WHY WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF OUR RIGHTS — PART 2

freedomconscienceThis post is the second of a series. The first post was Why The Law Written In Our Hearts Is Not Enough. Here we discuss the nature of God-given rights.

What Are God-Given Rights?

Our Nation’s Founders Fought For God-Given Rights

Instead of just calling our rights God-given, we now call them “human rights”. Why? Well, here is the excuse.

Attributing human rights to God’s commands may give them a secure status at the metaphysical level, but in a very diverse world it does not make them practically secure. Billions of people do not believe in the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. If people do not believe in God, or in the sort of god that prescribes rights, then if you want to base human rights on theological beliefs you must persuade these people of a rights-supporting theological view. This is likely to be even harder than persuading them of human rights. Legal enactment at the national and international levels provides a far more secure status for practical purposes. (from here)

Is that what happened in the United States? Were people just persuaded without the benefit of theological support to respect each others rights? No. Consider.

Natural law was deemed to pre-exist actual social and political systems. Natural rights were thereby similarly presented as rights individuals possessed independently of society or polity. Natural rights were thereby presented as ultimately valid irrespective of whether they had achieved the recognition of any given political ruler or assembly. The quintessential exponent of this position was the 17th. Century philosopher John Locke and, in particular, the argument he outlined in his Two Treatises of Government (1688). At the centre of Locke’s argument is the claim that individuals possess natural rights, independently of the political recognition granted them by the state. These natural rights are possessed independently of, and prior to, the formation of any political community. Locke argued that natural rights flowed from natural law. Natural law originated from God. (from here)

The ideas, if not the words of John Locke, found their way into our Declaration of Independence. Here is a pertinent excerpt from the SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT by JOHN LOCKE.

Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrouled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men; but to judge of, and punish the breaches of that law in others, as he is persuaded the offence deserves, even with death itself, in crimes where the heinousness of the fact, in his opinion, requires it. But because no political society can be, nor subsist, without having in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto, punish the offences of all those of that society; there, and there only is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. (from here)

Those who founded our nation were familiar with John Lockes ideas. Hence, these words in the Declaration of Independence.

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. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (from here)

Complicated “Rights”

Our “rights” are growing more and more complicated. Positive Rights, the Constitution, and Conservatives and Moderate Libertarians By provides a relatively straightforward and tolerably brief explanation of the term “rights” from a legal/academic perspective.

What Volokh focuses upon in his presentation is something called positive rights. What are positive rights?  Volokh believes “positive” rights should remain limited, but we should not deny they exist. What are “positive” rights? Wikipedia provides this distinction between positive and negative rights.

Philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between negative and positive rights (not to be confused with the distinction between negative and positive liberties). According to this view, positive rights usually oblige action, whereas negative rights usually oblige inaction. These obligations may be of either a legal or moral character. The notion of positive and negative rights may also be applied to liberty rights. (continued here)

Basically, when we observe each others negative rights, we don’t commit crimes against each other. We don’t murder, rob, and enslave our neighbors. On the other hand, when the government insists that we observe other people’s positive rights, we have to give other people something. If we did not agree to give other people something and don’t want our government to give away our life, liberty, or property, that can be especially irksome.

This distinction between positive and negative rights is a 1979 invention by the Czech jurist Karel Vasak. Still unsatisfied by the additional complexity he had added, Vasak split our “rights” into three separate generations.

There are three overarching types of human rights norms: civil-political, socio-economic, and collective-developmental (Vasek, 1977). The first two, which represent potential claims of individual persons against the state, are firmly accepted norms identified in international treaties and conventions. The final type, which represents potential claims of peoples and groups against the state, is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition. Each of these types includes two further subtypes. Scholar Sumner B. Twiss delineates a typology: (continued here)

Effectively, first generation rights are negative rights, and the second and third generation “rights” are positive rights.

What is the problem with “positive rights”? Since Libertarians have a pretty good understanding of this issue, let’s hear from one. See the video below.

Prof. Aeon Skoble accepts the nomenclature of “positive” and “negative” rights, but he points out a basic problem with so-called “positive” rights. Unless government infringes upon people’s “negative” rights, government cannot guarantee anyone’s so-called “positive” rights.

Here is the problem in a nutshell.

