Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Where Rights Derive From

This misguided editorial opposing same-sex marriage would hardly be worth mentioning, except for two statements in the final paragraphs: one undeniably true, and the other so false as to justify this blog entry. Says the commentator . . .
Our legislators do not understand the American system of government.

All legitimate rights come from the people, through their elected representatives.
more . . .
We can agree that most of our legislators do not understand the separation of powers, the constitutional limits of government, who works for whom, and the other guiding priciples of our republican system of government (at least as intended as opposed to how practiced).

But, the idea that rights come from the people or from legislatures is so wrong-headed as to send any lover of liberty into convulsions. One might just as well say that we live another day because Al Qaeda grants us the right to life. Our rights do not derive from anyone (or everyone) who can take them away. Likewise, we did not institute government amongst us so that it could grant us our rights.

The writer needs to refresh his reading of enlightenment authors such as Hobbes, Locke, and Jefferson so that he can recall the principle of natural rights; or "unalianable rights," as described in the Declaration of Independence. The legislature can either help protect our natural rights, in which case they are doing what we hired them for, or they can infringe them, in which case we need a new legislature. One thing they cannot do is make them, no matter how god-like they portray themselves.

Hat tip to Christopher Cole for pointing out the article.