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The Contender
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The State Has Rights that the Man Does Not

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,548 times Debate No: 18919
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




This is my first debate here at Let me tell you that I am fascinated that bastion of rationality exists on the internet which is not clouded with flame wars. The potential for this website is incredible.

I have chosen this topic because I have been researching anarchy and voluntarism recently. It has interested me and I need to bounce the ideas of it off of somebody before I call myself an anarchist.

Well, let's get started.
The state is an entity which, at least in the United States, has evolved into something that is able to deprive a person of liberty.
I believe that the state is NOT justified in this deprivation because I don't see the majority as having more rights than the individual. Whence cometh that right?
If X thinks Y did something wrong, X can't just kick down Y's door then put Y involuntarily into a cage for the arbitrary time that X has decided is good. X in this case has decided that he will be the judge and prosecutor. Y has never accepted X's decisions, so why should X's decisions affect Y?

It's difficult to start an argument from the con side. I look forward to seeing the response from my opponent.



Welcome and thank you for giving me the opportunity to debate this intriguing topic. I look forward to helping you shape your opinions about being an anarchist. Hopefully, in the end I might change your mind :)

Before I begin establishing my position, there are several aspects of your perspective that are vague to me and need to be clarified:
1) Does the ‘State' refer to any body politic or does the ‘State' in this instance specifically refer to the United States of America?
a. Different political entities (i.e., States) have different degrees of power and can afford its denizens with different rights and as such can have a profound impact on the interpretation of the issue we are discussing.

2) Does ‘Man' include all citizens of the ‘State'?
a. Some ‘States' limit the rights of men and women differently as is seen in Kuwait (1) and thus would have to be addressed accordingly.

3) Does ‘Man' imply individuals or a collective of individuals (eg., corporations, political action committees, etc)?
a. Both individuals and collectives of individuals have rights that have different implication for this discussion. Thus, it would be helpful to identify whose rights we are discussing.

4) Are we discussing natural rights or legal rights?
a. The ‘State' has no natural rights, but ‘Man' does; and both the ‘State' and ‘Man' have legal rights, but the legal rights of the 'State' are far more limited than the legal rights of 'Man'.

My aim is to proffer evidence using the United States of America (US) as an example to counter the claim that the ‘State' has a "right" to deprive ‘Man' of liberty.

The US is a constitutional based federal republic with a strong democratic tradition (2). Its government has three separate branches of government whose members are sworn to uphold the constitution. The natural rights of its citizens, and those within its jurisdiction, are codified as legal rights within this document as part the Bill of Rights (3). In particular, the 5th and 14th amendments of the constitution guarantee due process, which ensures that no law of the ‘State' can impinge on the liberty of individuals (4). Further, if the "State' does creates a law that impinges on the rights of individuals, the Supreme Court vis a vis Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review, can deem such laws as unconstitutional (5). In addition, if a law needs to be established to protect the rights of citizens, the 1st Amendment of the constitution guarantees the right of free speech and the right to associate with whom one chooses to foster changes as was seen with the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's (6). Finally, the claim that the ‘States' have rights that ‘Man' does not is moot in the US since the ‘State' derives its authority from the people (i.e. ‘Man') whose natural and legal rights the ‘State' is designed to protect.

I am eagerly awaiting my opponent's response.

Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for his courtesy and hope that he will bear with me if I inadvertently break the custom of

1) I am defining state as it is defined by (what seems to be) most anarchists: The monopoly on the justified initiation of force. I would say that that also includes all incumbent political entities.
a. I think that regardless of which political entity, states will always resort to force- however, there may be a state which I have not heard of that allows the people to also initiate force to settle a dispute.

2) Yes, I mean 'Man' as all people.

3) Individual. If the individuals form a group, it is just a bunch of individuals- not to be taken as a single entity.

4) I think rights are given by law. It is a natural law, so you can say it is a natural right, just know that I don't differentiate between the two. A man-made right and a nature-made right are equal in my eyes.
a. In clarification to the topic, I should rephrase to "Is the State justified in legislating itself the justification to do things that a single individual would not be justified in doing"
I am fine with the opposition using the United States as an example.

