Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrating Individual Rights: The foundation of civilization

Two hundred and thirty five years ago, Americans cast off the bonds of tradition and stood up for liberty based on inalienable individual rights. At the time, we were the only nation of the then-developing world to take this principled stance. What the rest of the world was doing was irrelevant. What was important was acting on what was right.

Thanks to the courage, foresight and principled thinking of those early citizens, a country was created which made the rights and lives of individuals the basis for placing limits on the power of the community. Eventually, a constitution was written limiting the power of government and protecting the wide and grand sphere of individual freedom. America set the standard for respecting human dignity.

In the subsequent two centuries, America led the world toward freedom and prosperity. Progress occurred commensurate with our loyalty to those founding principles. Where we strayed, painful lessons were learned at the cost of great suffering. A civil war. A lingering great depression. Where we stayed true, liberty was extended.

We need to reclaim those founding principles. Listening to the ideas of other nations is fine—but when they take us in the direction of increasing government control over our private lives, we must ignore the childish cries, “But Mom, everyone else is doing it.”

In particular, we need to find our own unique solution to the problem of rising health care costs, one that respects the rule of law and the property and liberty rights of individuals. In the long run, abandoning those ideals will not bring us peace, prosperity—or for that matter, affordable health care.

If some future study unquestionably demonstrated that we could achieve universal access to medical care at a sustainable cost--if only we would be willing to reinstate chattel slavery—all men worthy of respect would turn away in horror and disgust. The civilized world understands that slavery is never justified.

So too must we turn away from all solutions which entail coercion in place of persuasion and voluntary exchange—for exactly the same reasons that we reject slavery. The fundamental premise of the new health care law--that a proper function of government is to coerce one man into being another man’s keeper—must be rejected outright. Nobody has a moral claim to another man’s life or honestly earned property—not even to a little of it.

This country has recently seen the revival of the sentiments of the Boston Tea Party. It is time to move on to the next step and once again declare to the world: We will live in freedom. We will honor each individual’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness—and the political solutions we craft will stay within these bounds, even if the rest of the world does not.

Our founders began with what they held to be self-evident moral principles, and then looked for solutions consistent with those principles. Mistakes were made, but by holding to the standard of individual rights, legal protection has been extended to people of all races, to women as well as men—not as members of a class, but as individual human beings.

We must do the same with the challenges we face today—start with what is right. We must be ruthlessly loyal to equality before the law and the respect the rights to life, liberty and property. Any solutions to our sluggish economy or costly health care must be consistent with these fundamental principles of a moral and civil society. An individual mandate to purchase health insurance initiated and enforced by government should not even be in the tool box.

It’s time to recommit to our original oath and once again be leaders of the world in the cause for human dignity.

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.

Let us live, not just celebrate, the meaning of July 4th.


1 comment:

garret seinen said...

Beth, I'm just catching up on some reading and see this very well said piece. And you end it with the most profound statement mankind has ever documented. Thanks and happy belated 4th. gs