Stupid Letters To The Editor. Rights Come From Government?

We would have picked up on this letter to the editor no matter what. While the writer is from Satellite Beach, it is not the area from which the writer hails which caught our eye, but the lack of knowledge.

Ryan wrongly says rights from nature and God

Last Saturday, I watched the installation of Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as the deputy savior of “America’s Comeback Team” at Norfolk, Va.

When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, he appeared on the bunting festooned battleship Wisconsin and proceeded

down the steps to the stage, where he introduced the “next president of the United States, Paul Ryan” (small gaffe, corrected later). Ryan then proceeded down the steps from the battleship to the stage.

I thought about the incongruity of these politicians, neither having any time in the military, entering off a World War II ship like returning heroes.

Congressman Ryan gave a stirring speech, declaring the Romney-Ryan team can save the country. Then he sent my head spinning. He said our rights come from nature and God, not the government. Wow. Here I thought our Founding Fathers formed a government that established our rights in the Constitution and further refined these rights in amendments to that document.

If he feels the government is not essential to those rights, why is he making a career out of government service?

Ed Miller
Satellite Beach

Let’s start with the easiest refutation of the point that rights are derived from government – our own 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 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

Contrary to Mr. Miller’s assertion, rights are derived from nature or God. It is not up to the government to establish those rights, but rather to protect those rights.

Want more?

Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. – John Adams, 1765

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792

“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” Benjamin Franklin

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature. – Samuel Adams

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

The rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of Government was instituted. – James Madison

“Among the objects of the Constitution of this Commonwealth, Liberty & Equality stand in a conspicuous light. It is the first article in our declaration of rights, all men are born free & equal, & have certain natural, essential & unalienable rights. In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of the Creator: They are imprinted by the finger of God on the heart of man.” Samuel Adams

Clearly Mr. Miller is wrong on the establishment of rights. He is also confused when he asks what we believe is a somewhat rhetorical question of “If he feels the government is not essential to those rights, why is he making a career out of government service?”

That answer is simple: Ryan believes that by serving in the government he helps protect the rights of the people.

The rights of men are not granted by the documents upon which the country is founded, they are simply enumerated by those documents.

The difference in Mr. Miller’s position and those of the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution could not be more stark. If Mr. Miller truly believes rights are derived from the government, it follows that those rights can be taken away by the government. Does Mr. Miller really want to say that the freedom of speech is dependent upon the consent of the government?

The consequences of that belief is horrifying.

We’ll leave this with two quotes that are applicable to Mr. Miller, his letter and his beliefs:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution. – James Madison

11 Responses to “Stupid Letters To The Editor. Rights Come From Government?”

  1. Ryan Walters says:

    And what about those of us that do not believe in god, Mr. Afterwit? I respect you and your right to your belief system, but I take umbrage at the insinuation that it applies to me. I would not do you the disservice of suggesting that your rights are not derived from your deity concept. But similarly, I would expect a modicum of understanding for my beliefs ( or in this case lack of). I am currently reading Chuck Thompson’s latest book concerning the creation of two separate countries out of the landmass of the current U.S.. I wonder if our lack of willingness to compromise and work together, due to the influence of steadfast ideologues has really only left us this alternative? The desire of some to live in a quasi- theocracy, and conversely, the desire for some not to ( along with a mirad of other differences in the perception and function of government and economics) at least on some level seems to make this proposition a logical one. It seems as though, the concept of rights, also depends on your perception of truth (I.e. god for some). Again, thanks for the coverage of politics in our town. Have a great weekend, sir. -Ryan Walters

    • AAfterwit says:

      Mr Walters,

      Clearly you have missed the point.

      The letter writer said rights do not come from either God or nature.

      They do.

      If you choose not to believe in God, that is your choice. I would hope you would believe that men’s rights are therefore derived from nature (thus the term “natural rights.”)

      Either way, the rights or men belong to men, and not to the government.

      Have a good day.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Ryan Walters says:

    No, I did not miss that point (although I did not address it). I do not feel myself equipped to definitively answer the question of where human rights originate. Yet, it would seem that, our government is charged with preserving those rights.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Mr Walters,

      I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying. Your first comment asked “”what about those who do not believe in god?”

      The post clearly made allowances for that position and now you say you were aware of that fact. So while I had already met your expectation of a “modicum of understanding for my beliefs,” you decided to try and say that I hadn’t?

