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Inspector: you can't use a definition of harm that includes (loss of or damage to) rights in formulating a principle that is supposed to determine the violation of rights.

I'm not formulating a principle yet. I'm still on the same stage you are at with your hair example: determining whether a rights-violation has taken place.

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See this thread: Bill Clinton's Impeachment--The legal aspects of abnormal behavior. It's quite a long one and full of pointless bickering, but there is about 10% or so of the posts where you will fin

I disagree with this in part; positive emotions (or any emotions, for that matter) are not the standard of value, but they are values.

I disagree. If something in no way objectively harms a person's life or property, then it cannot be a violation of rights

I think it would be fair to say that by extension you have the right to determine what is presented on your property.

Overall you're making a lot of sense Maarten, but I think you are making a mistake in the first quote here (and in the second as well, which follows from the first):

Something doesn't have to cause harm to someone's life or property to be a violation of right.

One can claim that the changes brought about by your decision to repaint your garage are damage you brought on yourself. And also, there is no damage in the act of simply walking on your lawn without your consent, yet it is a violation of your right to your property.

Right to property means (I am taking a shot at this) the right to be left free from meaningful changes or use done to it without your consent.

Why am I using the term "meaningful changes"? because not every influences or change to your property or your body, caused by other people, violates your right. It is almost unavoidable to be influenced by other people's actions, physically and psychologically. When you hear someone talk, they leave you no choice about hearing the sounds, and about it having some influence on the content of your mind. If someone breathes or walks next to you, they "impose" a change of your physical environment. They leave you no choice about these things. Now, someone might confuse this influence with force and say that since these action are not leaving them any choice but to be influenced, then their rights are violated, and therefor, to prevent coercion, they have a right not to be breathed at, talked next to (because it forces them to hear it, which altars their mind), and all sorts of funky things, like "initiation of intimacy", or "the right to not be disgusted".

So to sum up the part that was relevant to what you said: violation of right is not just about causing damage, but about any use or meaningful change done without the owner's permission, or against their will. How about that?

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Ifat, you hit the nail on the head with that one. Its not about harm at all, but the initiation of physical force which forces one to act against his own judgment (that's where consent comes into play.)

BlackDaimond: That is what is meant by "protecting the mind protects the body" because there is no other way to interact with the mind than through the body so protections of the mind must also protect the medium of the mind's application to life. That's why instances of physical coercion are violations of rights, because the body is the property of the mind and the way a mind applies itself to metaphysical reality.

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In my opinion, a rational society would not have people regularly engaging in sex on the sidewalks.

Then why is this such a hot topic? From the amount of energy and the vehemence some posters have invested into arguing for a right not to put up a warning sign when they have sex on the sidewalk, one would think that having sex on the sidewalk would be a major interest of the inhabitants of what they consider a rational society, and moreover that having to put up a warning sign is such an intolerable burden to subject them to that it makes the injustices of World War II pale in comparison.

I mean, wouldn't streets normally have signs anyway? It's not like you have to put up an extra sign, just add a note to the street name sign saying "Sex on sidewalk welcome." Note that if the standard rule is that sex on the sidewalk is permitted, then it would be all the streets that prefer to disallow it that would have to put up a sign: "No sex on sidewalk please." If sex on the sidewalk were indeed so rare in the kind of society our friends envision, wouldn't it make much more sense to have "welcome" signs on the few streets that allow it than to have "no please" signs on all of the remaining 99.9X% of the streets?

... And similarly, to have "no beheadings or videos thereof" signs, "don't urinate into each other's mouths please" signs, "don't drag a decaying corpse through the street for fun" signs, etc. etc. ad nauseam, on every single street that wishes to maintain its nature as ... exactly what? A street! Objective law would recognize that the nature of a street is that it's a place where people of all personalities and value sets walk and drive around, and usually prefer to remain isolated from the idiosyncrasies of the random people they happen to encounter. When a developer builds a street, his intent is normally not to provide a place for people to have sex or organize feces exhibitions--he does that when he builds a home. A street maintained for the benefit of weirdos where you could do whatever eccentric thing you fancied would be an exception rather than the norm--and it stands to reason that it's the exceptions that should be labeled, not the normal instances.

