Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 20, 2019

in History, Legal Issues, Myths and Fallacies, Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 151 of George Will’s 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility (ellipses original to Will; footnote deleted; link added):

Writing in 1792, James Madison said, “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example … of power granted by liberty.” The change was from top down to bottom up: Rather than rights being granted by government to set people increasingly at liberty, people who are born free to exercise their freedom create a government for their convenience, and particularly to secure their natural rights that pre-exist government.

DBx: So true.

Yesterday at FreedomFest in Las Vegas Glenn Beck described the Declaration of Independence as the “mission statement” of the U.S. government. I believe this description to be true as a matter of history. The 1787 U.S. Constitution ought to be read as an attempt to fulfill this mission – expressed so famously in 1776 – as best as humanly possible. Alas, all but a handful of the plain words of the Constitution – and all of the plain words of the Declaration – are today ignored.

Legal positivists and other self-described “realists” dismiss the idea of natural rights with contempt. They insist that, because the state is supposedly necessary to protect individual rights, the state is the source of rights.

This statist conclusion reflects a logical fallacy. Even if we grant that the state is necessary to protect individual rights, it no more follows that the state is the source of rights than it follows that, because food is necessary to protect my life, supermarkets and restaurants and vending machines are the source of my life.

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