The Basis of Rights

Where do we obtain rights? How are we to determine what constitutes a right versus merely a desire? This is a vitally important question to answer if we are to ever have a reasonable chance of agreeing on more complex issues.

The most famous line in the Declaration of Independence reads as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”

The Founding Fathers claimed that “all men” possess “certain unalienable Rights.” What does this mean?

It is arguable that the “all men” phrase was intended to mean all of human kind without regard to sex. It was unfortunate that they felt the need to compromise on its applicability to race, but for our purposes “all men” will have universal application.

“[C]ertain unalienable Rights” refers to the fact that these rights preexist government. In other words, it is not government which grants us rights because they are independent and irrespective of government. The document goes on to claim that it is the purpose of government to protect these rights, but throughout our journey together I hope to show that this is not the case (and, in fact, the antithesis is true).

But which rights do men possess? How do we catalog them? The answer lies with natural law.

Just as we can determine the fundamental nature of any object using observation and reason, so too can we determine the fundamental nature of man. Natural law, therefore, is the use of reason to determine the inherent rights and limitations of man.

For example, it would be patently obvious that to claim all dogs have the right to a “liveable wage” is nonsensical. We can extend the ridiculousness of this claim to humans as well since nothing within the nature of mankind itself grants it as a right. A man has no inherent ability to claim a “liveable wage” alone in nature. Put differently, isolated man must obtain for himself everything needed to survive.

Our first task, therefore, is to discuss natural law and its limitations and implications. Stay tuned!

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