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Overall you're making a lot of sense Maarten, but I think you are making a mistake in the first quote here (and in the second as well, which follows from the first):

Something doesn't have to cause harm to someone's life or property to be a violation of right...

So to sum up the part that was relevant to what you said: violation of right is not just about causing damage, but about any use or meaningful change done without the owner's permission, or against their will. How about that?

So a meaningful change would be a change that either expropriates someones values or causes them to be unable to act in accordance with their own best judgement?

I think ultimately either of those two things must take place for it to be a violation of rights. Is that correct?

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Jesus. Let's extend your imagination a bit: imagine that instead of touching the hair with just his hands, he is touching it with both his hands and his lips.

Are you now sure? Coz if you're not, we could extend that imagination even further, and replace his lips with another member of his body (the pun is intended to give the clue!), but we won't do that! Bottom line is, i can find you situations which you will agree to be rights violations and which will not involve your harm condition. And you need only ONE situation to show that a principle is false.

Well, I think at some point the behavior would constitute an objective threat, and it would violate her rights because of that. I don't think every instance of touching someone without first asking for permission is a violation of their rights.

Now, if I were to touch someone, and they tell me that they don't want me to do that, and I keep doing it anyway, I think that would be a much more threatening situation to the person being touched than if someone just touched them once. Someone who would keep touching you even when you have expressly stated that you don't want them to is probably up to no good, so there would be a good reason to say that *that* should not be allowed.

Similarly, if you touch someone's sexual organs deliberately, I don't see how that can be construed as anything but an initiation of sexual intimacy. I think that should clearly not be allowed. However, touching someone's arm is different from that. In most situations that is not threatening, and I don't see why it should be a violation of your rights to be touched like that. It doesn't really interfere with your mind or life in any relevant way, does it?

Now, as for your example with touching someone's hair. I think it would depend on how they do it. If it is overtly sexual in nature then I think it should not be allowed (like if they start kissing it, or caressing it repeatedly). But again, just touching it once is not so clearly a violation of someone's rights, I think.

Could you explain why you think it's a violation of her rights?

Edited by Maarten
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Well, I think at some point the behavior would constitute an objective threat, and it would violate her rights because of that. I don't think every instance of touching someone without first asking for permission is a violation of their rights.

No, that's not it. There could be no threat whatsoever, but you have a right to determine who touches you and who does not.

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No, that's not it. There could be no threat whatsoever, but you have a right to determine who touches you and who does not.

Why? How does exact control over who touches you follow from the freedom to act on your own best judgement? You don't have to be protected from every interaction with other people, do you? Why is every instance of someone touching you without your consent an initiation of force, but it's not an initiation of force if you just happen to smell someone without giving consent for that? Neither does it force your mind in any way if you see someone you don't like. Why is touching different?

I'd say that touch (direct physical contact) is definitely the easiest case where a rights violation can occur, but that doesn't mean that it follows that you have a blanket right to be protected from physical contact with everyone? There is a difference between grabbing someone's arm and merely touching it. There is definitely a difference between punching someone in the face and merely touching them.

Earlier on we agreed that expropriating your values and forcing you to act against your own judgement were the only ways in which your rights could be violated. How can you include all these touch scenarios as being rights violations under these criteria, yet exclude every trivial event (such as gas molecules being released by another person bumping into you, or light being reflected into your eyes because of another person)?

I think what Ifat said earlier made sense. That it's about someone using your property or enacting meaningful changes on it without your permission. But still, meaningful should be tied back to either of those things I mentioned above that make it an actual rights violation. Otherwise you're left with just another subjective criterion.

Perhaps touch is different from all these other ways people have of impacting your body (that are not initiations of force), but that is not something you can just accept as self-evident.

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Why? How does exact control over who touches you follow from the freedom to act on your own best judgement?...

