Taking Back Natural Rights

Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of Government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers. [John Jay, “The Federalist No. 2” in The Federalist Papers (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982), 6.]

And nothing is more certain than the inevitability of abuse by the leaders of such Government of such requisite powers as the people may have chosen to cede, for nothing is more quickly forgotten by powerful public servants than the fact that the rights ceded were natural rights, and that they were ceded not to the particular responsible public servant, but to the institution of Government in which he or she may have the temporary privilege of serving. This curious ability of power to impair the memory of otherwise quite intelligent people raises the question of how the people may reclaim the powers they have ceded. Until the Government comes to recognize the individual as a higher power and until the individuals in society come to deserve such recognition by learning to moderate their private appetites for the common good, finding an answer to this question will be our challenge.

In extremis, revolution may be the only option, but revolution contains the seeds of its own failure: the instantaneous destruction of Government only exposes the necessity of having one. Lurching from abusive government to no government to the inevitable social chaos that follows empowers precisely those irresponsible private servants one wanted to purge from public service in the first place. Solzhenitsyn’s “The Law As a Child” documents the likely outcome. A better answer than revolution is the establishment of an institutionalized process for cutting down to size governments that become too big to exist.

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