by David McElroy
Where does your right to free speech come from? Most people would say it comes from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Where does the your right to own weapons come from? Most people would say that right is created by the Second Amendment. If you’re among those who would answer that way, you’re mistaken. Let’s talk about why.
A right is something you’re born with simply because you’re a human being. Those who recognize natural rights — including me — assert that the same rights apply to every single person, wherever he lives and whether he’s allowed to exercise his rights or not. We assert that every human being has the natural right to his own life and to the property which he morally acquires or creates.
Because of that, the right to free speech has existed forever, whether any government recognizes it or not. In the same way, you have the natural right to be completely free, as long as you’re not infringing on the rights of others to live their own lives and control their own property. No government document creates that right. A government document can only recognize what already exists. (And the fraud known as the Social Contract is just a lie.)
Read the text of the Declaration of Independence. The men who laid the foundation for independence from Great Britain were very explicit about rights being natural and pre-existing: “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 statement further asserts that the purpose of government is to “secure these rights.” So the purpose of government is to protect the natural and unalienable rights that every person is born with. Remember that this was written before anybody ever conceived of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Over the last hundred years or so, a peculiar idea sprang up from the Progressive movement. These people somehow came up with the odd notion that rights exist only if a government creates them and gives them to you. Barack Obama is among the people holding this peculiar view. You can see it in much of what he does or says, but here’s a quote that makes it very clear that he believes government creates rights and that he believes government can take away rights.
At a Democratic debate in Philadelphia in 2008, Obama said, “As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right.” [Emphasis mine.]
Obama claimed in that statement that the Second Amendment “confers” the right to own weapons, which means he doesn’t believe it would exist without that line being part of the Constitution. He also says (in the later part of the quote) that just because a right exists doesn’t mean that governments can’t take it away (at least in part) at their whim. If a government can take something away from you, it’s not a right. It’s a privilege.
Most people who talk about rights today have no idea what the term means, because they’ve bought into the notion that rights are granted by governments. They believe a right is something that is given or created by government, so it can also be limited by government. But since human rights are actually pre-existing, their approach can never match with the approach of those who recognize natural human rights. They’re using the same word we use, but we’re using the same word to mean very different things.
This is why I think the Bill of Rights did more to harm rights (and the understanding of them) than anything else. The Constitution was intended to give government certain narrowly tailored powers and nothing more. (I don’t believe it’s possible to give government any “limited” power, and the monster that grew from this experiment in limited government proves it, as far as I’m concerned.) The people who wrote the document didn’t believe that they needed to list rights, because the Constitution didn’t grant government any powers other than the narrow powers listed. The government was never intended to have the power to violate anybody’s rights.
Since some people insisted that there be a list of rights, the 10 amendments were adopted, but the last two were there to make sure that nobody thought this was an all-inclusive list. But what did people do? They assumed that this was a list of “our rights” and they completely ignored the text of the Ninth and Tenth amendments. It’s hard to be more specific. The people who wrote the Bill of Rights were saying, “Here are some things we’re specifically mentioning that are to be protected, but the rights not mentioned are still retained by the states and the people.”
Courts eventually ignored the Ninth and Tenth amendments. If you assume that the first eight amendments are granting rights, the Ninth and Tenth amendments make no sense. Literally. There would have been no reason for them to exist.
As a result of courts adopting this unhistorical Progressive view, Americans are seen today as having no right unless it’s specifically mentioned in the Constitution, which turns on its head the clear intent of the people who wrote the document. (Ironically, the same Progressives which denied the text of the document found the right to abortion in the text somewhere, so consistency isn’t something they can boast about.)
You have the right to speak freely. You have the right to worship however you’d like. You have the right to own weapons so you can protect yourself from a tyrannical government. You have the right not to be forced to testify against yourself. You have the right to own the fruits of your labor. You have all of these rights because you’re a human being, not because the men who signed some document might or might not have written them down.
The federal government is now debating additional measures to restrict your freedom to own weapons to protect yourself. Because the government is powerful and out of control, it will get its way, whatever it decides. But if legislation is passed to take away your guns — and even if the guns are taken from you — it wouldn’t mean you’ve lost the right to own those weapons. It would merely mean that thugs were violating your rights.
You have rights as a human being that are unalienable. They can’t be taken away from you. No human gave the rights to you. They’re yours just because you’re a human being. You need to understand this and quit believing that government gives rights and takes them away.
Assert your right to own and control your own life. If someone prevents you from controlling your own life — simply because he has the power to use force or threat of force to compel you — realize that you’re living under a tyranny. Don’t make the mistake of believing that anybody has the ability to take your rights away from you.
You own your rights, even if thugs calling themselves “government” prevent you from exercising them at times.