I'd say that touch (direct physical contact) is definitely the easiest case where a rights violation can occur, but that doesn't mean that it follows that you have a blanket right to be protected from physical contact with everyone? There is a difference between grabbing someone's arm and merely touching it. There is definitely a difference between punching someone in the face and merely touching them...

Maarten: in your last post to me you said if someone touches you, then you ask them not to do it again, and they continue, that would be a violation of your rights. Now imagine that you tell them NOT to touch you before the first touch (as you see them reach for your nice hair) and they still did it. Would that be a violation of your rights?

Do you see the contradiction with your arguments so far?

(edit: rephrased the question)

Edited by blackdiamond
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Maarten: in your last post to me you said if someone touches you, then you ask them not to do it again, and they continue, that would be a violation of your rights. Now imagine that you tell them NOT to touch you before the first touch (as you see them reach for your nice hair) and they still did it. That, in your books would still be a violation of your rights, wouldn't it?

Do you see the contradiction with your arguments so far?

Blackdiamond is correct, although in need of some manners. The automatic assumption is that nobody has permission to touch you. There are ways that you can give permission for certain kinds of touch, such as a tap on the shoulder. This is called "etiquette," and its interesting that we've come to it, given that Ayn Rand mentioned it in the quote.

This of course rests on the underlying assumption that people need your permission to touch you; that you have a right to your body and to determine who has permission to touch you. So you have accepted that premise, yourself, already.

Of course, this leads into the fact that a human touching another human is an intimate act, and that such is a metaphysical fact. I know the hippies try and make it sound like this whole human intimacy thing was made up by "the man," and that "free love" is our "natural state," but it simply isn't so.

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This of course rests on the underlying assumption that people need your permission to touch you; that you have a right to your body and to determine who has permission to touch you. So you have accepted that premise, yourself, already.

Of course, this leads into the fact that a human touching another human is an intimate act, and that such is a metaphysical fact. I know the hippies try and make it sound like this whole human intimacy thing was made up by "the man," and that "free love" is our "natural state," but it simply isn't so.

Okay, let's use a different example. If someone tosses a feather (they're really good at that ;) ) against your body, I don't think that would be a violation of your rights. It doesn't make any sort of significant impact, and I don't think that it is more severe than other things that may impact you like someone's breath or photons that are constantly reflected by people when they wear wristwatches. Throwing a brick at a person is a clear violation of rights. Now, somewhere in between lies the line between what is a violation of your rights and what isn't. The question is, where?

Or, do you think that a person has the right to prevent every single way in which another person can possibly affect their body, and that the only reason why we're not prosecuting people for reflecting light at your face with their wristwatches is because you have given (implicit) consent that those things are okay?

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The answer to that first question brings me to the next point, on which everything else is based. Why does a person have the right to determine what exactly happens to their body? To quote Rand on this:

A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action - which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness).

How does any sort of interference violate your freedom to pursue your life? We can't just assert that it does, that is not sufficient to provide a strong basis for individual rights. We have to show how such an action violates your freedom to act on your mind's judgement (because I think that is ultimately what every rights violation comes down to, that you impair his ability to use his mind through various means) before we can conclude that it does. Especially considering the context of how Rand says your rights can be violated:

To violate man's rights means to compel him to act against his own judgement, or to expropriate his values. Basically, there is only one way to do it: by the use of physical force.

So basically, you would have to show how either of these two things takes place when someone impacts you to determine whether your rights have been violated. I think we necessarily have to do that on a case-by-case basis, first. You can't assume something violates your rights in order to prove that it does. So before you can derive the exact principle that can tell you why impact A is a rights violation and impact B isn't, we have to first determine why obvious rights violations are rights violations, and why obvious not-rights violations are not rights violations.

Edited by Maarten
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So a meaningful change would be a change that either expropriates someones values or causes them to be unable to act in accordance with their own best judgement?

I'll first explain what I mean by a "meaningful change" and then address your question.

