Uh with your group, my name is tom vance and i am a professor of education at kansas state university and i have been doing we. The people actually, i started as a teacher in 1992 doing uh we the people and have been involved ever since. So i i love this stuff, so i get geeked up about it. Uh so anyway, i’ll turn it over to my fellow judges to introduce themselves. Hey everybody, sean arthurs, um and looking forward to having a discussion with y’all today and just hearing about some interesting topics. Hearing your thoughts, i’m, a history teacher and a lawyer and i currently work in teacher training: i’m lawana davis. I am a law professor in birmingham alabama at a school called samford university and if you could introduce yourselves to us, we’ll forget that we have the little uh. We have the little name check already, but uh do the formal introductions good morning again: i’m adam huffman, i’m, ethan nielsen i’m, noelle rush, i’m sasha bala and i’m anna pitt and we are from virginia glen island high school wild card uh, and our teacher is mr Van volkenberg and mr conway thank you, teachers for bringing your students and providing them with this opportunity. We uh you’ll you’ll just have to trust me that we enjoy it. Hopefully as much as your students will to this morning, we’re going to talk about some interesting issues. We think in question number one thomas hobbs noted that life in a state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
How has the human condition changed over time and how is that change reflected in our expectations of government? Should the principles of natural rights or classical republicanism guide policy changes designed to improve the conditions of all people? What are the most pressing domestic, global and domestic domestic and global challenges facing americans today and in the future? What policies can you suggest to address them? You may begin whenever you are ready. Thomas hobbs wrote the leviathan during the english civil war, a period of unliving conditions in a government and society in turmoil. Then life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short since the mid 17th century. The human condition has vastly improved due to scientific advancements and a greater emphasis on natural rights citizens. Expectations of their government have increased simultaneously. Americans are more protective of our constitutionally enumerated negative rights that now work to protect positive rights gained through interpretation, advocacy and law banking. From hobbs onwards, the expansion of natural rights coincided with the longer and more prosperous lives of citizens. In two treatises of government, john locke was the first natural rights thinker to declare everyone had the right to life, liberty and property, and he claimed that no social contract could detract from his inherent rights. Thomas jefferson modified these life liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the declaration of independence to demonstrate the expectation of the government to protect the happiness of its citizens. John rawls has expanded the purview of natural rights to include primary social goods, as the human condition has changed from hobb’s bleak characterization to one of wealth and modern convenience.
So too has our perception of individual rights. The modern expectation of the government that provides for its citizens is in stark contrast to the classical republican ideas of citizens, sacrificing individual rights for the good of the country, while the principles of classical republicanism are overshadowed by the federal government’s emphasis on natural rights and the Public good state governments and localities utilize, the common good within their smaller homogeneous communities. The separation between the levels of government helps address the condition of all american people. Local governments rely on the social contracts of citizens within their counties and cities, creating institutions such as schools and law enforcement to uphold the common good. For example, the national government orders covet 19 vaccines to be distributed to the states. Then states set guidelines for phases and localities, organized appointments and administering sites. Moreover, vaccines are crucial in both protecting the population and battling the economic fallout of the pandemic, as americans can soon safely return to work in school, azkova disproportionately impacts people with underlying conditions. The debate about guaranteeing health care has continued in national federation visabelius. The court cited the commerce clause to justify the affordable care act in order to achieve the rights to live and pursue happiness. Americans should be guaranteed, affordable health care. We propose regulations on companies that produce life, saving medical equipment and medication, like insulin, in order to ensure the prices remain fair for everybody. Additionally, it is crucial to provide adequate health care to citizens of all socioeconomic statuses, similar to the netherlands, as insurance and fairly priced goods would make living more equitable globally.
