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Letter: Unalienable rights

Mark Zinan’s Jan. 14 My Turn column invited thoughts on our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Here are mine.

Unalienable rights are not “myths.” They are our most precious possessions. If the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are myths, then so are the crimes that violate them, murder and slavery. Walk in the footsteps of a North Korean peasant if you think liberty is a myth.

Though poorly understood, the pursuit of happiness is no less important than liberty. Jefferson chose the phrase because “property” was too narrow. Individual sovereignty is fundamental to a civil society. We each have the natural authority to determine how best to use our life. It is obvious that our pursuits must not violate the unalienable rights of anyone else. Thus we agree to form a government that protects our rights. When government violates those rights, it is no longer just.

The pursuit of happiness means owning yourself, your body and all that you produce with your labor and ideas. You have the right to sell your labor and ideas, converting them to capital and using that capital to improve your circumstances, or that of another. Whether it is a poem, a painting or a business, you own what you “build.” Otherwise our labor and our thoughts would belong to masters who would rule us, mandating how we must live, labor and think in pursuit of the master’s, or the collective’s, happiness and penalizing us if we don’t comply. We must never surrender our progeny’s birthright, their unalienable rights.

Some may hope for a visionary to come and supersede our rights with myths. We don’t need a visionary. We already have the vision. We’ve had it for 250 years.

WILLIAM SILLIN

Sunderland

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