In the context of a change done to property, a meaningful change would be a change that would affect the functionality of the object.

For example, the smoke from the neighbor's barbecue diffusing itself into the walls of your house without any detectable scent (or of course change to the strength of the wall or appearance), is not a meaningful change.

But changing your garage color - which has a value of aesthetic pleasure from the appearance of your house - is a meaningful change. It changes the functionality of your garage.

And don't forget the other part - that using your property without permission (even without any change done to it) is also a violation of right to property.

This way, we distinguish between any influence to property, which is a natural product of living in society, to changes of functionality of your property, which do affect your ability to use your property as you see fit, which is needed to sustain your life.

Let's try to examine this principle on man's most basic property - his own body: A meaningful change done to one's body means changes in it's functionality. The functionality of our body is to allow us to live and experience what is possible for us as humans. So a meaningful change has to be a change in the functionality of our body.

Examples of such changes are: physical damage (for obvious reasons), physical limitation (tying someone up, screaming in his ears, blocking his vision, etc - notice that not all forms require touch), changing someone's appearance (like cutting their hair - there is no physical damage, but change to functionality of our body in the same way as the yellow garage is), and more stuff.

Using someone's body, even without making any meaningful change to it's functionality, is also a right violation. Example: (haha, most easy examples are all about perves ;) ), Someone might want to use my DNA (from a piece of skin or hair) to clone someone else like me. This will not change the functionality of my body but will be a use of it without my permission.

I think the concept of a meaningful change is important, because not every instance of influencing someone without giving them choice about this influence is force or coercion. So an argument of the form "neighbors leave me no choice but to hear what they speak or see what they do because they do it on their front lawn" is not enough to be considered a coercion. This is simply an influence, a natural product of living in society: people influence each other by their actions all the time, without asking each other for permission for it. And this is the way it should be, otherwise life in society will not be possible (you would have to have laws regulating where and when people are allowed to talk so they won't be influencing anyone).

OK, so to go back to your question, Maarten:

So a meaningful change would be a change that either expropriates someones values or causes them to be unable to act in accordance with their own best judgement?

I think ultimately either of those two things must take place for it to be a violation of rights. Is that correct?

I'm not sure - when somebody walks on my lawn, he is not preventing me from acting according to my best judgement. Will he be expropriating a value from me? I don't know the meaning of "expropriate" well enough to tell, so please explain how and what value this act is expropriating from the owner.

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And don't forget the other part - that using your property without permission (even without any change done to it) is also a violation of right to property.

I understand that, if someone uses your property in a way that prevents you from using it, it violates your rights. But why is it also a violation of your rights if someone uses your property in a way that doesn't impact your ability to use it?

How does it follow from having the right to use your property as you see fit, that noone else can use it (as long as it doesn't impact your ability to use it in any way)? Now, this situation could very well be impossible, and if that were the case then I guess it's moot. But until I can prove this logically I can't just accept that it is the case.

Edited by Maarten
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Heh, it looks like my last post is a perfect fit to the one you made just before it. Like it completes the questions you raised there.

Anyways:

I understand that, if someone uses your property in a way that prevents you from using it, it violates your rights. But why is it also a violation of your rights if someone uses your property in a way that doesn't impact your ability to use it?

Because it's mine. My survival requires that I have ownership over what I earned and will be able to determine how it will be used.

So I don't care that walking on my grass does not cause any change or damage at all: that grass is mine and I get to say who uses it and who doesn't.

In the same way, a person is not allowed to use my body without my permission as well (whether or not it causes damage/change). They can influence my body (by slightly bumping into me on the street, or breath next to me etc'), but not to use it.

Do you want me to define "use"? and how "using" is different from just "influencing"?

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Heh, it looks like my last post is a perfect fit to the one you made just before it. Like it completes the questions you raised there.

;)

Anyways:

Because it's mine. My survival requires that I have ownership over what I earned and will be able to determine how it will be used.

So I don't care that walking on my grass does not cause any change or damage at all: that grass is mine and I get to say who uses it and who doesn't.