Natural rights—or, as they have been un-euphoniously dubbed, “negative rights”—pertain to freedom from the uninvited interventions of others. Respect for negative rights requires merely that we abstain from pushing one another around. Positive rights, by contrast, require that we be provided with goods or services at the expense of other persons, which can only be accomplished by systematic coercion. This idea is also known as the doctrine of entitlements; that is, some people are said to be entitled to that which is earned by other people. (from here)

Biblical Support For God-Given Rights

The first book of the Bible speaks of human rights. Genesis 1:27 says we are each made in the image of God.

The image of God in man also means that murder is a most heinous crime. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, / by man shall his blood be shed; / for in the image of God / has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). The severity of the punishment underscores the severity of the offense. The Mosaic Law is full of examples of how God expects everyone to be treated humanely. The Ten Commandments contain prohibitions against murder, theft, coveting, adultery, and bearing false testimony. These five laws promote the ethical treatment of our fellow man. Other examples in the Law include commands to treat immigrants well (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34), to provide for the poor (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 15:7-8), to grant interest-free loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25), and to release all indentured servants every fifty years (Leviticus 25:39-41). (from here)

Are there positive rights in the Bible? Not exactly. What the Bible speaks of is our responsibilities towards each other.  When Jesus told The Parable of the Good Samaritan, He gave us an example to follow, not a government program.

Consider this quote from John Quincy Adams.

Jesus Christ. . . . came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free. — John Quincy Adams (from here and here)

Additional References

THE GROWING POWER OF GOVERNMENT AND THE THREAT TO LIBERTY: ELECTION 2016

declaration of independence

OF A POST TO COME promised to compare the governing approaches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with respect to two issues.

  • The growth of the power of government.
  • The protection of our rights.

The Growth Of The Power Of Government

Why is it a problem when government is powerful? Government exists to protect our rights. Yet the power we give our government makes government itself a threat to our rights. Therefore, we must choose between giving the government just enough power and giving it too much.

  • To give our government the resources it needs to defend our rights, we must give our leaders the authority to tax us and spend our money. Nevertheless, the more we allow our government to tax and spend, the more we work for government instead of ourselves. At some point, we risk slavery.
  • Some decisions which effect a people must be made jointly. Thus, government must sometimes make decisions we would otherwise make for ourselves. So it is that in a nation of free men and women, we have laws that restrict us from harming each other (traffic laws, for example). In a nation of slaves, however, the laws just list a few trivial decisions that the leaders permit the people to make for themselves.

Here is a table that summarizes where the candidates stand.  Not certain the information is correct? Then check their web sites. I have only provided links where their positions are not available on their own websites.

ISSUE Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Taxing and Spending Favors tax simplification and reduction Favors increased taxation and spending (inferred from lengthy list of proposals)
Healthcare Private market solution Doubling down on Obamacare
School Choice For School Choice. Will end Common Core Against School Choice. Favors Common Core.
Immigration Favors extreme vetting Open borders/put new immigrants on the dole
Government Regulations Committed to reducing regulations Defends the current regulatory regime
Free Trade Opponent of the big trade bills Helped to craft TPP

To be continued: The Protection Of Our Rights

ARE YOU A PHILOSOPHICAL CONSERVATIVE?

preamble to the constitutionLabels are imprecise things.  Therefore, when we call ourselves Conservative, we don’t tell people much.  Hence, we try to clarify with adjectives.

Consider this list.

Types of Conservatism (from here)

  • Cultural Conservatism.
  • Social Conservatism.
  • Religious Conservatism.
  • Fiscal Conservatism.
  • Paleo-Conservatism.
  • Neo-Conservatism.
  • Bio-Conservatism.

What you won’t often see in any list is the expression “Philosophical Conservatism.” Why? Well, many of the people who educate us are opposed to the concept of Conservatism. They don’t like Conservatism, they don’t understand Conservatism, and they don’t want anyone to be Conservative. The last thing they want is any discussion of a coherent Conservative philosophy.

Consider some quotes.

Some are just shallow and silly.