My opponent informs me of the US system and how each of the members are sworn to uphold the constitution. I would counter that many unconstitutional things have been passed and are still in effect within the US system (1). Many rights are codified in the Bill of Rights, but I would remind my opponent that many, many more rights come from common law which has existed since well before the United States' existence- the Bill of Rights is just a list of those rights which the founders thought were particularly important. A good number Founding Fathers were opposed to the Bill of Rights because it made the rights that were listed seem more protected than the rights that were not (2). The 5th and 14th amendments are promises by the state and about the state, if the state does not give someone due process, what happens? Well, the state will look into it immediately.
I'm glad that my opponent brings up Marbury v. Madison, this is an excellent example of the State doing something that it wasn't meant for. There is nothing in the constitution that gives the Supreme Court the power to deem laws invalid because they are unconstitutional. It is a power that the state created for itself. Thomas Jefferson was very opposed to the idea of the courts being the sole deciders of constitutionality (3). I would argue that the Supreme Court does not protect the rights of individuals by way of calling something unconstitutional, per se. The Supreme Court only protects those rights that the Founding Fathers have decided are important enough to be protected when it decides something is unconstitutional and even then, they have a strong capacity to fail to uphold the constitution. Every time the Supreme Court decides that something is controversial enough that they will hear it, they are given a choice. They must decide that either this controversial issue is constitutional, or it is not. Every time they decide it is constitutional, all of the controversy is ignored and de facto everyone admits that the decision is valid despite the fact that many people thought it was unconstitutional before. It is for this reason that I think the Supreme Court is unarguably inefficient at protecting individual rights.

I disagree that the claim is moot. The fact that the State derives it's power from the people is irrelevant. I will demonstrate this by example.
X is a young man who disagrees with Y, so X talks to ABC and they agree that Y deserves a beating. X, A, B, and C decide they will hire LMN to beat up Y. L, M, and N do not have the individual or collective right justification to beat up Y despite the fact that they all voted. Perhaps a more well known analogy is the one where 3 wolves and a sheep vote to decide what's for dinner. The fact that the sheep gets a vote doesn't mean that the wolves are justified in eating it. The wolves and the sheep are the state in this instance. I would also argue that all states derive their power from the people, the US just allow the people to make decisions more.

I am enjoying my first debate here, and eagerly await my opponents response.



I would like to thank Pro for addressing my questions and presenting such a thoughtful response, as well as providing a more specific question in which to debate.

To begin, I think our idea of the State is radically different. Your perspective is much in line with the political philosophy of Max Weber who espoused in his essay "Politics as a Vocation" (1) the concept that the State has the monopoly on violence. But even if this were true, having such a monopoly doesn't imply that any such violence will be used to repress the individuals of the State, thereby depriving Man of liberty. It would seem to me that the application of this definition is more suited to an authoritarian State, of which the US is not, where dictators use violence to ensure absolute and permanent power as was seen with Saddam Hussein. Those few cases where violence was used to deprive individual freedom in the US have more often than not lead to civil unrest, which as I mentioned in round one is evident in the Civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's.

In my mind, the purpose of the State is to establish a rule of law in which to provide peaceful stability for the populace so they can pursue life, liberty, happiness and economic freedom. In the US, laws are often shaped by the executive branch, deliberated and ratified by the bicameral legislature, which votes on any given bill in a democratic and transparent fashion; and if a law is seen as a gross violation of a constitutional rights, it is reviewed by the judicial branch. Thus, no laws are forcibly or violently thrust upon the populace. It is also extremely important to keep in mind that in the US the State is not a uniform entity. But most importantly perhaps, is that at any given time the State is represented by public officials with different ideological slants whose time within government is limited. Thus, the State is not a monolithic entity resistant to change, but rather a fluid power structure defined by the will of the people.