In the same way, a person is not allowed to use my body without my permission as well (whether or not it causes damage/change). They can influence my body (by slightly bumping into me on the street, or breath next to me etc'), but not to use it.

Do you want me to define "use"? and how "using" is different from just "influencing"?

Okay, let's say you own a car. Now, I walk up to the car and tap it lightly on the window. Just once. Is that a violation of your property rights? I don't see how that in any way interferes with your right to use the car as your life requires you to. If the requirements of your life are the reason you have rights, then it MUST follow that if something in no way affects your ability to lead a life proper to man, and in no way affects your ability to use the property in any way you see fit, it is not a violation of your rights.

Edited by Maarten
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;)

Okay, let's say you own a car. Now, I walk up to the car and tap it lightly on the window. Just once. Is that a violation of your property rights? I don't see how that in any way interferes with your right to use the car as your life requires you to. If the requirements of your life are the reason you have rights, then it MUST follow that if something in no way affects your ability to lead a life proper to man, and in no way affects your ability to use the property in any way you see fit, it is not a violation of your rights.

Your rights can be violated in minor ways that are too small to merit a governmental response. One delegates to government the right of self defense for significant violations of your rights. Small annoyances are an inevitable part of life. Social mores and manners are one way to minimize these annoyances. E.g.: cover your mouth when you cough, shaking hands to acknowledge meeting someone, phoning before dropping by a friend's house unnanounced, etc., etc., etc.

When people violate these mores, one's recourse is to protest to the person that he offended you or walk away. Living in a society of people, one must have at least a somewhat thick skin.

ADDED: You also minimize these annoyances through your positive choices of whom you associate with and where you live. Live in a more expensive subdivision or neighborhood and you reduce the likelihood of encountering the types of petty rights violations that you would encounter in a poorer neighborhood (e.g.: noise, petty vandalism, etc.). Of course, it is no guarantee and you may face new problems (e.g.: the neighbors don't like the color you painted your house, etc.). Choose good friends who treat you well, and you minimize these problems. Don't patronize a store where the clerks are rude, etc.

The bottom line is, you are the ultimate defender and promoter of your values. It is your life. Government is there to protect you against relatively large violations of your rights (large enough to merit a governmental response), but you have to protect yourself in all of the important day-to-day interactions.

Edited by Galileo Blogs
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The bottom line is, you are the ultimate defender and promoter of your values. It is your life. Government is there to protect you against relatively large violations of your rights (large enough to merit a governmental response), but you have to protect yourself in all of the important day-to-day interactions.

But the topic is about whether it's right to legislate such issues. In other words, then the government does step in and tell you what to do. The problem with making these small annoyances violations of your rights, is that the government has the right to prosecute basically anyone they please. It is just the fact that it's not practical to sue people over small annoyances that prevents them from doing so. If, in the future, someone decides to lower the boundary of what is considered to be significant, there is really no way in which you can argue against that decision. After all, you've already conceded that these things are violations of rights. So that makes everyone a criminal, doesn't it?

And on another point: there is a large difference between saying that something (e.g. a stranger touching you) would be a violation of your rights if you hadn't (implicitly) consented to it, and saying that certain kinds of impacts upon your body (in these cases touches) are just not violations of your rights. I assume that when people are in public, they accept that they will be touched by other people once in a while. However, you only accept that for certain places (like your arm would be fine, but they can't touch your breasts or genitals).

Wouldn't it be more consistent to say that certain parts of your body are not normally intimate, and therefore that another person touching them is not a significant change in the condition or a use of your property? If you then explicitly state that you don't want someone to touch you there, and they do it anyway, the situation would be wholly different (that would probably constitute a threat, because there's a good chance such a person who ignores what you want and goes out of his way to annoy you is up to no good and might start doing more serious things soon).

