Liberty Under God "Right Law"
The meaning of the word liberty has become so distorted
in todays society that most Americans have difficulty comprehending
what liberty actually means. Everyone wants his "rights,"
but few people realize what their rights (i.e., liberties), are.
Thomas Jefferson gave us a clue to what these rights are and their
source when in the Declaration of Independence, he wrote, "
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."
Our rights come from and are defined by God, not by man.
Consider this sign displayed prominently outside
a pornography shop
... Please do not harass us. It is our Constitutional
right to do business.
The pornographers are hiding behind a man-made
law while loudly proclaiming that theyre doing something that
is their "right", it is supposedly their right to do whatever
they please, and we who publicly oppose them are infringing upon
their "rights". But why are we opposed to pornography?
Cant we live side by side with the pornographers in peace?
No! Because pornography is a proven prelude to rape, murder, and
child abuse, and forbidden by God's law. And because of society's
continued toleranceand encouragement, society will suffer
the restriction of liberties to all. Any attempt to achieve individual
liberty outside Gods law results in the loss of true Liberty.
A movement today for the cause of "Liberty"
is the Anarchists movement. Anarchists have a similar stance as
do God's followers on the basic principles of individual liberty,
the individual being free from governmental control. In this they
agree except for one important point, Anarchists support Liberty
void of any authority, including God's. God's followers realize
that liberty comes from God's law. And that liberty will be lost
if the laws of moral behavior are not understood and the freedom
to commit moral infractions is not curtailed. Anarchists miss the
point, that an immoral society has an overwhelming tendency to become
a burden to all, thus robing each of their Liberty. Who really believes
that transgression to God's moral laws has no costs to society and
it's individuals? Immoral behavior should not go unchecked and unpunished
and society must not look the other way as other members of the
human family dump their "fruits" of immoral behavior on
the door steps of others. Anarchy really means restricted liberty,
caused by the self-imposition of bad behavior, with a society that
is lacking in power to protect and maintain complete Liberty.
"Nothing, has been more amply demonstrated
during the past three thousand years than this: that the great majority
of men do not esteem, or understand, or even desire personal liberty.
What they value is the semblance of liberty accompanied by indulgence."
by Freeman Tilden.
The Ideology of Liberty Under God "Right
To many, government under God's moral laws is ideal, although many
others have been conditioned by humanist teachings that religion
and politics dont mix. In one sense they do not, for religion
is essentially a voluntary exercise, whilst politics is concerned
with enforceable rules of conduct within society. Yet it cannot
be denied that politics should be guided, not by self interest,
but by higher principles. So it could be said perhaps that politics
and religion share a common loyalty to higher values of right conduct.
"I find that it has been the opinion of the
wisest men that Law is not a product of human thought, nor is it
any enactment of peoples, but something eternal which rules the
whole universe by its wisdom. Reason has always existed, derived
from the Nature of the universe, urging men to right conduct and
diverting them from wrong-doing; and this Reason did not first become
Law when it was written down, but when it first came into existence;
and it came into existence simultaneously with the Divine Mind.",
"There is in fact a true law - namely, right reason - which
is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable
and eternal. By its commands it summons men to the performance of
their duties; by its prohibitions it restrains them from doing wrong.
To invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right,
nor is it permissible ever to restrict its operation; and to annul
it wholly is impossible." the Roman philosopher Cicero
This guiding principle of government - that authority
is justified only on moral grounds - may appear somewhat alien today.
But it achieved almost universal acceptance within a comparatively
short time after Cicero and remained a commonplace of political
philosophy throughout time, becoming a part of the common heritage
of political ideas.
These concepts would later inspire in the new United
States of America the idea of codifying the essential procedures,
safeguards and liberties gradually assembled over the centuries
into one single written constitution. Though this ideal of right
law may be difficult to define, it has nonetheless been possible
to limit government from practicing the grosser extremes of injustice;
this is achieved through the constitution, the function of which
is to set out the specific terms of "limited powers" to
which government should be subject.
"The modern constitutional state at the time
of its origins was justified and to a large extent legitimatized
in terms of natural law theory. While the ancient idea of a divinely
inspired, immutable, eternal natural law had been secularized by
the seventeenth century it still provided a source of permanence
in an ever unstable world." John Locke
John Locke used natural law to support the natural
rights of the individual, thus limiting the powers of government.
The written constitution of the United States of America, which
followed Locke's philosophy embodied such traditional natural rights
in detailed provisions. Despite their growing commitment to be "a
government of the people, by the people" the Framers of the
United States Constitution were under no delusions, they knew that
a democracy of itself could not be relied upon to guarantee good
laws. In an attempt to preserve discipline and integrity in government
the Framers provided a clear and concise Constitution which included
carefully worded limitations safeguarding access to the Constitution
and creating a system in which the several branches of government
would also limit each other's access through a series of checks
and balances. Thus protecting the Constitution's principles of Liberty
from tyrannical demagogues and democratic mobs.
"If in the opinion of the people, the distribution
or modification of the Constitutional power be in any particular
[manner] wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way in
which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by
usurpation, for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument
of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are
destroyed." George Washington, farewell address
But even this was not enough. Many of the Framers
felt that Liberty should be more specifically defined and protected.
Among them was Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, who argued that the
Constitution as it stood directly after its adoption would "put
Civil Liberty and happiness of the people at the mercy of Rulers
who may possess the great unguarded powers given." He demanded
such amendments "as will give security to the just rights of
human nature, and better secure from injury the discordant interests
of the different parts of this Union." The result was the first
ten Amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights which set
specific bounds on the range and extent of law.
