Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Do our rights come from the government—or God?
In a debate on CNN last Thursday, Chris Cuomo responded to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who said, "Our rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God." Cuomo responded, "Our laws do not come from God and you know that,” he said. “They come from man. … Our rights do not come from God."
Cuomo, apparently innocent of such documents as the Declaration of Independence or for that matter John F. Kennedy's First Inaugural Address, or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," all of which affirm the view Chief Justice Moore voiced.
In order to hijack the Constitution to conform with their ideological predilections in opposition to the principles upon which it was written, you have to change those principles. And in this case, that means changing the very historical foundation from which rights have always been considered to be derived.
The thing about liberalism (and I mean to include libertarians here, since they are simply right-wing liberals) is that its political philosophy collapses into "might makes right" absurdity.
Here is what Cuomo said in response to Chief Justice Moore's assertion (consistent with this nation's founding principles): "That’s your faith, that’s my faith. But that’s not our country. Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.”
For one thing, Cuomo shifts from "rights" to "law." But it doesn't matter. Neither rights and the justice of a law can be determined outside the context of natural law.
The distinction between the unwritten and written law (or what are often referred to as the natural and positive law, depending on who's talking) goes back to ancient times. Both Aristotle and Plato articulate the distinction. It is only ignorant television commentators who obfuscate it. It is a distinction between a transcendent law and a law made by men. And the laws made by men are judged by the transcendent law--there is no other way to judge them.
If a law violates a right, it is unjust. And whether a particular right exists or what it consists of cannot be determined within the system of law itself. Unless there is a transcendent law above the man-made law, there is simply no way to say whether a law is just or not. If there is no transcendent law, then saying a law is just or unjust doesn't even make sense. Outside the context of a transcendent law, the question of the justice of a man-made law quite literally has no meaning.
If the only ground for rights (or law, if you prefer) is our "collective agreement and compromise," then the basis for rights is only as deep--or shallow--as our own shifting opinions.
If there were no transcendent grounding for rights, then there could never be any criticism of any "collective agreement or compromise." If, for example, the Nazis were able to convince people to sign on to a "collective agreement," there would be no stance outside that agreement from which to judge it, since, according to people like Cuomo, it's legitimacy derives from itself.
Cuomo believes our rights come "from government." Okay. Which government? The United States government? The Cuban government? The North Korean government? The Russian government? The government of the Third Reich?
Despite the naive rhetoric of people like Cuomo, no sane person really disbelieves in the natural law. But for liberals it is a convenient form of demagoguery to attack it. In doing so, they count on a public they have rendered ignorant by the bad public schools they support and a mind-degrading popular media which they largely control.
This is the cost that liberals must pay for wanting to say that rights are simply what they say they are, and the fact that they are not willing to admit that that is the cost they must pay is simply another measure of how shallow--and dangerous--they are.
HT: The Public Discourse