In the Beginning

In the Beginning


Labor gives birth to ideas.” – Jim Rohn –


When a newborn first cries out, it knows nothing of the fact its new-found freedom will be routinely challenged. For conversations on the topic of freedom/liberty to be meaningful, it is my opinion one first needs to accept from the point of conception, a human being is endowed with certain natural rights. Those rights encompass one’s individuality, liberty and property which can also be referred to as life, faculty and production[1]. When all three are respected, it allows for the full expansion of human creativity which leads to subsequent human flourishing. Some question the idea of natural rights arguing the individual is merely a small component of a greater social collective. These same individuals often resist the idea of inalienable rights asking “exactly where do these rights come from?” In this short essay, arguments will be presented to show natural rights do indeed exist, and do so regardless of humanity’s origin whether created by God or by way of evolution.

Full disclosure: I’m a Christian. I’m part of the 75% (circa 2011) of Canadians who say they believe in God.[2] Not all of those are Christian but they all hold to a belief that humanity came from a Creator. I will only touch on the biblical creation account as this is where my own experience resides. The reader is encouraged to look into creation accounts from other religions should they feel more examples are required to support the argument. 

The biblical account of human origin begins with: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen:1-26-27)[3] Christians understand that to be made in the image of God means we share certain attributes with God. If our Creator has rights (holds authority) and chooses to both create and impart some of His attributes onto us, we must also possess some of those inalienable rights. More specifically, if our Creator is the giver and sustainer of life, clearly as His created work we have a right to “life” and it should therefore be respected. Let us consider the artist. When they create something, unless they choose to transfer its ownership, the artist alone dictates whether that work is preserved or destroyed. Lastly, the quoted scripture states we have been given dominion over the rest of creation. This is important and supports the idea that in order to exercise this dominion, we are required to use our “faculties” to “produce” commodities which give us the means to support our very lives. This brief excerpt from the biblical creation account lends support to the believer arguing for the existence of their natural rights. 

Subsequent to my earlier disclosure: I wasn’t always a Christian. I mention this to demonstrate that I know very well what it’s like to hold a worldview which doesn’t accept the creation account of life’s origin. For the evolutionist, the question to consider is this: If humanity came by way of evolution and nothing has been imparted to us, how can we claim to have any rights at all? 

To answer this, let us turn to the writer/philosopher Ayn Rand well known in libertarian circles for her best-selling novels, as well as the development of a philosophical system known as Objectivism.[4] Let me be clear: Objectivism rejects the idea of the supernatural which therefore results in the rejection of the idea of God. It holds that rights are based in morality and these rights explain how humans should interact in social contexts.[5] The philosophy continues by stating the primary moral goal of human existence is to achieve happiness; in order to attain this happiness there is a requirement for people to both respect certain facts about human nature, and respect the rights of others. So how do we determine exactly what these rights are? The answer becomes clearer once we realize Objectivists endorse free-market capitalism. Under this economic system, a limited government is charged with protecting the individual’s right to individuality, liberty, and property only using force when required to protect those rights.[6]Simply put, protect one’s freedom to produce their desired goods/services, then safeguard their ability to reap the rewards then you will see humans flourish. In light of these ideas, we see how Rand and countless others have come to argue that humanity does indeed hold both necessary and inalienable rights in order to achieve life’s greatest purpose: human happiness.

Admittedly, the arguments presented on behalf of both worldviews have been anything but lengthy; brevity was intentional. Serious inquirers are encouraged to delve deeper by referencing other resources on the topic. Although brief, both arguments effectively lead us to conclude that regardless of humanity’s “raison d’être”, each and every individual possesses natural rights. When respected, these rights enable individuals to both sustain and enhance their own well-being. As for how those rights intersect with our governing authorities, the great French economist Frédéric Bastiat once wrote “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”[7] That idea is something we should all pause to consider. It likely warrants a short essay of its own. In closing, may we draw inspiration from the newly born and boldly assert that from first cry[8] unto final breath, we are all endowed with natural rights. Now that’s something worth fighting for!

Towards liberty,

OA


[1] Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law. Lehi: Libertas Press, 2017. Print. P.1

[2] Statistics Canada. “Two-Thirds of the Population Declare Christian as Their Religion.” Canadian Demographics at a Glance, Second Edition, 19 Feb. 2016, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/91-003-x/2014001/section03/33-eng.htm.

[3] The Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.

[4] “Ayn Rand.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand.

[5] Thomas, William. “Natural Rights.” The Atlas Society, 28 Sept. 2010, atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/4079-natural-rights.

[6] Thomas, William. “What Is Objectivism?” The Atlas Society, 14 June 2010, atlassociety.org/objectivism/atlas-university/what-is-objectivism/objectivism-101-blog/3366-what-is-objectivism.

[7] Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law. Lehi: Libertas Press, 2017. Print. P.1

[8] The writer wishes to clarify his position by affirming that the unborn child has the same rights to life as the newborn. 

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