Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Natural Rights and American Exceptionalism
The doctrine of "natural rights" may more be more critical than any other to the notion of American exceptionalism, and yet most Americans would be hard pressed to describe either concept.
The two concepts are inextricably linked, and the fact is, they are both under assault.
What does it mean, when we say we are "exceptional?" Barack Obama was once asked this. He said, sure, he thought America was exceptional but other countries like Greece probably thought they were exceptional too.
He completely, utterly, misunderstands the concept. Exceptional doesn't mean that we think we're just awesome, it means that in the long course of human history, a history littered with the misery of state tyranny, we are a glorious exception. We were the first country to constitutionally limit the power of government to control our lives.
Central to this is our embrace of natural rights. Natural rights are simply the acknowledgement that as human beings we are born with certain rights that cannot be taken away from us. But rights, by their very definition, must be conferred from somewhere. Our founders decreed that they are conferred by a higher power, God. The reason this is critically important is because it means they can't be taken away by anyone, i.e. the state.
Our forefathers came here to escape the tyranny of states. They knew from experience that if rights are not conferred by God, all that's left is the state, and if states can confer rights, they can take them away just as easily. Throughout history, states have been far more comfortable with the "taking away" part.
Were you taught any of this in school? I know I wasn't, and today our kids' curricula are far more concerned with sustainability or Native American repression than they are with constitutional history.
Which brings us to why natural rights are under assault. Leftist ideologies have always hated religion. In communist countries, it has always been banned outright. Why? Because otherwise citizens might get the idea that they had rights the state couldn't control. Such notions don't sit well with the commissars. The state can be the only religion.
It is no coincidence that the word God has appeared less and less in every Democrat platform, until this year disappearing altogether. It is simply another quiet step on the road to statism.