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Response to porphyrian (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:33 PM

3. Rights end with jurisdiction.

We may say or even believe that all rights are natural rights, but being allowed to enjoy the exercise of those rights varies. This view of natural rights arose under autocracy, after all.

The US government is to permit the free exercise of those rights. It can only do this on US soil. Off US soil the US government has trouble forcing other governments to permit the free exercise of those rights. We like to think that it's a good thing to send in mercenaries and the CIA to topple governments and to invade in the name of freedom. At least when it makes us and ours look good.

The natural rights viewpoint says that everybody has the same set of natural rights. Their governments don't allow the free exercise of many of them. What's left is to sit and say, "Yup" or to say "Attack!"

Rights enjoyed by US citizens on US soil, by legal immigrants, legal visitors, and illegal visitors vary in nature. Some are extended and protected. Other rights, like the right to vote, not so much. There's a part of civil life open to all comers; there's a part of civil life that's reserved for American citizens.

Foreign persons have a slightly different status when they act on behalf of foreign governments or can be seen to be acting on behalf of foreign governments. It's not a matter of just civil rights; it's also a matter of the sovereignty of a free people. The free exercise of nearly any right can be curtailed when the stakes are sufficiently large.

Corporations are a thorny issue. They are legally persons for a lot of purposes. They pay taxes. They own property. They have standing to file suits in civil court and to be arraigned in civil and criminal court. They have a right to defend themselves. They have various other rights. In the end, this is probably a good thing. Do they have free speech rights? Do they have the *same* free speech rights as natural born persons? There's the rub. For the most part they're just assemblies of natural born persons engaged in collective action on their own behalf or on behalf of other natural-born persons who own shares in the company. Usually the two "behalfs" would lead to similar actions. That rather says that since corporations can defend themselves in court, since they're essentially groups of people acting as a collective, and since they will be subject to whatever laws are made and whatever attacks are issued in the public sphere against them that they, too, should have some freedom of speech. Still, should it be the *same*? Dunno.

Note that our perceptions are sharply skewed to notice the handful of threats that lurk in a savannah filled with life and fairly neutral things. We talk as though all corporations were billion-dollar multinationals. 95% or more aren't. Most US corporations are composed of Americans.

Note also that Greenpeace and the like are corporations. Again, groups of people self-organizing for a collective purpose under a group identity with rights akin to those of a person.

Is money freedom of speech? Look at the current campaign. We're besieged for money from politicians because they need to get their word out. There's no getting the word out, apart from the news, without cash. We hear an ad we don't like, we want them to shut up. We hear an ad we do like, we say we like what's said. "Shutting up" and "saying" involve the exercise of free speech. The campaign funding requests are put in terms of speech. We never hear, "Donate now! We won't spend it but need it desperatedly. Having a lot of money in the bank is a potent sign of support, and the campaign with the most cash on hand on election day usually wins."

It's a different matter whether all that expensive free speech makes much of a difference most of the time.

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