My opponent suggested that there are many federal laws that are currently ‘unconstitutional', as per the list on the Tenth Amendment movement's website that they wish to have nullified. But it is not individuals per se that this movement represents, but rather certain US states, who are at odds with particular federal laws. Moreover, this group feels that individual states should have more power over the federal government. Thus these conflicts don't represent a constitutional issue but rather differences of where the central power structure should lay. This issue, however, is declaratively settled in Article VI of the constitution (2), which states that Federal law is the law of the land, which stems from those Founding Fathers who were advocates of a strong centralized government (3) and who frowned upon the general structural weakness of the Articles of Confederation (4) drafted by the Continental Congress prior to the formation of the United States of America. This issue has more to do with States' rights vs Federal rights than it does with whether the State can justify actions Man can not. And just because one group opposes a law as unconstitutional, which the courts haven't or refuses to review, does not in and of itself suggest that the rights of all individuals have been violated.

My opponent raises an interesting and very salient point about judicial review. It is true that judicial review is not explicitly stated in the constitution. Pro's alludes to the fact that this was done purposefully because the Founding Fathers didn't want to give the courts this power. I disagree. I would content that judicial review is expressly implied in the structure of judicial government spelled out in Article III section two of constitution (5). Specifically, " The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity". Marbury vs. Madison just validated this implied fact. Further, judicial review does not give the State more power over individuals, but rather it ensures that the judiciary has equal footing with the executive and the legislative branches to provide an essential balance of power of the State for the good of the people. It is also understood since 1938 that the courts assume a law is constitutional, leaving the burden of proof on the person making the challenge, which is why very few modern laws are deemed unconstitutional (6).

I agree with Pro's assertion that some Founding Fathers were not advocates of the Bill of Rights, namely Hamilton (7), but this view was not universal (8). But I remind my opponent that the Founding Fathers were not and are not the representatives of the State. They were delegates representing their respective states charged with establishing a grand union with a vibrant functioning government. In fact, the debates that played out during the Constitution Convention of 1787 are a testament to the power of compromise that has helped shape the nature and structure of our uniquely American government, which administrates the State. Also, I would content that the Bill of Rights are not just promises, they represent a very real legal mechanism to protect against the arbitrary abuse of government power.

Finally, while I appreciate my opponent's analogy to highlight his perspective about the justification of action, I think is represents a logical fallacy because the scenario is not relevant to the discussion: The State can't arbitrary or capriciously justify its actions against citizens of the state (see: Due Process clause of the constitution).

Looking forward to your closing arguments.

Debate Round No. 2


"the concept that the State has the monopoly on violence. But even if this were true, having such a monopoly doesn't imply that any such violence will be used to repress the individuals of the State, thereby depriving Man of liberty."
However, the man is not considered justified in his use of force. Why does the state get to use violence while the man does not?
I find the fact that some states are more free than others to be irrelevant to the issue. There are rights in other countries that are not rights in the US. There are rights in the US that are not rights in other countries. This shows that there are infinite rights but finite rights which are recognized by the state. The rights still exist, but the state will punish a man for exercising them. Every law is a restriction on liberty.

I don't think the situations where violence is used to limit freedom are as sparse as my opponent believes. The only reason we know of the civil rights movement is because the government was trampling on a LOT of people's rights. Every time a police officer steps beyond his bounds but not far enough to be reprimanded, justice is not served and rights are tread upon.

