Date: Wed, 04 Oct 1995 08:55:54 -0400
From: "Steven D. Jamar" [email protected]
Subject: Roots of Right
I have been told that in Indian languages the word for ‘right’ has come in only very recently, and that from Islamic sources.
"reg-" is the indo-european language root. Its derivatives, including right, include regal and raja (king in Sanskrit). And as we all know, until very recent times the king could do no wrong. And all rights were the king’s and folk were just subjects to do the king’s bidding.
Date: Wed, 04 Oct 1995 12:11:43 -0400
From: "Peter D. Junger" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Roots of Right
I do not think that this is generally correct. The claim that the king (or the prince) can do no wrong was asserted by the spokesmen for the late Roman Emperor and reasserted by the Stewart Kings of England, but in most ancient societies the rulers were very much subject to custom, or law, or //dharma//.
It is interesting to note that the power of the courts in the United States to review the rightfulness–the constitutionality–of the acts of the government is based on Lord Coke’s reply to King James when that king claimed that he could do no wrong. Lord Coke agreed with that claim, and then pointed out that what the king wanted to do was wrong so the king could not do it. (So if some agent of the state tries to deprive me of my constitutional rights, the courts will enjoin him from acting outside the scope of his authority; and a suit seeking such an injunction is not treated as a suit against the United States, which, like its predecessor, the king, can do no wrong.)
This is a very important component of our Constitutional, and Civil, Rights here in the United States; but I fail to see how we could expect it to be exported to lands and cultures with radically different legal traditions. Unlike the common law, the //Buddhadharma// is supposed to be universal.
Peter D. Junger