Brad Miller

Natural Rights: The Foundation of Freedom

In Liberty, True nature of the State on August 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

All of us who love liberty should check our basic Premise as Leonard Read used to say.

My Basic Premise is that I believe that I should be free to live as I choose as long as I do not violate the right of others to do the same. This is my Basic Premise that motivates me and it is based firmly upon the idea of NATURAL RIGHTS.

I believe that  because I am a human being I am endowed by my Creator with certain rights that can not be separated from me. Among these Natural Rights are the right to Life, Liberty, Property and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The world we live in today most people do not believe they have these inherent rights. Even in this country where the idea of Natural Rights played a fundamental role in the founding of this nation most people are either apathetic or ignorant of their God-given rights.

The kicker is that most people should be familiar with the concept of Natural Rights because of the iconic opening line of 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.”

But even fewer are familiar with what some say was the source for that iconic line: Virginian Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason and adopted on June 12 1776.

He wrote:

“That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

One glaring difference between the two is the ommision of the right to acquire and possess property  in the opening line of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. 

But the pursuit of Happiness is included in both declarations and I believe that the right to acquire and possess property is inherent in the right to pursue happiness. The Pursuit of Happiness  is a totally unique endeavor that  each individual launches upon based on his own scale of value. In order to pursue happiness one must be secure in both his person and his property.  

We must remember  that the phrase “among these” indicates that the opening line of the Declaration of Independence is not meant as an all-inclusive list of inherent or natural rights.

The question is then why does anyone believe that human beings by their very “nature”  have these Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, Property and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Because we are human we have:

The Natural Right To Life:  We did not create ourselves. Whether you call the force God, the Higher Power or just the Creator, that force that created us made each of us unique individuals.  We each think and act as an individual. Each of us experiences life through our own eyes and processes that information through our own individual minds. No man can possess the mind or body of another man, that includes by extension the product of the application of his mind and body or more commonly called his labor.

If we have the right to our Life we have a right to do with it as we please.

Then we each have:

The Natural Right To Liberty: Each individual has the God-given right to choose how best to act according to his own scale of values. This means he is free to act as long as that action doesn’t violate the rights of others to do the same. When each individual acts they are responsible for that action and are entitled to reap the positive and negative consequences that it produces.

If those actions are fruitful then each individual has a right to the property that these actions allow him to acquire.

The Natural Right To Property : Every Individual has a right to the fruits of his labor, which becomes his property. He has a right to dispose of this property that he acquires as he sees fit. No one has a claim to this property. Any non-voluntary parting of his rightfully acquired property is theft.

Since Property allows a person to live it by definition it is necessary for life and a person must be alive to “pursuit of happiness”.

Then we each have:

The Natural Right To Pursue  Happiness: All individuals have the right to live according to their own scale of values, to reap the rewards and failures of their actions based upon that scale, and allow others to do the same.

“I don’t care what my neighbor does as long as he does not break my leg or pick my pocket“. 

That is  my favorite Thomas Jefferson quote and to me it explains his decision to include the right of all individuals to “pursue happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

 Once a person’s life and property are secure and he’s able to dispose of both as he sees  fit, then and only then can he pursue his definition of happiness.

Every debate that takes place over the proper scope and purpose of government should be predicated by a discussion of Natural Rights. That would force those who are proposing any new piece of legislation to reveal their basic premise that motivates them. More often than not those who advocate for more government are firmly in the collectivist camp and believe that only a small ruling  elite should define through the State what rights an individual has.

The Collectivists believe  that  everyone has a right to healthcare, food, housing, a living wage and education. They believe the State should provide for these needs.  These rights are ever expansive because they are based on the power of the State to transfer  property to  its dependents.  But the State has no resources of its own, it has no hands to work or mind to think. Only individuals can do this. So the State must plunder the property of those who have labored and acquired property. Then The State can it redistribute that property to others that it deems “needy”.

This philosophy is summed up best by Marx who wrote that in a Communist Society property is redistributed from each according to his ability to each according to his need.  

These needs have no end because no matter how many “rights” the politicians, professors and pundits come up with the State’s dependents  will always be a clamoring for more. Whether its cell phones or broadband internet access these “rights” have no end because there is no end to human desire. Resources are limited but desires are not.

Today most people in the world have to some degree bought into the fact  that  “Need” is a Natural Right. Otherwise we would not have Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Public Education, Public Financing and the other myriad collectivist programs. 

The Foundation of Freedom Built upon Natural Rights will  continue to be eroded until individuals shore it up by consistently demanding that the State ends its infringement upon their Natural Right to their Life, Liberty, Property and Pursuit of Happiness 

And that’s my take



  1. Brad Miller, in terms of freedom of association, what are your thoughts about same-sex marriage?


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