I like Fox broadcaster Glenn Beck, I really do, if only because he exudes sheer goodness and has a visceral feel for freedom. However, starting a confused revolution, as he has, only adds to the philosophical confusion of a people too lazy to plumb the depths of their founding documents.
I’d like to hear less of the “pursuit of happiness” phrase from the Declaration of Independence,” and more about how no “State” shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Thomas Jefferson had opted for the inclusiveness of “the pursuit of happiness,” instead of sticking with the Lockean “life, liberty, property.” He meant property plus, but, instead, bequeathed us a vagueness that has undermined property.
The “Virginia Declaration of Rights,” written by George Mason in 1776, brings together “property” and the “pursuit 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.”
The right to property includes self-ownership. As I’ve written: “The right of ownership is an extension of the right to life. If ownership is not an absolute right but is instead subject to the vagaries of majority vote, then so is the right to life.”
Glenn again: Beck insisted some time back that our rights come from God and that unless you believe in the Almighty, you cannot defend rights. That’s a non sequitur. Rights are rooted in the nature of man. Whether one defers to reason or revelation for their justification–the natural rights of man remain inalienable.
Philosopher Ayn Rand anchored man’s rights in his nature. “Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his survival,” she wrote in Atlas Shrugged. 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. The right of ownership is thus an extension of the right to life.
Glenn also asserted that we merely loan our rights to the government temporarily to protect. I understand he means well, but, but…
No! That’s not so. Rights are never on loan; they cannot be alienated (although our friend Walter Block has made an interesting case for supreme freedom by arguing for one’s right to sell oneself into slavery). Unless of course a man takes the life of an innocent other. Then, by virtue of his actions, he has forfeited his right to life.
Back to Beck: The government is merely entrusted with upholding natural rights. It cannot grant or repeal them. We don’t loan our rights to anyone.
It’s bad form and bad language to suggest so.
Update: With reference to The Judge’s comment: rights are never lost–not even when reason is jettisoned. More often than not, however, rights are violated.
Update II (March 16): If you want to find out about natural rights, you have to be prepared to show some initiative and do a bit of searching and reading on this blog and website, where you’ll find ample material—my own in addition to references. Click the Classical Liberalism post on the right. Also, go to the various searches on the main site, here and here.
The ilanamercer.com mother site, to which BAB is a companion, is set up for your convenience. But if you need spoon feeding, how on earth will you be capable of wielding a pitchfork when the time comes?
So too can BAB’s archives be plumbed for entries and discussions of rights, negative vs. positive (the bogus kind). The search-by-categories on BAB can’t be missed.