Universal, persistent. You don't see this word much though. Thomas Jefferson used it in the Declaration of Independence to speak of "inalienable rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That idea came from Locke, whose three rights (according to the social contract were life, liberty, and property.

Literally, "incapable of being alienated". An inalienable right can neither be taken away by the government nor voluntarily surrendered, since it is (taken to be) an intrinsic feature of the possessor of the right.

One of the most important features of basic human rights, such as freedom of movement, recognition and equality before the law, and the right to vote is that they must be inalienable: not to be taken away or surrendered, not even with the consent of the person in question.

The reason why this is so important is that if those rights were alienable, they would eventually become meaningless: if the free choice of employment could be surrendered, the result would be slavery (Can anyone say "debt-based wage slavery"?). If the right to vote could be sold, someone could simply buy a majority and do without all the unreliable lobbying.

Hm. Given those examples, it seems that we're already doing a pretty good job of making a mockery of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in our supposedly "free" society.

In*al"ien*a*ble (?), a. [Pref. in- not + alienable: cf. F. inali'enable.]

Incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred to another; not alienable; as, in inalienable birthright.


© Webster 1913.

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