There are two schools of thought concerning individual rights: one says that rights are granted to the individual by society (or the state, or whatever term fits the issue); the other says that rights reside in the individual, and society must show some compelling interest to restrict them. Conservatives like to say that this is the difference between a liberal and a conservative, but it upon examination, both sides sometimes argue both ways.
This thought struck me while listening to my favorite radio talk show, Abdul in the morning . The discussion was a proposed change in Indiana's liquor laws to allow Sunday sales. Many who would describe themselves as conservative were saying, "Are you incapable of thinking ahead and buying on Saturday? Why should we allow you to buy on Sunday?" But if you believe in the rights of the individual, the question should be, "What is the compelling state interest in restricting the sale of a legal product? Is alcohol more potent on Sunday than Saturday?" The same reversal of burden occurs in the discussion of gay marriage. If you believe in individual rights, the question is not "Why should the state recognize gay marriage?", but "If the state recognizes any marriage, what is the compelling interest preventing the recognition of this one?".
Conservatives are not alone in hypocrisy, of course. If the issue is guns, then the right to own and bear them resides in the state, to be extended to or withdrawn from the individual at the state's pleasure- but if the issue is abortion, then the right resides in the individual, and cannot be withdrawn by the state. The personal right of choice and the principle of competition are so important that there must be a public healthcare option to provide that choice and competition, with the proviso that the public choice must sink or swim on its own merits, so that the competition is genuine. Unless the issue is education, of course, in which case the public option is paramount, regardless of cost, efficiency, or effectiveness.
The lesson is that human nature dictates that the core guiding principle is "Whose ox is being gored?"*
*Do oxen gore each other? I thought bulls were made oxen and stallions were made geldings to calm them down so they wouldn't fight each other.