I don't disagree with the purpose of the state. I disagree with the function. Of course, it is meant to provide peaceful stability to support freedom- it just fails.
I do disagree however with the idea that laws are voted on in a transparent and democratic way. The PATRIOT Act was recently renewed underneath a medicare act (1) so that no one would be able to see which congressmen voted for the PATRIOT Act renewal. The renewal did away with all of the reforms leading up to that point on the original act.
The PATRIOT Act is an excellent example of how even a democratic representative constitutional republic can still fail to uphold the very rights it espouses. The PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional on too many grounds to name, but to name just one it is blatantly against the 4th Amendment protection to be secure in one's holdings against unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant supported by probable cause.
Even when it was passed the first time, the PATRIOT Act was never read in congress. Currently, in order to get something passed, it is not uncommon to stick a bunch of favors into laws. New Orleans needs aid? Okay, I'll vote for that if you give Michigan a million dollars for roads. Within the PATRIOT Act, you'll see that the congress has put in protection against judicial review. Congress has the constitutional power to remove jurisdiction from the courts. That means that the PATRIOT Act will never be reviewed or overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Tenth Amendment goes to protect the rights of the individual as well as the states. The wording of the Tenth Amendment is as follows: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Primarily, the Tenth Amendment Movement wants to remove unconstitutional federal laws because they are the right of the people or of the State. The fact that it represents people who want the state to have more power over the federal government doesn't make the things they are talking about constitutional. The laws are still unconstitutional. The movement just wants those laws to be abolished so the states can have the power, which would be constitutional, therefore these conflicts absolutely represent a constitutional issue. The differences they have of where the central power should lay is explained in the constitution and these laws are against that position. That, however, is irrelevant because my point is that the constitution doesn't actually function. We try our best to make it function, but it just doesn't work very well. It is the nature of governments to expand their powers.
The issue is declaratively settled, I agree. It is settled that the states have those rights because the federal government can only do those things that are specifically delegated to them and things that are implied to be delegated to them and things that are necessary and proper to fulfill those obligations. EVERYTHING outside of that is to the states or to the people, according to the constitution.
My opponent points out that the issue has more to do with States' rights vs. federal rights than whether the state can justify actions where man could not. This is true, but I was using this both to rebut the idea that a state necessarily protects the rights of its citizens and to show that it fails to do the things that it promises to do. The constitution defines how US law is constituted, but US law doesn't always follow the constitution, so the constitution fails to do what it is meant to do. The state is just as free to trample on rights, it just has to jump through a rapidly diminishing number of hoops first.

I agree with my opponent that just because a group opposes a law as unconstitutional, it does not suggest that the law tramples on the rights of individuals. However, the law CAN be unconstitutional and it CAN remain in effect despite the unconstitutionality of it. Also, one can easily use rationally based perception to determine that a law is unconstitutional, sometimes. Sometimes a law degree is not necessary to understand the rules. That also shows that the constitution doesn't really do anything unless there is a large amount of public support to either affirm the constitutionality of, or strike down the law.

The opposition and I clearly disagree on the constitutionality of judicial review, but since it is not relevant for this particular debate, I will leave that on the wayside.
Unless my opponent believes that the Supreme Court is infallible, he will agree that it is possible that it will determine the constitutionality of a situation incorrectly. This makes the Supreme Court a group of 9 (usually) non-elected judges who hold the power to strike down or uphold any law whatsoever over which they have jurisdiction. Since the Supreme Court is not elected, it does not reflect the views of society. Man (either collectively, or individually) does not have the right to strike down or uphold a law, so the state is, in my opinion, in this case, unjustified in its use of power that man does not share.

Once again, I apologize for my vagueness. I was not suggesting that the opinion against the Bill of Rights was universal. I was suggesting that the people who were against the Bill of Rights were correct, in my opinion. People seem to believe that all of their rights come from those listed rights and that if a law doesn't go against any of them, it is constitutional. This is obviously not the case since there's a whole lot of constitution outside of those ten.

I can clarify my analogy so that it fits the due process of the 14th Amendment. The wolves and sheep vote that being a sheep is illegal and so the sheep is arrested. When they get to court, they prove that the sheep is in fact a sheep. As per the statute, the penalty for being a sheep is being eaten by your peers (who are in this case, wolves). The sheep appeals because the constitution doesn't give the state the power to allow the sheep to be eaten, but the higher court upholds the decision as per the necessary and proper clause. How else will they regulate interstate sheep commerce? Stare decisis. The sheep will be eaten next Tuesday.
With the state, the wolves can justify eating the sheep, without the state, the wolves will have to violate the sheep's rights without justification.

I enjoyed this debate and hope my conduct was within the rules and expectations. I thank my opponent for being my first debate partner.

(x) A list of constitutional backings for why the PATRIOT Act violates the constitution.


Daris321, this has been a fascinating debate. Thank you for an entertaining discussion and respectfully rebutting my point of view.

The scope of this debate is to discuss whether the State can be justified doing acts that individuals can not, specifically whether the State can deprive Man of liberty. The United States of America (US) is being used as a case example to address this very relevant issue.

