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Too Many Rights on the Left August 7, 2010

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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The United States was founded as a representative republic inspired by the soaring philosophy of the Enlightenment. As humanity clawed its way out of the depths of the Dark Ages thoughts of freedom found root and germinated in the minds of thousands. Rising from this rebirth or Renaissance came the realization that humanity inherently possess certain rights and that among these are the right to life, liberty and property. These foundational rights are not conferred by government they are endowed by God. A godly government acknowledges them. An ungodly government claims to be the arbiter of rights. These fundamental rights are part of the original design and necessary for humanity to reach its full potential. Without them we are but a shadow of what we’re meant to be. The leader-molded citizen of any earthly tyranny is restrained from success in ways alien to the free citizen of nature and of nature’s God.
The fundamental qualities of these rights speak for themselves:
Who can possibly obtain the legitimate possession of the life of another? How would they obtain that possession? Over thousands of years of darkness many societies granted the right to own the lives of others. The dismal slave blocks and markets of shame, and the wasted lives and stunted relationships of both slaves and masters attest to the fraudulent nature of this barbarous custom. According to the Theory of Natural Rights the life we hold we hold in trust. It has been endowed, and it is unalienable, which means even the legitimate possessor does not have the right to discard it or count it as a commodity to be sold or bartered away. This being true, how could any third party ever legitimately advance the idea that they can own the life of another? Life is sacred and without the right to life no other rights have any meaning.
Without liberty there is no ability to choose one’s own course of action or to make real-time decisions pertaining to relationships. Without liberty individuals are but pawns in the game of others: grist in the mill of history. Without the freedom to choose society is locked in a culture of command which restricts the free flow of ideas and materials thus throttling creativity and erecting artificial bottlenecks. In societies where bureaucrats try to replace the free choices of individuals there are always shortages, because no one can accurately predict how many widgets others want. They can only decree how many should be made to fit what they believe will be the demand. In other words, person A can never really know the thoughts or desires of Person B. They can only estimate and guess, thus a command economy and a regimented society always have maladjustments of production and distribution. Without liberty life is stunted and prevented from reaching its full potential.
Without the full and free use of property life and liberty are held within a death grip which leads to a mere caricature of reality, shadows of people pretending to be motivated, marching to the leader’s arbitrary drumbeat and saluting the flag. Or as the hopeless drones of the USSR used to say, “We pretend to work because they pretend to pay us.” This necessity for the full and free use of property in order to make meaningful life and practical liberty possible is absolute. It can operate at 50% but then it is only 50% effective while at the same time being 50% defective. As the right to use the property we create or earn is taxed and regulated away so is meaningful life and practical liberty. If the state has abrogated to itself the power of God to decree what portion of life and liberty is applicable to that portion of humanity within its grasp then it will gradually take more and more of the properties of its citizens until only serfs are left. Partial tyranny begets absolute tyranny just as sure as night follows day, for once the plundering begins its appetite is never abated until it has drunk the dregs.
These are the three fundamental and unalienable rights, life, liberty, and property. These are the rights recognized and enshrined by our founders. These are the rights meant to stand as the guardians and facilitators of American society. And for hundreds of years they have done so. The blight of slavery, which obviously ran counter to the ideals upon which this country was founded, was abolished, the rights proclaimed by our constitution were eventually guaranteed to all and today all but the unenlightened seek to judge each by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. These three rights provide the fertile soil that birthed the greatest nation ever to exist, the one nation all the world seeks to either immigrate to or to imitate.
However, today a glut of imagined rights advanced by demagogues to ply the emotions of hyphenated voting blocs threatens to smother the three which make everything else possible. The Progressives have actively attempted to push these bogus rights upon the nation since FDR in his fourth Inauguration speech proclaimed a Second Bill of Rights to include; “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; the right to a good education.”
All of these sound good and it’d be wonderful if everyone had them, but this is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. These self-proclaimed rights are benefits which may flow from the exercise of our three unalienable rights but they are not rights in and of themselves. If they are rights then government must violate the three real ones to provide the rest of the imagined ones. To provide the laundry list of progressive rights, the life, liberty, and property of all must be suppressed to generate the funds and the power to manufacture and allocate these benefits for those who have not earned them on their own.
Leave the bogus rights of the progressives to be allocated by tyrants to serfs who have no possibility of earning them for themselves because they have bartered their inheritance for a handful of promises. Instead give us the freedom and opportunity provided by our natural right to life, liberty and property and America will be great again.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net


1. A Sympathetic Leftist - August 8, 2010

However, today a glut of imagined rights advanced by demagogues to ply the emotions of hyphenated voting blocs threatens to smother the three which make everything else possible.

I question the Constitutional validity of this statement, and I don’t believe I’m taking it out context; it seems representative of your argument on the whole. Was not the aim of the 9th Amendment to recognize the existence of countless rights, each legitimate, each held innately by the people, altogether unable to be explicitly enumerated in a document, no matter how enlightened?

This is not to take exception with the gist of your criticism of the conventional liberal establishment pandering. I share your concern that every single want and desire is being enshrined as an entitlement. But the problem here is not the legitimacy of the right. The problem is the government’s overreach with respect to their enumerated powers.

We can argue, for example, whether gay people have a right (God-given, inherent to their nature, whatever) to marry, or whether women have a right to abort, and I believe that we should. And in this debate, perhaps we can discover truths, facts, or principles that would favor one side of the argument over the other. Hopefully all sides would learn something that was previously preventing consensus.

But the proper place for this debate to take is in *society*, because it is a deep cultural, social, and ethical matter that cannot be distilled by mechanistic bureaucratic systems or authorities. To make it political is to take it out of the realm of the personal, the human, the part of our lives that has the greatest connection to any spirituality, and turn it into a matter of “might makes right”. If it’s just about one side getting their way, then who’s to say what’s a right and what isn’t? Who’s to say what role God or cultural values plays?

As a leftist, I believe there are numerous injustices in our society that deserve to be addressed – poverty, the dignity of minorities, economic justice, etc. But looking to bureaucracies or authorities to deliver us from them is totally mistaken thinking, and viewing the Constitution as a document allowing the extension of numerous inherent rights into an ever-expanding regulatory corpus of enumerated rights gets it totally backwards. The failure of liberals is not in seeking its vision of humanity as it understands it, but using government to force it – just as, frankly, conservatives have done throughout history.

I’m in favor of addressing injustices by direct action – by building our own institutions that solve these problems instead of lobbying daddy Government to kiss our boo-boo and make it better. But I confess I’m in the minority within the larger leftist struggle. And liberals – hoo boy, there wasn’t a government program they ever couldn’t pull a polity out of. What I earnestly wish is that men and women of conscience both on the left and the right could find common ground that acknowledges government’s limits without merely leaving it at that. Not every fight for justice has to get the permission or the acquiescence of the seats of power; indeed, the true transformations come about when minds, not votes, are changed. For that, we need to recognize injustice and address it directly and personally in our communities while clinging tenaciously to as limited a government as we can get away with.

Thanks for reading. I enjoyed your essay.

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