Philosophical conservatism is defined as the belief that people are evil or selfish by nature, while philosophical liberalism is described as the belief that people are good or have great moral potential. (from here)
Some are so “deep” they drown in their own nonsense.
Fourth, there is what I would call philosophical (or also anthropological) conservatism, that in turn is rooted in a particular philosophical anthropology or perhaps social ontology. This stance implies a commitment to realizing a set of substantive values, irrespective of whether these values are already instantiated in the present. In other words, for philosophical conservatives, the primary question is not about what the past suggests, or how, or by which proven method, these values should be implemented. The question is of course what sets of values we are talking about in this context. I claim that philosophical conservatives are primarily invested in the importance of hierarchical relationships, or some more or less naturalized conception of inequality. They do not simply emphasize the particular and the potential importance of its preservation; they attribute differential value to particular sets of human beings, and they emphasize that certain social arrangements distributing power unequally are unalterable. (from here)

Some are just hateful.

The philosophical conservative is someone willing to pay the price of other people’s suffering for his principles. (from here)

This last quote is actually fairly popular, and it is the way too many see Conservatism. Such is the headache with letting politicians educate our children. Should we be surprised that our SOCIALIST school system does not encourage us to ponder what it means to be a Conservative?

Consider this observation.

Conservatives typically possess a pessimistic vision of human nature, drawing on the modern tradition, on Hobbes’s belief, that were it not for strong institutions, men would be at each others’ throats and would constantly view one another with deep suspicion. (Their emphasis is thus not on the ensuing hypothetical pacifying social contract but on the prevalence of fear in human society). Conservatives are highly skeptical of power and man’s desire to use it, for they believe that in time it corrupts even the most freedom loving wielders: hence, the potential accession to any position of supreme power over others, whether in the guise of a national or international chamber, is to be rejected as being just as dangerous a state as Hobbes’s vision of the anarchic state of nature. Conservatives thus applaud those institutions that check the propensity for the stronger or the megalomaniacal to command power: conservatives magnify the suspicion one may hold of one’s neighbor. (from here)

Do Conservatives possess a pessimistic vision of human nature? Yes. We realize that we are all imperfect and quite corruptible. The Christian Conservative takes it for granted that but for the grace of God we would all be going to hell. And yet because God loves us we all have infinite worth. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we each can do good works.

Are you a Social Conservative or a Fiscal Conservative? Why? What is the logic that drives you to be a Social or Fiscal Conservative? Have you ever asked yourself questions such as these questions?

  • What is the purpose of government?
  • What powers should the government have?
  • Can the government provide justice? What sort of justice? How should the government provide justice?
  • When is it moral to force our neighbors to pay taxes? What functions of government justify punishing people when they refuse to pay their taxes?
  • When is it proper for government officials to transfer public funds to private charities? Is a private charity that is funded entirely by the government still a “private” charity?
  • Is it moral for government officials to take money from some citizens and provide charity to other citizens? Can we trust the same government officials to redistribute the wealth and protect our property rights?
  • What is a constitution? What purpose does a constitution serve? How should a constitution be interpreted?
  • What is the role of the Declaration of Independence in our nation’s heritage?
  • Are men corrupted by power? How do we prevent our leaders from becoming too powerful?
  • What obligations does each citizen have to exercise control over the government?
  • When do citizens have an obligation to rebel against the government?

Unless we consider such questions, and we have ready answers, how can we say we have a coherent Conservative philosophy? To be any kind of Conservative, we must first construct a coherent Conservative philosophy. Once we have done so, I think many Conservatives will realize that for our Conservatism to have any meaning, we must be Philosophical Conservatives, that is, we must be able to logically explain why we believe what we believe.

TED CRUZ WOULD REPEAL EVERY WORD OF OBAMACARE

Ted Cruz campaign ad (from here)
Ted Cruz campaign ad (from here)

“We’re at war” by insanitybytes22 is one of those interesting posts that gets us thinking. Since thinking can be a rather random process, the comment thread soon rambled over to Obamacare. Since Obamacare is topical to this election, I decided to steal some material from my comment and turn it into a pro Ted Cruz post.

You don’t like Obamacare?

Vote for Ted Cruz.

Where does Cruz stand on the issue of health care? There is lots of BS out there. Hence, Michael F. Cannon wrote Clean Up Your Act, PolitiFact: Why Ted Cruz Was Right On Obamacare And Jobs to refute what the mischief makers are writing. Here is an article that is fairly specific about where Cruz stands on the issue.

As an issue, Cruz addresses the topic of Obamacare on this page: Jobs and Opportunity. Why? The health care sector is a large part of our economy. When government steps in and makes our health care decisions for us, government kills jobs and limits our opportunities.

