(Title sung to the tune of the mildly racist bible-belt classic “Jesus loves the little children”)
Maybe not all libertarians, much less all humans, believe in the concept of natural rights—that by the virtue of being we are endowed with a certain set of rights not dependent of the sanction of any government, society, or culture. But I do, and I get frustrated seeing this ideal abused. In a perfect world, any law or action, public or private, would be extrapolated from these natural rights.
The most accessible explanation of natural rights for Americans lies in 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 among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Ah, the Declaration of Independence, that beautifully written document which rallied the Continental troops to hope and helped a disjointed group of colonies beat back their imperial oppressors to become the United States. Most Americans claim to love the Declaration, but one group in particular, the “Tea Party,” adopted it as a veritable symbol of their movement; it’s waved around as a flag and decried as a holy piece of paper, a divinely-inspired model for the greatest country on Earth.
Here’s the thing: if, as theists believe that the God we worship is the God not only of Americans, but of all of creation, it only follows that the Creator who endowed us with these rights also endowed every other man, woman, and child in the entire world with the same privilege. Picking and choosing who gets to live his or her life, and how, from behind the seal of the United States, or even more horrifically, from behind the curtain of the voting booth, is nowhere within the purview of these natural rights.
Under the correct understanding of natural rights, it easily becomes apparent that:
No, drone strikes against un-convicted young men suspected as terrorists aren’t ok,
No, picking sides in international affairs between a sovereign nation and its occupiers is not ok, and
No, there is no justification for believing that one group of people has more right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than any other.
Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of forgetting this most important of truths, and, for the sake of political expediency, are quick to make any issue one of “us against them.”
Sometimes it feels like Libertarians are the true “middle party,” and that the other major parties get some of it right but don’t quite grasp the whole picture; Democrats get the social side, but not the economic side, and Republicans at least pretend to understand why keeping the government out of business is a good thing but fail to connect that same principle to other aspects of private association. As current Democrats have shown us, both parties love war. And here Libertarians are, stuck right between those two, with our frustratingly consistent ideology.
Natural rights: if you believe in them, everyone gets them, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or social status. Not just Americans—all we children of the world.