The significance of the Bill of Rights, as with
similar constitutional limitations on government, lies in the recognition
of a higher law endowing mankind with certain fundamental rights
and liberties to which even government officials must defer.
Following the industrial revolution and the growing
complexity of regulatory laws, legislators and political philosophers
gradually abandoned any attempt to focus on "the guiding star
of natural law", concentrating instead on "the ordinary
questions of the day". Throughout our history we have pursued
the alternative path, that of self-interest, where people, groups
and leaders seek to improve their own lives at the expense of others,
supporting governments and laws which promote that objective. This
resulted in the return of America to slavery under imperialism,
the riches and poverty of the class system, social strife and war,
and the revenges of socialism, the whole continuing saga symbolized
in the polarization of Right and Left, each side competeing for
a particular class or social interest.
Let Us Try Liberty
The time has come when we should once again take up the search for
the fundamental principles of Liberty Under God "Right Law".
The traditional concept of a universal guiding principle, a "right
law" to which legislators and legislation are subservient.
Either our laws permit us, to continue injuring and exploiting one
another so that some may gain undue advantage while others face
increasing restrictions through the removal of their rights; or
we attempt to avoid, and our laws identify and prevent, those actions
which are harmful or injurious to others so that we can all live
with maximum liberty.
One is the path of self-interest; the other
is the path of general-interest.
For two thousand years people have chosen the path
of self-interest, during which time that path has been explored
through the full range of slavery, imperialism, exploitation, civil
wars, and the revolution of socialism. When we begin to seek fair
rules by which we can live together and collaborate productively
without exploiting one another, we will find that the true nature
of "right law", of general-interest, is and always has
been clear and straightforward, awaiting only human recognition
It exists inside every one of us, for we all know
what is right and wrong in social and moral conduct - if we ever
bother to ask ourselves. It exists as the fundamental basis of English
common law; and it has been expressed by political thinkers, writers
and philosophers for thousands of years. This is the Eternal Law
of right social and moral conduct: that each should pursue his or
her own advancement, but in ways which respect the right of others
to do likewise; that each should seek his or her own growth, but
in ways which do not diminish others.
If we then seek to apply this principle of general-interest
in government, we will find that the guiding policy is clear and
simple: the purpose of government and law is the identification
and prevention of exploitation, harm or injury between people. This
guiding principle has been expressed in many forms through the centuries;
it is expressed clearly and concisely in the words of Thomas Jefferson.
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain
men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise
free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement,
and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.
This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close
the circle of our felicity. ---Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural
Thomas Jefferson was not inventing a new idea.
He was taking his place in a long line of political theorists and
idealists from early Greeks, through Cicero and Locke; he shared
the same principles with his colleagues as Framers of the United
States Constitution and Bill of Rights, and he was handing on a
continuing tradition of fundamental rightness with which we are
all, in our consciences, familiar.
Most people object in principle to any excess of
regulation and administrative rules. We dislike meddlesome government;
we find unnecessary regulation and rules tiresome and annoying;
we abhor oppressive government. Yet few would object to being told
they may not do something, if it can be clearly shown that their
action is in some way harmful or detrimental to others. And when
a person is suffering injury at the hands of another, we would all
accept that person's right to remedy and protection in law.
"Each man should be free to develop his own
personality to the full; the only restrictions upon this freedom
should be those which are necessary to enable everyone else to do
the same." Lord Denning
This view of law as the prevention of injury between
people reflects the fundamental limitation of social and moral freedom.
We cannot all have absolute freedom in our social relationships
with one another. If one person is totally free to do whatever he
likes, he is by definition free to limit or indeed eliminate the
freedom of another. The best we can do is to maximize liberty for
all, and this we achieve when we all accept certain limitations
on our individual freedoms so that we do not infringe the freedom
A land of liberty is not a land in which we all
have absolute freedom to do exactly as we please. That would be
a land of anarchy, since everyone would be free to limit, or eliminate
the freedom of anyone else. A land of liberty is a land in which
we are all subject to some restraint in those actions which are
harmful or detrimental to others, so that we can all enjoy maximum
liberty. Without the rule of law people would be free to injure
one another in the widest possible sense, each attempting to enhance
his or her own personal desires and possessions through the dispossession
When government as judge identifies those actions
which are harmful or detrimental to others, then prevents such actions
by law and its enforcement, government is limiting individual social
and moral freedom; but in so doing it creates the conditions in
which liberty is maximized. The Principle of "freedom up to,
but not beyond the point where freedom infringes another freedom"
is the Eternal Law of social and moral conduct, this fundamental
Principle of Liberty is instinctively familiar to us all.
The Principle of Liberty requires in our personal
relationships, in business and commerce, and in our use of natural
resources, that we respect others as if they were ourselves, that
we respect others as we would have others respect us. It will be
recognized at once by anyone familiar with the Sermon on the Mount.
Only in Liberty will the flower of Civilization
unfold. And Liberty, true and full Liberty, will be achieved only
when all of the people understand, accept, and support with full
knowledge and conviction the Principle that in the enjoyment of
liberty each must respect, never infringe the liberty of others.
With the guidance of this Principle we would share
resources equitably and use them wisely, we would trade fairly,
we would respect the property, privacy and peace of one another.
We would eventually learn to live in peace, respecting and not infringing
the liberties of others. And we would prosper: for collaboration
is an infinitely more creative, more powerful force than confrontation.
Can the complexities of life over which government
must legislate really be guided solely by this one simple principle
of Liberty? Yes indeed. And the results, though often surprising,
will always provide workable solutions. A productive and benevolant
society, stable money, honest trade, a clean and respected environment,
towns and cities that work and are a pleasure to live in, maximum
liberty... these and many other benefits accrue when we base our
political system on the principle of Liberty.