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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

The Unlimited Blessings of Limited Government June 20, 2010

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The battles were over and the war won now the hardest task of all: how to secure the rights fought for while providing a government strong enough to endure.  The Framers gathered in Philadelphia for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation.  Within days they decided instead to frame a new government launching an experiment in centralized but limited government.

That they believed the people to be the source of legitimate authority is exposed in the Preamble which begins, “We the People.”  They based this belief upon the Enlightenment concept of Natural Law, that God endowed men with unalienable rights.  Many people in Western Civilization believed in Natural Law realizing that these rights, though endowed by the Creator as inherent prerogatives, would not continue to exist in organized society unless protected by limitations on government power.  The Framers believed Natural Law not only conferred rights it also established limits to the scope of government and man-made law.  In their mind no legitimate law violated the possession and enjoyment of the rights of man.  In declaring independence our ancestors proclaimed their purpose as assuming the station, “to which the laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them.”

Knowing all this was one thing, but devising a manner in which not only authority but also power could be conceded from society in general to a government which by the nature of organization consists of a much smaller number was quite another.  How was this power to be limited?  How were the rights of all to be protected from the power of the few?  What was to stop the concentration of power into the hands of factions combined for their own benefit?  How to provide a government with sufficient authority and power to ensure the security and order necessary for everyone to enjoy their natural rights, and yet restrained enough to allow them to do so?  This was the problem which confronted those locked in Independence Hall in 1787 devising a government strong enough to do good, yet limited enough to do no harm.

The concept of a written Constitution was the first step.  England had no written constitution.  It was ruled by tradition and precedent.  After the Revolution the Framers knew traditions and precedents can change.  So they looked to a written Constitution to provide a framework and guide for the new government, thus setting boundaries and establishing them for all to see.  They provided a means for change in the amendment process, but they made it difficult and cumbersome so that change would not be easy or readily accessible to the whim of a moment or the rulers of the day.

Beyond this primary recourse to a lasting written code the Framers sought to employ two vehicles for the limitation of government; a federal system wherein power is divided between the parts and the whole, and representation through which the voice of the people would speak.  To accomplish these twin goals the States retain their sovereignty and provide a legislature made up of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House of Representatives was and still is popularly elected by all eligible voters.  Every two years these closest of all national leaders return to the people for affirmation and a renewed mandate.  And the Senate, which was originally elected by the states through their legislatures who were all at least partially elected by the public thus, ensuring both: more input from the people and the federal nature of the government. The President and Vice President were and still are indirectly elected by the members of the Electoral College, which are chosen in accordance with procedures designated by the individual states, thus once again enhancing the federal nature of the government.  The President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, chooses the judges of the Federal Courts.

This system, which we’ve come to call checks and balances, provides that no law can be enacted without a majority vote by representatives elected directly by the people, representatives chosen by the States and signed by the President, whose election is a result of a combination of the people and the States.  Thus the authority of the people is employed, the voice of the people is heard, yet the indirect manner in which it is applied and the muted manner in which it is heard seeks to ensure a government insulated from the volatile passions of the day.

What the Framers sought was a government of reason. The Enlightenment thinkers believed through the use of reason people discover natural rights and natural law.  They also believed reason is the source of a government capable of protecting those rights by enforcing that law.  To this end they created a federal system to diffuse power and a representative republic to provide a voice for the people safeguarded from the emotions of the moment.  They hoped that reasonable people working within a federal government divided between branches and surrounded by a written constitution would ensure the authority of the many would pass through the hands of the few for the blessings of all. At least that was the hope.

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

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