How do I feel about Obamacare? Obamacare is too much government, and I am voting for the candidate who most wants to reduce the size of our government. I hope Ted Cruz will kill Obamacare, but I don’t think he will rid us of Medicare and Medicaid.  Just killing Obamacare, limiting the ambulance chasing, and encouraging interstate competition between insurers will be monumental tasks. Getting our government out of the health care business — if it ever happens — will most likely take decades.

What is the Christian position on how we should make our health care system work? I cannot speak for all Christians, but one message that comes from the Bible is that no man is good, not one (Romans 3:9-20). That is why the people who wrote our Constitution designed our government with numerous checks and balances.

Because it forces us to accept the involvement of politicians and bureaucrats in our health care, Obamacare outrageously violates the Constitution. Because Obamacare is blatantly unconstitutional, we know from the get-go the people who crafted the legislation cannot be trusted. The majority of Americans don’t even want Obamacare. So the notion our leaders created Obamacare for the good of the American people is absurd.

Do I have a solution for all our health care woes? Yes. Don’t get born. Don’t get old. Don’t get sick. Don’t have accidents. Failing all that, rob a bank and spend somebody else’s money. Seriously, isn’t that all devious politicians have promised us?

When our government takes money from one person and gives it to the “needy,” that is stealing. Even if it were not, our Constitution does not charter Congress to redistribute the wealth. When the Supreme Court says that it does, they have to use ridiculously convoluted arguments. For example, because the Constitution is supposedly a “living document”, judges have the discretion to amend it. However, there is an obvious problem with that argument. If we say the Constitution is “living document”, that just says the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says.

Therefore, sneakier members of the judiciary try to hide their shameless shenanigans under the guise of common law.

Our constitutional system, without our fully realizing it, has tapped into an ancient source of law, one that antedates the Constitution itself by several centuries. That ancient kind of law is the common law. The common law is a system built not on an authoritative, foundational, quasi-sacred text like the Constitution. Rather, the common law is built out of precedents and traditions that accumulate over time. Those precedents allow room for adaptation and change, but only within certain limits and only in ways that are rooted in the past. Our constitutional system has become a common law system, one in which precedent and past practices are, in their own way, as important as the written Constitution itself. A common law Constitution is a “living” Constitution, but it is also one that can protect fundamental principles against transient public opinion, and it is not one that judges (or anyone else) can simply manipulate to fit their own ideas. (from here).

Yet those  sneakier souls ignore plain words of the Constitution which must take precedence over common law. Thus, whether they admit it or not, those sneakier souls are arguing that the Constitution is a “living document”,  that judges have the discretion to amend it.

So what is the alternative? If we don’t want government-run health care, how is free market health care suppose to work? It will never work perfectly, but does anything we can devise?

What are the problems with free enterprise health care? When we get sick, it is too late to go shopping for healthcare, and some people will always procrastinate. Some people will always be poor, unable to afford a doctor. And some will always be sickly at birth, so that insurance is impractical. Nevertheless, most of us want insurance, and we can afford it.

What does insurance do for us? When we have a catastrophe, our insurance helps us to pay the bills. In addition, because insurers have market clout and can hire people with the appropriate skills, they can negotiate affordable doctor and hospital fees. Therefore, if we can and we are willing to purchase health care insurance, the main thing we need our government to do is prosecute fraud.

What about those who don’t have insurance? The solution is charity. Charity is something politicians did not invent, and government NEVER provides. Politicians just take money from some people so they can buy the votes of other people.

When we let our leaders redistribute the wealth (or health care), what is Christian about that? Doesn’t redistributing the wealth bankrupt and corrupt our government? Don’t meddlesome government regulations wreak havoc on free market solutions that work quite well for the majority of people? Why is any of that Christian?

But what about the fact the people of the United States spend too much money on health care? Do government-run solutions reduce the cost of anything? Isn’t more government involvement just going to lead to the rationing of health care? Do we want bureaucrats to decide who doctors can treat and how?

If you or I want to buy an expensive car or house, why should politicians have the right to stop us? We don’t buy health care for the “People.” We each want to buy health care for ourselves, family members, and individuals we care about. It is a cinch that few politicians actually care about the “People.” Therefore, our leaders should just have the same right to health care as the rest of us, to buy health care for themselves, family members, and people they care about.