The response to kova 19 varied, an uncontrolled spread of novel strains poses new risks worldwide. Another issue is vaccine availability in developing countries due to large pharmaceutical monopolies. Imposing harsh restrictions on businesses and mass usage would reduce infections in the us. We should also act as a global leader and help distribute vaccines everywhere. As with our donation of 4 million doses to canada and mexico, another key worldwide issue is climate change. Rising temperatures pose a threat to all climates, with increased severe weather phenomena such as droughts that harm crop harvest and water availability rejoin the paris climate accord, set the example to trust in science and encourage action on the worsening crisis. A valuable step in climate change actually includes the implementation of legislation, with the focus on reducing co2 emission levels from major corporations, as the human condition has improved over time. The pessimistic worldview of hobbes has lost relevance and given way to expanding natural rights beyond locks original life, liberty and property, though the expectation of the federal government has shifted to prioritize, inalienable rights. Classical republican ideals still play a role in state governments through federalism. The interplay between state and federal governments is important in solving domestic issues and classical republican ideals might encourage people to work together to tackle larger international issues. Thank you. Thank you team. So one of the big themes i was hearing there’s a lot of discussion of covet and vaccines and and health issues throughout your presentation.
So let’s let’s go there. First um after the big virginia virginia tech game right there is a it’s, a super it’s identified as a super spreader event. The governor of virginia comes in and says you know what i’m going to make it a statewide mandate that everyone has to wear a mask anytime. You leave your house and if you do not wearing a mask, when you leave your house, you get fined. How would the natural rights and how classical republican thinking on this? How would they differ um and then, if you have any opinions as to whether or not you would support the governor in doing this, please i think, looking at this from a classical republican point of view is the idea of the common good that citizens might sacrifice Discomfort or sacrifice their comfort and be a little bit uncomfortable if wearing a mask is uncomfortable for you for the greater good of preventing spread of infection and preventing deaths and hospitalization from covet, and i think historically, you’ve seen examples of people sacrificing their natural rights. For the common good, like with lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus to protect the union and also a more modern example, post 9 11, where americans actually agree with the patriot act because they value that public safety over their individual rights privacy. Additionally, under tandem b newsome, the supreme court ruled in favor of religious rights and against laws in california. That would ban gatherings of three or more households, and it shows the government upholding natural rights over classical republicanist ideals of the past and to answer the second component of your question, we do support the mandate, the mass mandate in the state of virginia.
However, we don’t feel that, through classical republicanism and individuals, utilizing the common good that it is a likely outcome, because citizens no longer are interested in this moment in time in sacrificing their own interests and opinions and beliefs for the greater good of the country. We’Ve also seen that, through climate change i’m interested in your definition of the modern natural rights, i’ve heard you say, the government united states government has extended natural rights which natural rights has the federal government expanded. One major example of this would be voting rights where we’ve seen a lot of laws in place like the voting rights act or the 26th amendment expanding the right to vote and the right for citizens to participate in our government by giving a direct age of when People can vote and taking away certain discriminatory practices that would otherwise have prevented people from voting. Sorry go ahead. I’M. Sorry, i think that another natural right that citizens really kind of expect the government to provide them with is safety, and this is not only from war and attacks, but also just from a general health perspective as well now so such organizations as the food and drug Administration, the cdc the department of health and more are really all around to kind of provide a check on these industries and promote safety in our everyday civilian lives, and, as we gain more of an understanding of how these industries can affect our health, our government has Reflected these new understandings in these departments by continuing to update them and add to them as necessary.
I would like to go down the rights path, perhaps just um a little bit further. Does your expansion of rights include uh, you mentioned negative rights and positive rights. Does it include um, or should it include positive rights? Like i don’t know the right to health care, the right to a decent house, the right to a good job should should these be considered rights in the united states? Yes, we do feel that health care should be a right to the citizens of the united states, and we see this going back to the ideas of locke, the principles of natural rights, that everyone has the enable right to life, liberty and property and and we’ve. Seen that also through the obama administration, with the affordable health care act in going back historically in the great society, there was an attempt to pass a housing bill that would provide citizens with housing as a right, instead of something that would have to be paid. For. So there have been attempts to make housing a natural right, but funding fell through due to the vietnam war. Is there any? Is there any problem, or can you identify any problem with protecting uh positive rights? I mean the united states. Constitution is basically a document that protects negative rights right. The government can’t restrict free speech, can’t restrict free exercise of religion. Is there any problem with with expanding that to include positive rights things the government must provide to people? I think a lot of positive rights are seen through supreme court cases like in national federation visibilius, which upheld the constitutionality of the affordable care act and then other constant or other court cases like a birth, velvety hodges, which upheld the right to marriage and so um It’S possible to include those rights in the constitution, but a lot of the times it those sorts of things start in the supreme court and then become precedent for future cases.
