Thursday, July 2, 2009

Conservatism & Libertarianism: Natural Rights Vs. Inalienable Rights

The notion of natural rights is not the same as that of the inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. These are akin, but the declaration inalienable rights bestowed on man by his Creator is a declaration of faith, and, hence, of a Supernatural design and purpose for man. For or founders, diverse in belief, this was the least common denominator of faith. No one rejected these tenets. However, in the spirit of synergy, let us see how far we Conservatives may walk with our natural law Libertarian brethren.

Of what does nature’s design for humanity inform us concerning the purpose of mankind? Perhaps the least common denominator would be to consider a Darwinian view of the natural world. Man is designed, in so far as he is designed by nature, to survive.

I’m not sure why some enlightenment thinkers assume abundance of any element when discussing the state of man in nature. It seems that the lack of natural resources has driven humanity to war many times. Likewise, the most peaceful societies, and, historically, the most advanced cultures are not hunter-gatherers, they are agriculturally based, husbandry based. The notion of real property and property rights comes from agrarian roots and is in conflict with the ideals of hunter-gatherers.

Is man’s mind more functional as it exists in nature, or should it be augmented by mind altering agents? In which case is the human consciousness performing according to natural design? As that answer is obvious, so also is Darwinian nature plain concerning human sexuality. The needs of children show what is proper in the responses of males and females. We aren’t bugs, cats, reptiles, or apes. The complexity of the human mind requires time and nurture. It is not that because nature teaches morality, that a government must enforce each and every natural precept. However, one cannot claim as a natural right what nature teaches is amoral. Logical consistency among Libertarians concerning their own stated beliefs should take them thus far, for even the next thought, a transcendant thought, is often much beloved as a Libertarian ideal.

Stealing is wrong according to natural law. Why? Not because of a Darwinian world view, but because, even though a dishonest thief claims justification --see the Communist Manifesto for an elaborate example--, those who are stolen from clearly understand the wrong that is committed. Hence, natural law is not based only on a supposed ideal view of humanity alone in a Darwinian natural world but also on the writ of human decency found in the heart of every man. This is a notion of natural law that transcends the Enlightenment thinkers. A Darwinist might argue that it proves evolution designed man's survival through community action, but we have left the carte blanche of the tabula rasa far behind.

Humanity is a strange creature that knows how to deceive and yet, at the same time, knows deception is morally abhorrent. What sort of creature is mankind? Some would argue that the love of freedom and the prevalence of religion among this paragon of animals indicates a purpose for man that is higher than that of even the greatest of apes. People thirst for things not of this world. Are our brethren with us still? For since this last step is on a road higher than natural law, one may deny one's own heart and write off the course of human history as an escapade in ignorance. Without malice, I'd ask my cousins to tarry just a while. For while we walk apace a moment, we will soon return. Here, though, follow elements of the corallaries that are the framework and basis of conservatism.

From this recognition of man's highest longings flows a strange notion: freedom of religion and freedom of speech are more sacred than the rights of property, for from these arise our faith choices wherein lies the truth of human destiny and the essence of human liberty.

Of the hunger for glory not of this world, history testifies, and of the common calling of the family of man his experience proclaims. A propertied man in conflict with a government over freedom of religion is a subject of a greater tyranny than he whose property rights are violated by an onerous welfare system. Although it is hard to respect those of us who too readily accept the tyranny of property, history has shown that religious persecution produces rebellion far more quickly. The long train of abuses that Jefferson cites, and the tendency of humanity to suffer the abuses he detailws, relate to the tyranny over property. Some abridgement of property is often suffered as a tolerable tyranny; however, there is no partial abridgement of religious liberty.

Laws not only govern; they instruct. That which is higher in man recognizes laws, regularities in the natural world that may be harnessed for the purpose of work. Likewise, humanity is instructed by the laws of national governance. We can approve or despise a national government according to the morality of its laws.

Returning to earthly things, those Libertarian brethren who tarried can perhaps walk with Conservatives again on these final thoughts:

If there are natural laws by way of which humanity is instructed in the precepts of right living in this world, then it is by nature humans are best taught. The fewer laws providing a safety net against humanity’s tendency to ignore natural laws, the greater freedom those who obey natural laws can practice. Laws of generosity, of service, of courage, loyalty and faith are as faithful as gravity. Those who oppose themselves, though, must be granted as much freedom to learn these lessons as is possible, for none of these can be commanded but by governments.

Finally, a genuinely free people will be the most moral, and a genuinely moral people will be the most free.

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