I think making the distinction between what types of physical contact are okay, and which are not okay should be settled at the level of them being a violation of your rights, or not. Making it all a violation of your rights and saying that you consent to these violations in certain circumstances, seems similar to saying that rights violations are sometimes okay. Doesn't that come down to surrendering the principle of rights? It is much safer to draw a clear dividing line between what is a violation of your rights, and what isn't. That way you also remove the problem that it's almost impossible not to violate people's rights in minor ways, which I think will undermine the concept of rights in the long run. This works in a similar way as people breaking laws on a regular basis undermines the rule of law.

Edited by Maarten
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But the topic is about whether it's right to legislate such issues. In other words, then the government does step in and tell you what to do. The problem with making these small annoyances violations of your rights, is that the government has the right to prosecute basically anyone they please. It is just the fact that it's not practical to sue people over small annoyances that prevents them from doing so. If, in the future, someone decides to lower the boundary of what is considered to be significant, there is really no way in which you can argue against that decision. After all, you've already conceded that these things are violations of rights. So that makes everyone a criminal, doesn't it?

And on another point: there is a large difference between saying that something (e.g. a stranger touching you) would be a violation of your rights if you hadn't (implicitly) consented to it, and saying that certain kinds of impacts upon your body (in these cases touches) are just not violations of your rights. I assume that when people are in public, they accept that they will be touched by other people once in a while. However, you only accept that for certain places (like your arm would be fine, but they can't touch your breasts or genitals).

Wouldn't it be more consistent to say that certain parts of your body are not normally intimate, and therefore that another person touching them is not a significant change in the condition or a use of your property? If you then explicitly state that you don't want someone to touch you there, and they do it anyway, the situation would be wholly different (that would probably constitute a threat, because there's a good chance such a person who ignores what you want and goes out of his way to annoy you is up to no good and might start doing more serious things soon).

I think making the distinction between what types of physical contact are okay, and which are not okay should be settled at the level of them being a violation of your rights, or not. Making it all a violation of your rights and saying that you consent to these violations in certain circumstances, seems similar to saying that rights violations are sometimes okay. Doesn't that come down to surrendering the principle of rights? It is much safer to draw a clear dividing line between what is a violation of your rights, and what isn't. That way you also remove the problem that it's almost impossible not to violate people's rights in minor ways, which I think will undermine the concept of rights in the long run. This works in a similar way as people breaking laws on a regular basis undermines the rule of law.

If your point is that rights should be properly and objectively defined, I completely agree. Furthermore, the proper role of government in protecting those rights must be defined. That role is defined through laws that are passed and courtroom decisions that are made on the basis of those laws.

Any form of unwanted bodily contact or behavior or entry on one's property is a violation of your rights. However, legally you only have recourse if such a violation is egregious enough. There are practical reasons for this. If the violation is so minor, the cost of adjudicating the violation would greatly exceed the harm from the violation, to the point where it is ludicrous. I would need help from a lawyer for naming the relevant legal principles, but the idea that comes to mind is that there must be a de minimus standard for a harm to merit redress in the courts. As a practical manner in a free society, this de minimus standard would probably manifest itself through fees paid for legal resolution of disputes. If there is a $100 fee to file a notice of a lawsuit, no person would file for damage claims that were worth less than $100. That would eliminate all kinds of silly and sundry lawsuits from people who have nothing better to do than sue their neighbors.

Such a practical limit on minor lawsuits means that minor rights violations are handled in the manner I described in my prior post. Now, a series of deliberate "minor" violations is something different since it would be deliberate harassment. Anyone deliberately doing a series of "minor" things to annoy his neighbor really is committing a major offense against that person. The courts are there to address this harm. (The paparazzi who harass celebrities come to mind here as an example.)

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If your point is that rights should be properly and objectively defined, I completely agree. Furthermore, the proper role of government in protecting those rights must be defined. That role is defined through laws that are passed and courtroom decisions that are made on the basis of those laws.

Any form of unwanted bodily contact or behavior or entry on one's property is a violation of your rights.

But I don't see how this follows from why rights are necessary. I agree that many forms of bodily contact can be violations of rights, but I am not sure if you can say that they all are.

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