I have a confession to make – one inspired by friend Dave’s recent articles regarding natural rights. The fact is, I do not believe there is any such thing as a natural right.
Yes, I truly support Mr. Jefferson’s sentiments, expressed in the Declaration Of Independence, that “all men are created equal”. However, I interpret that statement differently than most of my fellow citizens. I believe that what Mr. Jefferson meant, taken in the context of the document in which he said it, is that there is no “divine right of kings”. That there are no special humans, designated and recognized by some deity as having a special, deity-granted right to rule (or tyrannize) other people. One obvious reason this must be true is that there is no evidence of any deity with the authority or the power to grant such a right (actually, this would more correctly be defined as a privilege).
I also support Mr. Jefferson’s contention that all humans have an equal “right” to their lives, to the extent that they can defend their lives; to their liberty, to the extent that they can effectively demand and maintain their liberty; and, to whatever property they can morally and ethically accumulate, defend and maintain.
The simple fact of the matter is this: we humans decide the nature of the society we would inhabit. For eons, what was called a society (or a tribe, state, whatever you wish) was based on the possession of brute force and the willingness to use it against others on the part of those who appointed themselves to be rulers. To a degree that some of us wish otherwise, such is still the basis of much of what we call society (or whatever).
The other choice is to base the nature of our society (or whatever) on the concept of equal or shared rights. That is to say, I will respect your right to life, liberty and property if you will likewise respect mine. This is the choice our Founders attempted to make, in our names, and for our benefit. And, they used every device they could think of to try and prevent our lapsing back into that more basic, more crude, and far more cruel method based on brute force and tyranny.
To the extent that the Founders were successful in this grand experiment, a close study of the real nature of things reveals that the actual rights we enjoy are rights that we grant to each other. Of necessity, they can come from no other source. And, such rights can exist (and be enjoyed) only when the overwhelming majority of the members of our society agree and willingly continue to respect and to grant each other these basic rights. As soon as anything upsets the balance of power and mutual respect among sovereign individuals, then the whole compact starts to unravel – which, sadly, is where we find our Republic at this moment.
Clearly, the success and continuation of the type and kind of society our Founders envisioned, depends on the cultivation of several human attributes. IMHO, primary among these is that we educate ourselves such that we know and understand the nature of the society we want and that we work toward making good on this knowledge and understanding. Something at which we have failed at so miserably that one wonders that our Republic still functions at all.
To this end, I close with another thought from Mr. Jefferson:
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson