I have been struggling the past few days with what the primary subject should be for Part III of this series. Every time I settle on one basic idea, three or four others pop up, either as stand-alone pieces, or as corollaries to other ideas. The threats to self-governance in this decrepit age are so many and varied that it is nearly impossible to settle on just one.
Fortunately, I was rescued from my confusion by an essay over at The Federalist that presents an example of an over-arching principle that is so integral to self-governance that it demands further discussion. The author, Benjamin Dierker, was discussing (as so many are these past weeks) the Second Amendment. He very cogently writes,
“In a properly functioning America like the Founders envisioned, a repeal of the Second Amendment would be virtually meaningless. The right existed already; the Constitution merely secures it. Unfortunately, our society has loosened its grasp on natural rights philosophy and devolved into dependency on government-sanctioned rules.”
Source: The Burning Platform
April 2, 2018
I would take this very accurate statement a step further. The entire Constitution could disappear tomorrow without diminishing or negating the natural rights written in the hearts and minds of free men. Despite constant and pervasive gaslighting by the left, a free man knows that his natural rights were not created by putting pen to parchment. They were merely codified in the legal framework of the Founding documents. The Constitution is no magical document and the natural rights of men are not subject to the whims of government. Unfortunately, in modern day America, the very concept of natural rights is under assault from below by ignorant, and gullible masses whose twins gods of safety and comfort dictate their politics, and from above by elitist grifters, political sociopaths and various other control freaks that populate the governments and bureaucracies that litter this land. The impact of this assault on liberty should not be ignored or underestimated.
Self-governance cannot long survive in an environment where a significant portion of the population is either ignorant of, or actively hostile to, the philosophy of natural rights. Nor can it prosper when those in power come to believe that they are the arbiters, rather than custodians, of what rights properly belong to the people. The Founders did not create “inalienable rights.” They merely acknowledged them.
In Part II I referred to the right to be left alone as a right pre-existing any attempt at legal codification. All natural rights fall into this category of pre-existence. For those who believe in God, natural rights are bestowed on mortal men, not for anything they have done, but simply because they are. Men exist as created beings with the free will to make their own choices, order their own affairs, and suffer their own consequences. They are endowed with natural rights in order to have the tools necessary to accomplish the purpose for which they were created. I suggest that free men who believe they are the children of a Creator God find it easier to hold firmly to the notion that they possess natural rights inborn and inherent to their nature as free beings.
For those who do not believe, that innate grasp of natural rights philosophy, while not non-existent, is arguably more tenuous and therefore more subject to the corrosive effects of leftist ideologies. Those who see themselves as only the product of natural selection must necessarily (if they are intellectually honest) view themselves as no better and no worse than the myriad of creatures that populate the planet. The inherent danger in this viewpoint is that those who truly espouse it are, by virtue of that belief, opening the door to their own commodification by those political forces seeking to dominate and control every aspect of human existence. If the spark of the Divine does not exist in human beings, then to claim the possession of natural rights as the basis of personal liberty and rational self-governance is a lunatic idea akin to claiming that cattle and pigs, trees and flowers, mollusks and termites are also heirs to those same rights.
I am not saying that atheists and agnostics have no appreciation of, or belief in the concept of natural rights. However, I am saying that those who do not believe are much easier prey for the purveyors of the soul-destroying philosophical flatulence of the left. That there is debate about the specific religious affiliations and spiritual inclinations of the Founders does not negate the fact that they believed that the citizens of the nation they were creating were naturally bequeathed the rights commensurate with a free, self-governing people, not by governments, but by a power beyond the reach or influence of men. Deist, Christian, or atheist, the Founders believed that the natural rights of men exist beyond the reach of government and to believe anything less is to take the first irrevocable step on the road to tyranny and enslavement.
Governing one’s self requires fully embracing the tools by which that governance is possible. Only human beings capable of governing their own passions can reasonably be expected to possess the capabilities necessary to form a polity capable of securing and maintaining ordered liberty. Natural rights are the indispensable tools necessary to the building of free, self-governing societies. If we devolve (as I believe we are rapidly doing) into a fragmented society with no sense of itself as the inheritors of natural rights, then we become nothing more than fodder for demagogues and politicians that tell us that our rights are not something we possess by virtue of our humanity. If they are not naturally occurring, our rights become little more than largesse doled out by our elected representatives, subject at all times to their whims and predilections. Bureaucrats can regulate them out of existence or the armed minions of a tyrannical government may forcibly truncate them. If all we have are government-sanctioned rights, then they are subject to change without notice, or outright elimination without recourse.
Subscribers to that mode of thought are not people with a natural right to own property. They are property. If we no longer possess the natural right to defend ourselves, then we are candidates for cattle cars and labor camps. If we no longer possess the natural right to speak as we wish or listen to those we wish to hear, then we are deaf and dumb sheep to be herded, penned, and slaughtered at the discretion of our authoritarian shepherds. The erosion of natural rights philosophy in the public mind and in civic discourse is deadly to personal liberty and public harmony. Bereft of natural law and the rights that flow from it, civil society devolves into a Hobbesian swamp of violence, entitlement, and authoritarian control. I suggest that we are seeing this descent into tyranny in real time. The normalization of deviancy rots the fiber of the nation and denies us the moral high ground. Emotional grievance and governance hold sway in the public square. The criminalization of thought and speech muzzles honest debate. All these things plus the incessant bawling, bullying, and whining of the brainless left are the festering political and social pustules heralding the onset of the terminal cancer of despotism. Whether it succumbs to Orwellian thuggery, or the distracted slavery of Huxley, liberty cannot survive in the absence of widespread belief in the natural rights of free men.
The population of this nation is woefully ignorant of, not only its own history, but of the basic philosophical underpinnings of the civilization of which they are nominally a part. If one of my fellow citizens cannot tell me whom we fought in the Revolutionary War, I hold out little hope that he can render a coherent explanation of natural rights. Such a person is not a citizen of a self-governing society; he is merely residing within a political framework provided for him by free men. He is a helot who lives in the illusion of freedom. All the rights and privileges he enjoys are the hand-me-downs of better men. How can such people be expected to understand, let alone properly maintain, the mechanisms necessary to protect rights that exist outside the boundaries of their own passions and instincts. Far too many in this nation exist at only that level. The evidence for this is visible in the foul-mouthed immaturity of the David Hoggs of the world, the hypocritical posturing of politicians, and the incoherent babblings and cacophonous noise constantly served up by academia, media, and government. To all those who would trample the natural rights of free men in a bovine stampede toward safety, comfort, and distraction, I would simply say that just because you want it, does not mean you get to have it, especially at the expense of my liberty or the liberty of others.
My question are these: Why should the decent, liberty-loving, law-abiding citizens of an ostensibly free country suffer the diminution and restriction of their rights because of the actions of criminals, the desires of the ignorant, or the blathering of children? Why should they suffer punishments that should rightly fall upon those who have severed the tethers of natural rights, which bind them to something greater than themselves?
The questions are, of course, rhetorical. If a portion of a given population, for whatever reason, cannot handle the responsibilities of living in a free society, then said population is not entitled to the same freedoms as that portion of the population that can. It has been said that Democracy is not a suicide pact. Neither is it a mechanism for the indiscriminant punishment of those who understand the sources of human freedom and those who do not. It is crucial to remember that this nation was never meant to be a democracy. It was founded as a Constitutional Republic rooted in the idea of majority rule with respect for the rights and aspirations of the minority. It was not founded to allow for the tyranny of the minority with disdain and contempt for the rights and aspirations of the majority.
Willingly embrace slavery if you will, but leave me and mine out of it. As a free man, I have no desire to hinder any of my fellow citizens should they choose the road to tyranny, but I do not wish to be dragged along with them. Likewise, if I choose the freedom road, with all the risks and rewards that emanate from that choice, I will not have hands laid upon me to drag me back into the servitude that others have chosen for themselves.
The chasm that divides what remains of the free citizenry of the nation from a howling rabble of soon-to-be slaves will soon become (if it is not already) unbridgeable by the diminishing number of men of good will available to span it. I believe that a rebirth of liberty is possible in this country, but not until those who believe in natural rights as the wellspring of free self-governance establish themselves in a redoubt unassailable by the forces of tyranny now ascendant. Physical separation may be the only possible solution. Whether it can be accomplished short of another civil war is debatable.
Both the free and the unfree should remember there is one other right that a people may exercise when any pact, which they voluntarily entered into, becomes anathema to their continued existence as a free nation. The right to be left alone has its collective corollary in the right of secession. The former applies to the individual. The latter applies to the society to which he belongs. The victors in Lincoln’s War did not negate that pre-existing right. They only compelled the obedience of the unwilling.
My hope is that a second attempt to exercise that right can avoid the bloodshed that followed the first, though my belief is that liberty is rarely birthed in peace, and midwifing freedom is usually a bloody business.
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part I: Emotional Vomitus
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part II: Bureaucratic Douchebaggery
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part IV: A Conclave of Reptiles