| February 3, 2012

The great American heritage heist (Part 3)

It is progressives who are credited with creating the environment of our “welfare state” and the subsequent entitlement philosophy that many of our citizens today embrace as “rights.” Matthew Spalding, in his bestselling book entitled, We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, notes, “A clear example of this sense of expanding rights (further justifying an expanding government) can be seen in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress of January 1944. Coming later in Roosevelt’s presidency, after his New Deal programs had been mostly established, this speech argues that the ideas of the Founders are outdated and need to be replaced by an evolving idea of rights and government.” Here’s an excerpt from Roosevelt’s speech . . .

“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

“As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

“In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Spalding writes, “The next day, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal noted that President Roosevelt spoke of the original Bill of Rights in the past tense —‘They were our rights to life and liberty,’ said Roosevelt — and corrected him: ‘Are, not were, Mr. President.’ But that was exactly what Roosevelt meant. The old concept of natural rights — those associated with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the original Bill of Rights — was increasingly limited because it didn’t guarantee economic and social equality. Roosevelt’s ‘Second Bill of Rights’ was intended to do just that — ‘to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.’”

The idea that rights are created by government to address current problems denies the source of America’s inalienable rights. It also leads us to the views of progressive theorists like Charles Merriam who wrote, “In speaking of natural rights, therefore, it is essential to remember that these alleged rights have no political force whatsoever, unless recognized and enforced by the state.” Alleged rights? More . . .

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