May 16, 2009

I like FOX-News broadcaster Glenn Beck. The man exudes goodness and has a visceral feel for freedom. 

From this scrupulous soul I”€™d like to hear less about “€œlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”€ and more of the original Lockean phrase, from which Thomas Jefferson drew when writing the Declaration of Independence.

“€œNo one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions,”€ wrote the British philosopher John Locke, in the Second Treatise on Civil Government.

By “€œthe pursuit of happiness,”€ Jefferson meant property plus; the right to take action to acquire what is required to sustain and satisfy life. Instead, the founder bequeathed us a vagueness that has helped undermine the foundation of civilization”€”private property.

By and large, modern-day Americans have twisted the famous phrase, and have turned into looters who pursue happiness at the expense of the producers. 

Heeding the call of the wild, the Other House of ill-repute””€the Senate”€“is on track to enshrine the right to carry debt with no penalty: a credit-card bill of rights. With such constitutional chicanery underway, the distinction between what is mine and what is thine“”€private property””€bears repeating.
The “€œVirginia Declaration of Rights,”€ written by George Mason in 1776, harmonizes “€œproperty”€ and the “€œpursuit of happiness”€:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”€

Elsewhere, Jefferson affirmed the natural right of “all men” to be secure in their enjoyment of their “life, liberty and possessions.” But in the Declaration, somehow, he opted for the inclusiveness of “€œthe pursuit of happiness,”€ rather than cleave to the precision of “€œproperty.”€ 

Above all, the Constitution and Bill of Rights aim to limit the power of the government, as expressed, for example, in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution: “€œ[nor shall any person be] deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”€ 

Glenn has also insisted that our rights come from God and that unless you believe in the Almighty, you cannot defend natural rights.

Philosopher Ayn Rand disagreed. She contended that rights are rooted in the very nature of man. They “€œare conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival,”€ she wrote in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Of one thing there is no dispute:

Whether one defers to reason or revelation for their justification”€“the natural rights of man remain inalienable. 

Rights are never lost””€not when reason or religion is jettisoned. More often than not, however, rights are violated.

The right of ownership is an extension of the right to life. In order to survive, man must”€”and it is in his nature to”€”transform the resources around him by mixing his labor with them and making them his own. Man’s labor and property are extensions of himself. 

“€œWithout property rights,”€ wrote Ms. Rand, “€œno other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life.”€

I”€™d be less than candid were I to gloss-over the logical flaw in Rand’s argument for the inviolability of natural rights. 

As life in our wealth-distributing social democracy demonstrates, a man can sustain his life”€”and survive”€”while the State appropriates arbitrary chunks of his possessions. 

Ergo, owning yourself and the product of your labor outright, as well you should, is not essential to your survival. As a partial owner of yourself and of what you produce, you may not be as happy as Jefferson had hoped you”€™d be, but you get by. 

Clearly, there is a logical leak in the case for the immutability of natural rights. Left unplugged, it justifies the distributive state’s lien on your life. The way to unlock the latrine of illogic and legislative mischief is this: Man’s rights are immutable and inviolable not just because they are necessary for his physical survival and intellectual and psychological fulfillment, but because, bereft of absolute rights, his survival as a sovereign individual becomes impossible.

The problem with rights in the American social democracy is that the cockroaches in Congress decide how much of a man’s life is his and how much is theirs. The positive law has become the source of our rights. This, the founders abhorred and opposed. 

Therefore, whether one defers to divine law or natural law, rights must be independent of the will of man. Congressional law was never intended to be the source of our rights.

The rights to life, liberty and property were not meant to be subject to the vagaries of majority rule. 

Thus, although survival is possible when rights are violated; sovereignty is impossible.

So shout “€œlife, liberty, and property”€ from the proverbial rooftops.

And ask good guy Glenn to do the same.


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