As a liberal in the word’s original sense, I’m extremely sensitive to individual rights. The problem is, leftists have hijacked this term and many others. In modern discourse, individual rights have become a morally acceptable euphemism for nihilism and justification for attempts to overturn the established order without popular consent.

Originally, individual rights denoted a protected sphere. The State could intrude into private affairs only so far. That is sensible: though the majority is entitled to have its way, it need not repress individuals who do not infringe on that way but, closed in their homes, behave as bystanders. In some narrow situations, however, even such individual rights are unacceptable. Judaism, for example, prescribes moral purity for a tiny strip of land, and no one who lives here can be considered a non-participating bystander. No homes on this land are private from God. All inhabitants of the Land of Israel are mere tenants on God’s property and must follow his rules. Enjoying leavened bread on Pesach in the privacy of one’s home in Israel is a high crime. Except for such narrow exceptions, privacy triumphs over public interest—or, rather, privacy kicks in where public interest ends. Individual rights, therefore, are properly defined as freedom from public intrusion when the matter is truly irrelevant to the public.

Increasingly, individual rights turned from “freedom from” to “freedom to.” To illustrate: just decades ago, homosexuals claimed freedom from government repression on the grounds that their habits are private and are not a society’s business. After the turnaround, homosexuals claimed their habits are no longer private but a matter of public importance; thus homosexual propaganda (“tolerance lessons”) in schools. No longer content with protecting themselves from public interference, they interfere with the public by demanding marriage. They claim such benefits as immigration visas for foreign partners. They pursue entitlements, such as adoption, created specifically for the public interest of propagation they claimed an exemption from.

Every rule involves restrictions. This is easy to see: a rule must be defined; definitions create boundaries, and the boundaries are the restrictions. The above example of adoption involves plenty of restrictions: the act is performed in the child’s interest rather than for the adoptive parents’ benefit; adoption can be performed by a responsible and moral adult—not, for instance, a teenager. Every restriction infringes on someone’s freedom, in this case a teenager’s or an immoral adult’s. Thus, the notion of individual freedom can be used to overturn any law whatsoever.

The application of individual freedom against public interest allows judges complete control over legislation, as every law violates someone’s freedom. In one notorious case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the proprietors of a drive-in movie theater can screen R-rated movies without raising walls because visitors to a nearby church can adequately protect their sensitivities by turning away from the screen. The situation is still worse in Israel, were courts appoint their own members and have completely lost touch with political realities. After the unsuspecting Knesset passed a Basic Law: Dignity, judges received broad power to strike down any law if it violates someone’s vague dignity. The High Court sees checkpoints as a violation of the Arabs’ dignity, and routinely orders the government to move them.

One way to combat leftist activism is legislating a Basic Law that freedom can only be from arbitrary intrusion. As long as everyone who travels a certain road has to pass the same checkpoint, freedom is satisfied. That, however, subjects many people to unreasonable restrictions: indeed, there is no need to search Jews. Also, even such a restrictive definition of freedom is open to expanded reading by the courts: locating a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem rather than in the city center (senseless as that would be) discriminates against the residents of certain neighborhoods.

In order to see a solution, we must pinpoint the problem. Leftist activism both in Israel and America targets the central rather than local authorities. One explanation for this is that changing the codes in every locality is too cumbersome, but a more potent explanation is that local authorities are mostly commonsense individuals. In contrast, the Israeli Knesset and the Supreme Court, as well as their American counterparts, are removed from daily life of the country. Knesset members depend on advertizing for elections; whatever way they vote hardly bears on their election prospects. Judges are still more independent of public opinion—in fact, they are absolutely independent and can disregard it freely. Common sense ends at the town level.

The Supreme Court must not exist. Electable town judges must be the only judicial panel. There is no need to fear the resulting diversification of legal interpretation. In most matters the interpretations would be similar, as judges would look at each others’ opinions. The diversification would reflect community standards: naturally and properly, some towns would be more forthcoming to individual rights, others to traditional values. Uniform country-wide standards, in contrast, reflect the lowest common denominator; neither society nor the vast majority of individuals benefit from the resulting nihilism.

National emergencies tilt the balance away from individual rights toward community values. Israel amid the sea of Muslims is in a perpetual state of emergency. The propaganda of individual rights destroys national unity. Media convince the simple-minded that their personal security lies in peace treaties which only exist on paper, and their personal dignity opposes repressing the Arabs who incidentally want to kill them.

Individual rights only exist on the local level, and are properly exercised by moving to an accommodating locality.