All truth is connected. There is no part of the universe, observed in any way you may choose, that does not consist of other parts. If there is such a thing as rights, they will be connected to other things in our world. And so it is with our natural rights. Conceptually breaking them away from Deity does not extinguish them. In fact, as we look at natural rights in the context of the natural world, we only find that rights are being exercised everywhere. Taking God out of the rights discussion only makes their identification easier so more of them are evident.
What Is a Natural Right?
A natural right is an abstraction. We know this because you can’t capture a right in a bottle, or put it on a workbench and measure it. But a true abstraction must have an antecedent, something from which it was abstracted. We have found, over the last few thousand years, that the rights abstraction is a very useful one because it facilitates the consideration of relationships among people and their governments. Here “governments” include everything from political organizations to the authority parents wield over their offspring beginning at their conception.
The most common concept of rights is that they give us authority to think, to choose, and to do. So looking for connections between rights and other truths in the world, we realize we are looking for a source for that authority. The traditional source is expressed well in our Declaration of Independence: “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …” We might well inquire how or in what way did the Creator make that endowment. The obvious answer is that he gave us the power to think, choose, and do. These capabilities are real things that can be measured whether or not you believe in a creator.
Finally, we notice that “authority” is almost always defined using the word “power”, so this appears to be semantically sound. We also notice the cognitive dissonance that attends the idea that we have a right to do something we cannot actually do. “I have the right to jump to the moon,” for example.
Power -> Authority -> Rights
The conclusion of the matter is so simple it may seem too simple. Yet there is this obvious connection that if I have a power or capability, I also have the authority or natural right to use it. To underpin this idea, we note that if I am restrained in the free use of my capabilities, I am to that degree oppressed by that infringement of my rights.
The point here is that the antecedent of the abstract idea of a right is the power that gave rise to that right, or to that abstraction. If this connection is denied, then there is no such thing as a right and we step backward thousands of years. Then every power is accompanied by the authority/right to use it.
So Where Does This Lead?
With this clear and present connection between capabilities and rights, we find rights everywhere and some of them are anathema to the secularist’s political theories. The principle here is that every capability is attended by a corresponding right to use it. That’s simple enough to be very powerful. For example, if a fertilized egg has the capability to become a living, functioning citizen, it must have the inherent right to do that. Otherwise, that right is not inalienable.
Similarly, if I have the power to think that a certain political scheme is unwise or a threat to the free exercise of my rights, and I have the power to speak my thoughts, then I have a right to speak in opposition to such schemes.
How We Win the Semantic War
We are losing the semantic conflict with the left because we don’t know how to fully engage it.
We are unable to engage the left on this most fundamental level because it dismisses our arguments out of hand based on its atheism. Here is a powerful way to engage the left that not only asserts our traditional natural rights but facilitates the identification of all our natural rights. This has to be frustrating to the secularist. They may wish they had never dismissed our creator-endowed claims.
This is the principle: I have the natural right to do whatever I can do. Every power is attended by the authority to use it.
Equal Rights and Political Morality
The balancing of rights among citizens is the simple rule that stands in opposition to the law of the jungle that is stated with “If I can, I have the right.” This is the obvious requirement that brings peace among us. This is sometimes stated as “Your rights end where mine begin.”
The left appears unable to recognize that their agenda completely ignores this profound idea. They think they have the moral high ground with all their ideas about emotional, economic, cultural, and political safety. The truth is that an idea is evil if it violates natural rights, and good if it doesn’t. It is simple and it is powerful. That is the only political morality needed for a peaceful republic. The infringement of rights is the definition of evil.