing. We can choose to walk through life never questioning our relationship with the world around us; but in doing so we will also never experience life’s fullness. Let us now close the box back up, and ready ourselves for what comes next: how natural rights intersect with the state.     

Towards liberty,

OA


[1] Beckerman, Stephen, et al. “Life Histories, Blood Revenge, and Reproductive Success among the Waorani of Ecuador.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 19 May 2009, www.pnas.org/content/106/20/8134.

[2] Kenton, Will. “Understanding Opportunity Cost.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 Jan. 2020, www.investopedia.com/terms/o/opportunitycost.asp.

[3] Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law. Lehi: Libertas Press, 2017. Print. P.5

In the Beginning

In the Beginning


Labor gives birth to ideas.” – Jim Rohn –


When a newborn first cries out, it knows nothing of the fact its new-found freedom will be routinely challenged. For conversations on the topic of freedom/liberty to be meaningful, it is my opinion one first needs to accept from the point of conception, a human being is endowed with certain natural rights. Those rights encompass one’s individuality, liberty and property which can also be referred to as life, faculty and production[1]. When all three are respected, it allows for the full expansion of human creativity which leads to subsequent human flourishing. Some question the idea of natural rights arguing the individual is merely a small component of a greater social collective. These same individuals often resist the idea of inalienable rights asking “exactly where do these rights come from?” In this short essay, arguments will be presented to show natural rights do indeed exist, and do so regardless of humanity’s origin whether created by God or by way of evolution.

Full disclosure: I’m a Christian. I’m part of the 75% (circa 2011) of Canadians who say they believe in God.[2] Not all of those are Christian but they all hold to a belief that humanity came from a Creator. I will only touch on the biblical creation account as this is where my own experience resides. The reader is encouraged to look into creation accounts from other religions should they feel more examples are required to support the argument. 

The biblical account of human origin begins with: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen:1-26-27)[3] Christians understand that to be made in the image of God means we share certain attributes with God. If our Creator has rights (holds authority) and chooses to both create and impart some of His attributes onto us, we must also possess some of those inalienable rights. More specifically, if our Creator is the giver and sustainer of life, clearly as His created work we have a right to “life” and it should therefore be respected. Let us consider the artist. When they create something, unless they choose to transfer its ownership, the artist alone dictates whether that work is preserved or destroyed. Lastly, the quoted scripture states we have been given dominion over the rest of creation. This is important and supports the idea that in order to exercise this dominion, we are required to use our “faculties” to “produce” commodities which give us the means to support our very lives. This brief excerpt from the biblical creation account lends support to the believer arguing for the existence of their natural rights. 

Subsequent to my earlier disclosure: I wasn’t always a Christian. I mention this to demonstrate that I know very well what it’s like to hold a worldview which doesn’t accept the creation account of life’s origin. For the evolutionist, the question to consider is this: If humanity came by way of evolution and nothing has been imparted to us, how can we claim to have any rights at all? 

To answer this, let us turn to the writer/philosopher Ayn Rand well known in libertarian circles for her best-selling novels, as well as the development of a philosophical system known as Objectivism.[4] Let me be clear: Objectivism rejects the idea of the supernatural which therefore results in the rejection of the idea of God. It holds that rights are based in morality and these rights explain how humans should interact in social contexts.[5] The philosophy continues by stating the primary moral goal of human existence is to achieve happiness; in order to attain this happiness there is a requirement for people to both respect certain facts about human nature, and respect the rights of others. So how do we determine exactly what these rights are? The answer becomes clearer once we realize Objectivists endorse free-market capitalism. Under this economic system, a limited government is charged with protecting the individual’s right to individuality, liberty, and property only using force when required to protect those rights.[6]Simply put, protect one’s freedom to produce their desired goods/services, then safeguard their ability to reap the rewards then you will see humans flourish. In light of these ideas, we see how Rand and countless others have come to argue that humanity does indeed hold both necessary and inalienable rights in order to achieve life’s greatest purpose: human happiness.

Admittedly, the arguments presented on behalf of both worldviews have been anything but lengthy; brevity was intentional. Serious inquirers are encouraged to delve deeper by referencing other resources on the topic. Although brief, both arguments effectively lead us to conclude that regardless of humanity’s “raison d’être”, each and every individual possesses natural rights. When respected, these rights enable individuals to both sustain and enhance their own well-being. As for how those rights intersect with our governing authorities, the great French economist Frédéric Bastiat once wrote “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”[7] That idea is something we should all pause to consider. It likely warrants a short essay of its own. In closing, may we draw inspiration from the newly born and boldly assert that from first cry[8] unto final breath, we are all endowed with natural rights. Now that’s something worth fighting for!

Towards liberty,

OA


[1] Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law. Lehi: Libertas Press, 2017. Print. P.1

[2] Statistics Canada. “Two-Thirds of the Population Declare Christian as Their Religion.” Canadian Demographics at a Glance, Second Edition, 19 Feb. 2016, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/91-003-x/2014001/section03/33-eng.htm.

[3] The Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.

[4] “Ayn Rand.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand.

[5] Thomas, William. “Natural Rights.” The Atlas Society, 28 Sept. 2010, atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/4079-natural-rights.

[6] Thomas, William. “What Is Objectivism?” The Atlas Society, 14 June 2010, atlassociety.org/objectivism/atlas-university/what-is-objectivism/objectivism-101-blog/3366-what-is-objectivism.

[7] Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law. Lehi: Libertas Press, 2017. Print. P.1

[8] The writer wishes to clarify his position by affirming that the unborn child has the same rights to life as the newborn.