Our cultural identity as Americans is based firmly upon the Natural Rights of John Locke: the Right to Life, the Right to Liberty, and the Right to Property. Because every individual is entitled to these same rights, each individual has imposed upon them a moral duty to respect the rights of all other individuals, thus no individual has any right or entitlement to impose upon another individual’s rights without his or her consent. What do we do, however, when someone does infringe on another’s Natural Rights?
The fact is that there are those who will act maliciously against others and that accidents will happen. For the bandit who will seek to do harm for his own benefit, or for the dog that breaks loose of its kennel and digs up a neighbor’s garden, there must be some system of just recourse. Since every individual is entitled to the same justice as his neighbor, for his moral actions and wrongs, Natural Rights necessitate the Rule of Law.
Rather than trying to rehash the nature and reason of Rule of Law and its philosophical role in the government of free people, Let’s refer to one of our founding documents, 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.
Government, in the American sense, draws its political authority from the “consent of the governed“, and is necessarily based upon the principles of life, liberty, and property. It is the consistent abuse of these rights that were the justification of the Revolutionary War. And it was the defense of these rights that were the foundation of the Constitution a decade later.
“When kings the sword of justice first lay down,
They are no kings, though they possess the crown.
Titles are shadows, crowns are empty things,
The good of subjects is the end of kings.”
Imagine for a moment, playing a game with friends or with your children, where the board, the dice, and pieces all seem familiar enough, however every move and outcome is dictated by a single player. For a time, the game plays much like you would expect it, and your progress is allowed so long as it is inoffensive to the ruling player. Inevitably, your progress becomes inconvenient to the game’s arbiter, so the rules change. Every turn becomes progressively more and more difficult for you. Should you challenge the arbiter’s authority, any progress you made is nullified, and you are disqualified.
For the majority of human history, this has been the norm of civilization. Societies have organized themselves into rigid caste systems, where a select few possessed all power and all rights, and the populace possessed little power and few, if any, rights. From the dark ages of antiquity, the stark differences between religious, political, crafting, and slave castes distributed the power of arbitration upon the few, though this justice was arbitrary at best, and capricious at its worst. It was against this inequity that Socrates railed, and it was by this inequity Socrates was sentenced to death.
For thousands of years, in many different forms, this authority of the few, through divine assent, was the face of justice. While punishing bandits and thieves, this caste justice also punished political dissent through murder and brute repression. The transgressions of King George III enumerated by Jefferson had been practiced by the British Crown for centuries. The seizing of property and abolishing of legitimate self rule were part and parcel of the ruling privilege.
The Revolution, fueled by the Enlightenment values, was an attempt to end this tyranny of the few. First, it hurled the myth of a divine “right to rule” by a blooded aristocratic elite into the dustbin of history. Second, it established the equality of free people, or, at the very least, provided the fertile soil from which the seedling virtues of the Declaration of Independence would sprout into a nation of free men and women.
“The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge.”
At the time of the founding, our nation was unique in the world, but the struggle against the encroachment of a dynastic ruling caste remains. This was the primary concern of James Madison when he wrote the first draft of what would become the US Constitution. The very concept of a career politician was not only antithetical to our national character, it is completely hostile to it, and yet it has sadly become a norm of our society. As has always been the case for thousands of years, where a political caste appears, it always requires the advancement of the rights of these arbiters and infringes the rights of the ruled.
How much different is our present political culture to the hypothetical game discussed earlier? A willfully contemptuous administration prosecutes patriotic dissenters as “terrorists“, while issuing executive orders in clear contravention of the Constitutional limits of his office. A populist corporatist candidate insults and slanders his way into political authority, after years of abusing his political connections to torment private citizens who stand against him. Where is the Rule of Law when political dissent is treated with the same contempt as criminal behavior?
The Constitution is the once crisp set of rules that came with our country. It’s been scribbled upon, stained, stepped upon, and frequently lost, but it will always remain the rules by which our country was intended to function. No one is above it. No one is beneath it. If those in power do not wish to abide by the rules of the game, then it’s well past time to remind them that they are just people, like the rest of us, entitled to exactly the same rights and beholden to the same duties as we are. If they think that their positions of authority grant them leave of their duty to protect our Natural Rights, then they have willfully transgressed against us, and, just like any other criminal, forfeited their Natural Rights.
If the people who have entrenched themselves as a ruling caste have, as they seem to have, become convinced that they are no longer answerable to the rules of our nation, and that the authority of rulership can be passed among them like a prize granted to Governors or Congressmen or Corporate King Makers as a matter of privilege, rather than public service, then it is time for the American People to resort to the only two rules that matter: the Second Amendment and the Declaration of Independence. If this “ruling class” will not listen to the People of their own accord, then it is up to the American People to make them listen.
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.“
-Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence-
The People have a duty to force their government to remain subservient to them, not to be subservient to their government. Laws are instituted to ensure justice, not to infringe upon the rights of the people. A people who, for generations, prove that they are unwilling to protect their Natural Rights against tyranny deserve tyranny.
“[T]he tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time
with the blood of patriots & tyrants.
it is it’s natural manure.“
A free people must always demonstrate that they will insist, through force of arms if necessary, to be free, because as there are thieves who seek to deprive others of their property, and murderers who seek to deprive others of their lives, there are always despots who seek to deprive others of their liberty and are enemies of free people everywhere.
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