Natural Rights theory isn’t exactly a current events item, but it’s discussed often enough in present day discourse that I feel it warrants an entire post. For those ravenously craving current events topics, you’ll have to forgive me for taking us back to the realm of ideas.
I always get frustrated when people talk about “where natural rights come from.” As per usual in American politics, there seems to be two ideological camps on this one, and both I think have it wrong. Liberals–many of whom love taking God out of any possible equation–assert that natural rights come from man, while Conservatives generally argue that natural rights come from God.
I’m sorry, but natural rights come from neither God nor man. Refuting the man-given rights argument is fairly easy. If man gives man natural rights, then man can take away natural rights. No self-respecting democrat (small “d”) can deny the horrifying ramifications that line of thinking has had on humanity. Aside from the fact that we don’t want any man to have the ability to take away our natural rights, we can make the argument even more simplified just by refuting the logicality of it.
Exactly who among us gives a man his natural rights? Is it some government official who bestows those rights on every baby born? Was there one man in history who declared that all humans from that moment on had natural rights? If that’s the case then why are Liberals so hopped up on being activists for human rights, civil rights, and the like? Man can take them away right?
The religious argument is a little more difficult to refute because of the verbage used in natural rights theory. I’m sure that anyone who reads Political Realities would almost automatically recite that humans are “endowed by their creator,” with natural rights, but natural rights do not come from God either. That might sound shocking, especially for the religious types, but how can you honestly expect to argue with an atheist about this if your only response is that “without God there are no natural rights”? You also have to think about the huge leap of faith that you’re taking with such a line of thought, because what if God doesn’t exist?
If it was somehow proven tomorrow that God doesn’t exist, should the world then fly into chaos, and should governments then have no compunction about taking away our natural rights? Natural rights is not a matter of faith or hope, and should not be contingent on whether or not God exists. Since no one can ever know whether or not God exists, we have to figure out some other derivation for natural rights, that way the atheists can never have their way. Here’s the kicker: natural rights don’t come from anything. They’re natural, meaning that they are inherent.
So why do we ignore the word “natural” in natural rights? Human beings, by virtue of being human, have always had natural rights from the moment they came into existence. God didn’t give us natural rights, we have them because of our very nature. The difference between a human and an animal is that a human can make a claim on the world. A human has aspirations, can negate his biology, and can actually be happy. Because humans have these qualities, because they are capable of attaining something greater than mere survival, they are inherently entitled to certain rights befitting their place in the world.
A right cannot be given nor can it be taken. It can be infringed upon, we can be prevented from exercising our rights, but they cannot be taken away. Even if the rights of law-abiding citizens are squelched, we still have the duty to exercise our rights, by force if necessary. Think of natural rights in terms of food or sustenance. Every human being needs food to stay alive. No man rendered us dependent on food, nor can any man remove that dependence. Dependence on food is inherent in our physiology just as natural rights are inherent to our very being.
This might seem redundant, but natural rights are natural.