Friday, April 30, 2010
Summary of Natural Law, Rights and Duties
Discoveries and Derivations
There are at least two approaches to discovering the tenets of Natural Law, Rights and Duties (NLRD). The first approach parallels the most likely manner in which basic morals were developed; that is, by evolution through the experience and contemplation of men on social interactions over many centuries, even millennia. It is relatively easy to believe that the cardinal tenets of the Natural Law were adopted simply to reduce the conflicts and anguish of members of families, groups and tribes of early man long before the written word.
Such tenets as: 1) do not murder; 2) do not steal; 3) do not commit adultery; 4) honor one’s parents; and, 5) do not perjure against or slander another, are quite readily seen to be common sense rules for social behavior, and man was very ready then to accept the benefits of groups and tribes, especially greater security. Then, too, 6) “do as you would be done to” has arisen as a tenet of many ancient societies around the world, and is the essence of the Golden Rule; for example—Confucius (597-451 BC). The duties that attend to rights are also a part of the derivation of the concept of Natural Law.
This approach predates the formation of many major religions, and follows the idea that development of morals preceded such writings as the Ten Commandments (The Decalogue) in the Christian Bible. Another right that is implicit in these behavioral prescriptions is 7) the right to both life and self-preservation, which leads naturally to, 8) the right to defend one’s rights,
The central fact about these laws and rights is that they are universals. They apply to all men and all times in all places. Many of these laws and rights are fundamental, in that they are irreducible and incapable of being derived from some higher principle. As Cicero (106-43 BC) stated, they are unchangeable and eternal.
One can derive a number of subsidiary natural laws and rights from these few given here, such as, 9) the right to private property, since 2) do not steal, implies ownership of property, and, 10) the right to privacy as well ( or, your home is your castle!).
The other derivation of Natural Laws, Rights and Duties is from the prescriptions of the Bible taken as the immutable words of God. Hence, we begin with the Ten Commandments and the many other prescriptions in both the Old and New Testaments, but primarily centered on the New Testament taken as a whole.
It seems to me that the principal difference between these approaches is the advent of religion and the several commandments to worship God. The rest of the natural laws and rights of man are essentially the same, and are derived from right reason. Thus, Natural Law and Natural Rights can be accepted whether one is religious or not. In fact, I believe they ought to be a dominant part of everyone’s worldview.
There are many historical thinkers that have advocated Natural Law and Rights in one form of government or another, to mention a few; Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, Cicero, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Jeremiah, and Paul. The form of government taken may vary, from pure democracy to republicanism to the rule of kings or an oligarchy, but the rights of man always remain very close to the same, regardless of the form of government, and the relationship between man and his government remains to be sovereignty over their respective domains. In later times the NLRD thinkers of more modern times include; Locke, Burke, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Blackstone, and all of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
Where further rights are derived
In tracing these logical threads, I have taken liberties with the process in this first attempt to derive a number of the subsidiary tenets of Natural Law, Rights, and Duties. I welcome corrections, and additions to strengthen the line of argument.
If you begin with the right of self-defense as a universal, and you live where force is all around you in the form of weapons, then it is easily seen that you have, 11) the right to own and use weapons in self-defense, and to practice their use. This is further reinforced by 12) the right to support and defend your family and kin, which leads to, 13) the duty to provide for your family in terms of food, shelter, clothing, instruction, and so forth. But this means you also have, 14) the duty to perform work of some sort, even if only hunting, gathering or farming, to earn a living so that you can provide for your family, and, 15) the right to keep the fruits of your labor for the same reason—by far the most of them anyway.
The duty that you must support your family leads to, (16) the right to select your own mate and create a family in the first place in order to perpetuate the race, and 17) the right to choose you profession, in conjunction with the family support duty in (13), as well as the right to own, barter, sell, and give away property as in (9) above.
If you begin with the duty not to bear false witness against your neighbor (perjure or slander, in other words), and the admonition not to steal (2), it follows that you must, 18) be honest and keep your word, bargains, contracts and agreements, or else you are either causing distress, cheating, lying to or stealing from another person, which is a violation of the Golden Rule (6).
The duty not to murder is properly interpreted as not to murder innocent people. This leads to the concept of just killing (which is not murder), and just war. From just killing comes, 19) the judgment of death for heinous crimes, and the necessity for judges of guilt or innocence and the proper penalties to be applied. This results in punishment for crimes, and, 20) the right to require full restitution by the guilty party for property crimes. From the idea of justice and the need to judge comes, 21) the right to a fair trial, 22) trial by a jury of your peers, 23) the right to assemble freely and peacefully; 24) the right to petition the government to redress wrongs, and 25) the right of Habeas Corpus.
From the right to private property (9) comes, 26) the duty not to trespass on another’s property without just cause. Since property includes intellectual property as well, if follows that you have, 27) the right of free speech, free press, and the right to sell, barter and trade your intellectual property. It also follows that to exercise free speech and press, and to sell, barter and trade, you must have, 28) the right to free association with your peers: that is, 29) the right to liberty, and freedom of choice. Obviously, you have the consequent duty, 30) to obey the law, and, 31) The duty to uphold the social standards of decency and moral rectitude. This is why the right to private property is so important to our Law of the Land---The Constitution---and to the idea of unalienable and universal rights.
In my opinion, when you add the spiritual factor that these rights and duties of man are sanctioned by God the Creator, and not mere man alone, and that they are formed by right reason, God’s Natural Law becomes the basis for man’s full obedience to God’s Law and full acceptance of man’s Natural Rights and Duties, especially the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
More Subsidiary Rights
There are a number of other Natural Law tenets that can be traced. These include:
32) Provide for the ill, injured, crippled, and poverty-stricken. This is an obvious duty to humanity and needs no further derivation, but it could well be said to derive from the Golden Rule.
33) The necessity for limited government follows from the rights of freedom and liberty, since every added function of government is a subtraction from the freedom and liberty of citizens.
34) Separation of powers is also a necessity in order to maximize freedom and liberty, since centralization of powers in one or a few persons is a subtraction from the freedom and liberty of citizens.
35) Checks and balances in government ensure that no one group or person achieves too much power over citizens. This tactic is carried out in our nation to an exceptional degree, and is entirely due to the genius of our founding fathers.
36) Self-sufficiency is a duty of all able citizens in order to ensure minimum need for governmental intervention in our everyday life.
37) The duty to participate in civic activities and government is a further safeguard of our rights and freedoms, since an informed populace is far more difficult to turn into vassals. It is a further extension of separation of powers (34), to include all citizens.
38) Do not give aid to criminals is a duty to society, to justice, and to upholding the law.
39) The right to contrive and invent is properly a parallel to the duty to work (14).
This brings me to a major point. Since I accept all of these 39 tenets of NLRD, as well as a number of others not explicitly mentioned, my next thought must be their absolute preservation in society.
This Natural Law, Rights and Duties set of tenets, then, is the very essence of Conservatism as a political, social and fiscal mind set, and can readily be seen to be a substantial basis for our Constitution.
Summary Listing of Rights and Duties
Fruits of Labor
Barter and Trade
Defend Family and Kin
Own and Use Weapons
Create and Invent
Pursuit of Happiness
Freedom of Worship
Freedom and Liberty
Duties to Perform:
Obey the Law
Serve on Juries
Do not Steal
Do not Murder
Do not Lie
Do not Commit Adultery
Honor Mother and Father
Do not Trespass
Adhere to Standards of Decency
Adhere to the Golden Rule
Maintain Moral Rectitude
Love they Neighbor
Practice the Positive Virtues