Natural Rights, Our Social Compact, and “Rights”

The principles statement of our social compact acknowledges that all humans are endowed with certain inalienable, natural rights, and the entirety of our social compact seeks to apply those natural rights in a concrete way to the members of our compact, us American citizens.  Our Declaration of Independence says of this:

…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed[.]

Our principles statement acknowledges further that, when an instituted government fails in its purpose, it is both our right and our duty to replace it with one that will do better, but that’s a subject of a different discussion.

On the matter of Happiness, John Adams was clear that this was—and is—more than simple personal pleasure and pecuniary wealth; although these are certainly part.  But Happiness includes far more, and far more important components, also:

All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

However, today (indeed, for the last 80 years, with rapidly increasing national cost, and failure) some want government to guarantee such things as jobs, retirements, and so on; they assert these to be “rights,” a continuation of Franklin Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights, which included such things as employment, housing, and social security.

In fact, such manufactured “rights” cannot be achieved by award from government, whether directly by fiat or indirectly by managing our economy; our government in the end is nothing more than our employee and so possessed of no more power than that.  Moreover, the thing which our government gives to one of us (vis., a retirement pension check, or an artificially cheap house), it must first take from another of us (not least in the form of tax money); it must take from one of its employers.

These “economic rights,” these “social rights,” of Roosevelt’s and today’s Progressive’s invention, though, are nothing more, and nothing less, than the inevitable output of our individual efforts when those efforts are carried out within the framework of our inalienable rights.  In the end, the obligation, freedoms, and power of American citizenship—our Happiness—under our social compact results not through the mechanism of Government as Giver of Rights, but through minimal government interference with our own efforts as we act politically and economically for our individual needs and wants.

Many, though, who were actually taught such governmental guarantees in our public schools and institutions of “higher” education, are discovering that these invented “rights,” in fact, are not automatically available, and so they think they are being denied in some way.  Their disappointment is all the more bitter because they’ve been promised that government—not they, themselves—is the proper guarantor of their prosperity and security and liberty.

In order for government to guarantee security, though, it must have complete control over individual behaviors and decisions, and so there can be no liberty.  And without liberty, there can be no prosperity, since no man then will be free to pursue his own need or his own Happiness; no man will be free to show the best that there is in him.  And without liberty, or without prosperity—much less without both—there can be no security.

This contradiction of government as the font of prosperity, liberty, and security, and that earlier described  confusion of the prior with the result, are both individually and together the source of the failure of invented guarantees.

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