I established that the US is a multi-branched fluid entity that has inherent checks and balances to ensure that the State can't exercise its authority capriciously and certainly not violently. That is to say there is a formal process in which to establish the law of the land that can be challenged by individuals through the court system (eg., Judicial review).

My opponent and I disagree with the definition and functioning nature of the State. Pro's definition of the State included it as having a monopoly on violence and has question why the State can legitimately use violence. However, no specific examples have been given where such violence has been used to repress its citizen's liberty or to demonstrate that the State fails to provide peaceful stability. I would content that the 1st amendment right of free speech, right of association, and right to petition the government, in addition to the due process guarantees of the 5th and 14th amendments ensure that our society stays stable even in the face of economic instability that we are currently enduring; no violence unrest of the populace, and no violent suppression by the State to quell any protests.

I agree with pro that rights are finite and that the State does punish its citizen's for breaking established laws. But what Pro fails to mention is that in the US individuals are considered innocent until proven guilty and that burden fails on the State, which is ultimately decided by a jury of ones peers. The point being that there is a process to our judicial system and the State does not always punish those arrested for crimes. Laws aren't restrictions of liberty but rules for society to obey to ensure peace.

I also agree with my opponent that the Patriot act is a highly contentious law that has very controversial aspects. And the parliamentary procedures both houses of Congress use can obfuscate the voting record or what political strategy is being employed, but ultimately this information is public knowledge. But more to the point, the Supreme Court has applied its judicial review and has upheld controversial parts of the Patriot act (1). So, the law was challenged but the challengers were unable to provide evidence of misconduct from the State to demonstrate that the law should be deemed unconstitutional. None-the-less, just because you and I don't agree with the ruling doesn't demonstrate the State can or does violate our liberty. Apparently, there are many America that would disagree with us. And just for the record, the Senate vote on the Patriot act is public record as is the majority and dissenting views from the Supreme Court (2)

As for the states' rights vs. Federal rights, Pro points to the 10th Amendment to demonstrate that the Federal government should concede laws that the US states finds objectionable. But from a historical perspective, at the time the Constitution was ratified, the 10th Amendment protected slavery and the states had their own constitution and bill of rights (3). However, since that time, the Supreme Court has supplied legal precedence that Federal law supercedes state law, which is known as the Supremacy clause (4); and the 14th amendment extends the Bill of Rights to include the US states. Thus, no US state has a constitutional basis to violate a federal law.

So, in my mind the constitution is working fine because it has established the basis for the government structure that runs the State, which has been functioning for over 200 hundred years, survived a civil war and is currently an established global leader. I would also point out that a law can never be a priori assumed unconstitutional until the nine jurists of the Supreme court rule it as such. For example, the Patriot act can only be ruled unconstitutional if it is used to violate the constitutional right of an individual, it gets challenged, and the court concludes it is unconstitutional after lengthy deliberations. The US has a legal process in place to challenge any action the government does that we feel tramples on our individual rights. Granted, if you are deemed an enemy combatant then I will concede this law does not conform to the human right standards that the constitution affords to its citizens. I also don't na�vely assume that the nine judges are infallible; there have been some horrific rulings in our history (5). But overall I believe the system works because there are no examples where any of our constitutional rights having been trampled on with no legal repercussion.

The US founding fathers designed the State to protect the public weal and provide a high quality of life for all its citizens, because individuals are only concerned with their primary life's function as they have defined with no legal or natural obligation to help or secure the peace for others. So, the State has a different role for providing for the health of the union, and thus has different justification for the actions it takes in that regard. But nowhere in our history has the State expanded it powers to a point where violence has been used to deprive man his constitutional right to liberty.

Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Chthonian 6 years ago
No worries, Daris321. I too am guilty of spelling and grammatical errors. While it may be held against us in the final votes, I believe it does not take away from the validity of the arguments presented.
Posted by darris321 6 years ago
Sorry, I missed that one.
I also missed the "a" before bastion.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The state has the right to imprison murderers, while the individual does not, and that seemed uncontested. The debate seemed to focus on borderline issues. I think Pro prevailed in that discussion by arguing the Constitutional limits on government powers.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: It's the sources. if that wasn't on there, there would no reason to vote here. P.S. was that good grammar i can't tell at this in time moment.