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“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.” (Ayn Rand, 1905-1982)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident” was written by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence. The world is full of self-evident truths, or truisms, that judges, lawyers and philosophers know that these need not be proven. One plus one equals two. That it takes the union of one male and one female human to create a human child. And that from the moment we take our first breath, it is inevitable that we will one day also take our last breath.
Whether or not we accept their truthfulness, these few examples are true regardless. When we recognize a universal truth, we acknowledge the existence of an order of things higher than human reason.
In a talk given in 1994, Professor Murray Rothbard stated that there were only two unquestionably proper and just wars in American history, “the American Revolution and the War for Southern Independence.” His reasoning was that “in both of these wars, Americans were trying to rid themselves of an unwanted domination by another people. And in both cases, the other side ferociously tried to maintain their coercive rule over Americans.”
The Americans that fought for our independence recognized the existence of truisms and understood their origin in nature. Thomas Jefferson continued in our Declaration of Independence that self-evident truths come not from persons but from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Therefore, another truism is that “all Men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” James Madison also understood this when he wrote the Bill of Rights to reflect that human rights do NOT come from the government, but from our individual humanity.
Your right to be alive, to think as you wish, to say what you think, to publish what you say, to worship (or not), to associate (or not), to petition the government, your right to defend yourself and repel tyrants (using and carrying the same weapons as the government does), your right to be left alone, to own property, to travel (or to stay put) – these natural aspects of human existence are natural rights that come from our humanity and for the exercise of which all rational persons yearn. This is the natural rights understanding of Jefferson’s declaration and Madison’s Bill of Rights, to the latter of which all in our government have sworn allegiance and deference.
One does not need a government permission-slip to exercise a right. A right does not have preconditions and is not a privilege; your rights are nothing more than a claim against humanity.
On the other hand, a privilege is something the government will dole out to either suit itself or to calm the masses. Only because Jefferson had argued in our declaration that “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” our government gives qualifying citizens the privilege to vote so it can claim a form of legitimacy.
There is no one still alive today that consented to the government we have. Most of us simply accept it as it is. However, acceptance is not consent, no more so than walking into the DMV to renew your drivers license is consent to our present government’s long “history of repeated injuries and usurpations.”
Even if government did not exist, the privileges that the government may dole out are inherently distinguishable from the natural rights that we have from birth.
The greatest right is the right to life, as none of our other rights can be exercised without it. All of the rest of our natural-born rights are equal to one another: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right against unreasonable search and seizure, etc. are all on par with one another, and all must be defended equally, as when any one right can be revoked, or limited, then they all can potentially be revoked, or limited.
The writer Ayn Rand wrote in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” (1966) that “the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
In contrast, to governments, rights are merely privileges. Stated differently, governments do not take your rights seriously.
Austrian-born economist Ludwig von Mises once wrote that “Government is the negation of liberty.” New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano countered that “freedom is the default position. Everything the government does takes away some of our freedom… That’s why we have a constitution, to restrain the government.”
To Napolitano, “government is an artificial creation based on a monopoly of force in a geographical area that could not exist if it did not negate our freedoms.”
In the end, our government denies our rights by punishing the exercise of them and by stealing property (through taxes, fines, eminent domain, seizures, etc.) from us.
The exercising of your rights requires abandonment of fear, acceptance of truth and rejection of compromise with government. As John Adams wrote in a 1775 letter to his wife, Abigale, “Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”