Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 23, 2017

in Law, Philosophy of Freedom

… is from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and page xii of George Will’s “Foreword” to Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett’s brilliant 2016 book, Our Republican Constitution (Declaration emphasis added by George Will):

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.

Those fifty-five works are so familiar that the importance of two of them, a verb and an adjective, is insufficiently understood.  Governments can derive many powers from the consent of the majority, but not all exercises of those powers are, simply because they flow from a majority, “just.”  And governments are instituted to “secure” our preexisting rights, not to bestow them.  As Barnett insists, the great divide in America today is between those who do believe, as the founders did, that “first come rights and then comes government,” and those who believe, as progressives do, that “first comes government and then comes rights.”


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