Thank you. So one thing i’m confused. We talk about and you have lots of examples. The human condition changed over time in the last six months. Even the last year, we’ve seen, racism has now been defined as a health crisis i’m, so confused. How is the human condition? What has happened in the last year? Why is? Is this government what’s the policies going on here do do rights the natural rights of republican rights, of anything the republican view on this? Does this have anything to do with why racism is now considered a public health crisis? Do you think that’s a good idea, bad idea, any any thoughts on on that decision? I think we’ve always seen issues with race in this country um, because we are founded on slavery and oppression of um uh minority groups and then that’s continued throughout history to things like um, jim crow laws or sharecropping. Prior to that, and so um it’s always been an issue, and perhaps using different language now just addresses the issue, as it’s always been in a better way, rather than changing what we can, how we consider it. Additionally, citizens have made it um. The citizens have brought to the attention of the us government into the world just how prevalent the issue of racism go ahead and finish. Your thought, i was just going to say through utilizing their first amendment rights and the right to protest as well and going to the streets and going into the courtroom and legislator and passing or advocating for bills such as the no knock warrants in the state of Virginia advocating for equality and justice.
Thank you very much unit, six, a really great conversation. I just want to note a couple things. First of all, the the specificity of examples in many of your responses to follow up questions is notable commendable and appreciated. In terms of my particular question about rights – and you know, your stance was a perfectly reasonable one by the way and consistent with other democracies around the world right. Your south african constitution, for example, uh, protects uh lots of positive rights, other constitutions around the world. Do we haven’t had that tradition, even in the some of the examples that you gave you know the affordable care act is not a right it’s, a an act of of congress and there’s a difference between um the government uh doing something social security it’s, not a Right, it’s, uh it’s, something that um that congress that we’ve decided that we’re going to do elevating something to a right is something different and i’m, not saying it’s, bad or good, but uh it’s, probably important, especially for this kind of question to think through uh. You know yeah i do want you know. Education is a great example right that that’s, a positive uh right and even there we haven’t really ever said for sure that education is a federal right, that we all can get it’s more of a state, uh state right. So uh, so i i would be careful with that or think about that, a little bit more going forward, but um excellent job yeah thanks team.
I i want to say the question at the end was not as sharp as it should have been it’s one of those things that i would have loved to discuss with you. There are so many parts to it for hours um, but i also deliberately threw it in there to see like how do you gon na handle a curveball and like? Could you bring any of the theories or could you bring any cases? Could you make any connections between this? Is the race question at the end as a public? Could you bring any sort of new thinking in there because i saw you, you clearly had the mask question peed up and had thought about that and maybe even anticipated it um, and so i liked how you did that and went uh considered both sides of it. I also appreciated the diversity to echo my co judge’s comments. Um of your examples, i mean in the lincoln and patriot act. References uh where we put the good of all so some of those were were quite sharp uh and i appreciated that as well. So good luck in the competition. Thank you uh same i echo of what my judges have said about your examples of. Certainly, canada versus newsom all was great to recognize that that the natural rights that we think of today in modern society, particularly united states, are largely being kind of doled out by one body, the supreme court in the united states, and so that might be something that We look at, and one of the things that we’ve got to think about is it’s kind of hard to come up with what are the modern natural rights give other than you know, life, liberty and property? What else do we have that? We actually have a right to, and so i thought there were some great thoughts about that great examples given of that, i would say, with voting rights watch out for when you have an actual right and then it is expanded to other people.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are creating the new right it’s, just being recognized that oh women can have access to what should be this right for all. So the original concept was this right is for everybody. It was only our society that decided well. This right is not going to be for everybody and that’s the fights that we had and continue to have.