Have you ever seen or heard of a group of people standing outside the White House petitioning the government for their rights? While their effort and passion is admirable, I wonder if those individuals have thought about where rights actually come from. Their premise is that the government can grant rights. But is their premise correct? If it is wrong, their conclusion will be wrong as well.
The Declaration of Independence says that all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" and "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers by the consent of the governed."
The founders of America understood that rights were universal and transcendent above the laws, customs, and cultures of any particular society. These men formed a government on the principles of liberty, one of which says that government should exist to protect (secure) people's rights from tyranny.
Government cannot provide rights to the people; it can only protect their transcendent, natural rights by protecting their liberty. But today, there are more people who believe that liberty comes from government, or that rights come from government, than any other idea about government. You cannot value a liberty you do not understand. If you do not value it, you will not be willing to pay a price to preserve it, and you cannot preserve a liberty you do not understand.
Woodrow Wilson said, "Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it." It is up to the people to preserve their liberty by
- Understanding the principles of liberty
- Applying the principles of liberty to personal life, family life, and community life
- Being active at all levels of government to ensure liberty is being upheld
Yet, in recent years, liberty has been widely misunderstood. Liberty is the opportunity to make a choice to assume responsibility and accept the consequences. When people fail to take responsibility for their personal choices, and let others deal with the consequences, it affects the liberties of those all around them.
Those with little self-government require more external government. The more external constraints, the more liberty is eroded in society. Thus, it is vital that liberty be understood, sought after, and sustained at the personal level. Liberty radiates outward from liberated individuals.
Liberty is something that's fragile, valuable, worth giving your time for, and something that affects every single decision you ever make, the kind of money you make, what you teach your children, where you live, and how you spend your time. The basic things of life are affected by how much liberty you have.