      I want to make sure I understand your position across your two comments, sir. You desire the “willingness to work together” while at the same time deliberately misrepresenting what was clearly said in the post. Furthermore, you now acknowledge the post addressed your very point.

      Is that how you want to “work together?” By claiming to be some sort of a victim? To make unsubstantiated and demonstrably false claims?

      That is how you want to “compromise?”

      Sorry. I am not playing that game.

      Have a great day.

      A. Afterwit.

  3. Ryan Walters says:

    No, sir. Clearly we are misunderstanding each other. Upon revisiting your previous posting, I realized my misinterpretation of it. I assure you I am not “playing victim.” so I will digress there. But, I still wonder if we have become so polarized (religion being an issue in this) that Thompson’s premise may hold some logic.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Mr Walters,

      But, I still wonder if we have become so polarized (religion being an issue in this) that Thompson’s premise may hold some logic.

      No. There is no logic to it at all.

      Not one bit.

      Not one iota.

      Thanks for commenting.

      A. Afterwit.

  4. Martha Kirby says:

    Well, bless Mr. Walter’s soul from wherever he thinks it may have come from. Bless those that gave their lives for God and freedom that he has the right to say he has no Faith. I believe we all want what is basically good, fair, humane and moral for all inhabitants of this world, no matter who you think is responsible for your presence here. Sometimes in defending one viewpoint or one part, we miss the whole picture. Believe or not believe, but abide by the basic laws of man(nature). We can all agree in our rights to freedom, but clearly our personal views of their origins differ. For those of us who pray, when we ask for peace, for guidance , for freedom, we don’t single out only those of similar beliefs. We pray for all, including Mr. Walters. Thanks AAfterwit, I appreciate the time you spend on your blog. Great quotes.

  5. John Fergus says:

    Interestingly, this week’s Parsha (portion of the Jewish Torah read for the week) addresses the issue at-hand. A commentary on that passage is at

    As the rabbi author states, “If humans are free, then they need a free society within which to exercise that freedom.” If one does not accept Divine revelation for Moses’ instructions, then one should be able to accept it as a logical construct within the “laws of nature” as summarized by the rabbi.

    As the commentary on the Parsha makes clear, that revelation was actually counter to the prevailing notion of government at that time – well over 2,000 years ago. At that time government was imposed on populations by those who had the might to do so. That still appears to be the norm in much of the World today, particularly that portion of the World in which society is not founded largely on Judeo/Christian ideals. Perhaps that is why attempts at democracy in many parts of the World end badly.

    As the commentary also indicates, the ancient Jewish concept of “freedom” has been carried forward by the Jewish people. In time it was enumerated by this nation’s founders with phrases such as “We, the people” (Constitution) and “We are a nation of laws and not of men” (John Adams).

    The key point is that a society which does NOT accept as a given the existence of a set of “inalienable” rights belonging to each person solely because that individual is a person (i.e., popular acceptance that government may allocate all rights as it sees fit) lacks the unifying principle necessary to energize the populace to maintain their rights. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” (Benjamin Franklin). Therein lies the road to serfdom. Belief in “inalienable” rights has been a guide star since this nation’s founding. If that star (that belief) is extinguished, what freedoms we enjoy are in grave peril.

    Thanks for the opportunity to enter into this dialogue.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Mr Fergus,

      It has been a long day here (and actually it is the next day) and I finally got the chance to read the article you cited in your comment.

      There is nothing more fun than a scholarly article on something like this from a totally different point of view than I expected.

      Very educational, to say the least.

      Thank you for posting it and for your comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  6. Ryan Walters says:

    Thank you for the sentiment, Mrs. Kirby- regardless of my feelings on the issue, I do appreciate your intentions. Interesting response, Mr. Afterwit. I took you to be a bit more open. I guess not. So I take it you read Mr. Thompson’s book? Thanks for definitively answering the question for me, nonetheless.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Mr Walters,

      I have read enough of Thompson’s book to know that it is 1) factually challenged in many areas, 2) based on false premises, 3) uses the tactic of “when everyone disagrees with me, claim they are bigots,” and 4) lacking in any historical reference or understanding.

      It isn’t a serious enough or logical enough to be toilet paper.

      Believe it or not, running this blog takes time. I also have a life outside of this corner of cyberspace. It is not a matter of “being open.” That is an undeserved charge. It is a matter of looking at the book, finding it wanting, and then discarding it for the worthless piece of prose it is.

      That’s not being closed minded, that is coming to a conclusion based on the evidence.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      A. Afterwit.

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