You Don’t Have Rights to …   Leave a comment

You don’t have a right to infringe upon the rights of others. This is what we have lost in our country. You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — which our Founders recognized that included a right to property. You don’t have the right to infringe upon others’ rights to those things.

north dakota access pipeline

I’ve been watching the North Dakota Indian standoff with a pipeline company near, but not on, the Standing Rock Reservation. That’s my mom’s old stomping grounds, by the way, although not her tribe. I’ve watched as they have, sometimes violently, insisted upon protecting their water “rights” and their “sacred burial grounds”. I have cousins who have gone to join the protests and they’re proud of what they’re doing and they want me to join. They should know by now that I won’t.

If they were trying to run the pipeline across reservation land, I’d be there. I fully support the right of landowners to protect their property. But this pipeline will run completely outside of the reservation (I suspect that was a deliberate choice by the pipeline company, actually). This is not a private property argument for the Hunkpapa and Sioux. They don’t own the land. If there were burial grounds involved, they might have claimed the land and taken it into the reservation before this. Why didn’t they?

We could get into a huge discussion of why they thought they could control land they don’t own (and I would welcome the discussion in comments), but that’s not really my point in this article. They wanted to control this land without having to own it. That’s another discussion.

But I’m discussing rights here. The Standing Rock Indians claim this pipeline violates their “right” to clean water. and that “right” overrides the right of a pipeline company to build a pipeline, the oil companies to make money from their product and the consumer to use those products and have them delivered to the market in a safe, low-cost way. So this gives the Standing Rock Indians a “right” to attack pipeline facilities and personnel and stop the construction of this pipeline, but the pipeline personnel don’t have a “right” to control their construction site or protect themselves from rioters.

All pigs are equal. Some pigs are more equal than others.

All rights are important. Some rights of some are more important than the rights of others.


Rights only work if we all have them and government’s only role is to protect the exercise of all rights. If you read the eight pages of the constitution, you will not find any authority for the US government to decide whose rights are more important.

The Standing Rock Indians don’t own the land the pipeline runs across and they don’t own the Missouri River. They own the Standing Rock reservation, which is a half-mile away. Could a pipeline breach endanger their surface water access? Yes. So could a tanker car spill if this oil was being transported by train or truck. We should strive to make oil transportation as safe as possible. We already know that the safest way to transport oil is via pipeline. So the pipeline company is not doing anything wrong. They’re fulfilling the purpose of pipeline companies, which is to build and maintain pipelines. They lose money when a pipeline leaks so they have an incentive to maintain the pipeline.

An oil pipeline breech could still happen. I maintain my car, but occasionally things break on my car that I didn’t expect. I then fix it. Nobody (yet) has made the argument that I shouldn’t be allowed to own a car because there is a possibility that my car might break and that break might cause a problem for someone else (I might breakdown in an intersection, causing a traffic snarl, and make someone five minutes late to work).

So, despite the strong incentive for the pipeline company to maintain its property, this oil pipeline could break and cause a water quality problem for the Standing Rock Reservation. Entropy is inevitable. Everything rusts or rots. Maintenance aside, things happen and it is possible that the oil might someday leak into the Missouri River and affect the water quality for the Standing Rock Reservation.

And this is the argument for them to be able to stop this pipeline. Because something MIGHT happen.

But ….

Why do we assume we have a “right” to water that runs on land that we do not own?

“But, we’ll all die without clean water, Lela!”

Will we? I live in a state where there’s a lot of water, almost none of it drinkable without filtration. Glacier river water is so silty, you are basically chugging mud if you don’t filter it first. The creek on my cabin site runs out of a mineral belt, so we have to filter the water so we’re not ingesting arsenic, lead and other naturally-occurring toxic metals. Down creek from us, beavers have built a dam, so the people below the dam must filter for giardia. Last month when we were berry picking, I went down to our fill hole to find both moose and bear scat on the edge. Our filter also screens for fecal matter, but it was so disgusting, I had to boil the water before I could drink it.

The government does not come in to regulate the geology or the animals to protect my “right” to clean water. They don’t provide us with free water to make up for our crappy (pun intended) water supply. If we get sick because we’re stupid enough not to filter the water we have, the government doesn’t pay our medical expenses.

We have a right to filter the water we have access to. If we had selected land that didn’t have a water source, we would have had the right to import water for our use at our own expense.

Grow up! You have a right to the proceeds of your own labor and nothing else. Stop expecting other people to give you something you refuse to take the effort to secure for yourself.

Posted September 10, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Liberty, Uncategorized

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