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January 10, 2012

Our Lexicon: “Pre-Constitutional Rights”

In the Declaration of Independence, America’s Founders proclaimed a universal principle — human beings have inalienable rights.

In the Bill of Rights, some of these rights were named — but NOT all of them. In the Ninth Amendment, the authors of the nation’s charter said that they couldn’t possibly list all of the rights that you and I inherently possess. Those rights are innumerable. But with the Tenth Amendment, the Founders declared that they COULD count (enumerate) the few powers the new government would possess.

These concepts of inalienable rights and limited government were not original to the Founders, but the attempt to build an experimental government based on them was novel. Please notice that the ideas came first, and the government second. Likewise, the rights this new government was supposed to protect pre-existed that government. In other words . . .

You do NOT get your rights from the Constitution.

Your rights are too important, too natural, and too fundamental to be derived from parchment. Instead, your rights existed BEFORE the Constitution was even written.

A Constitution is, at best, only an insurance policy. It will often protect you, but sometimes it won’t. Depending on the tenor of the times this insurance policy can sometimes be poorly underwritten by the politicians, bureaucrats, and judges who have sworn an oath to defend it. But even during such times of moral decay, your rights continue to exist.

Are you with me so far? …because this next part may bother you . . .

Because your rights come from your humanity, they are also inherent to every other human being, REGARDLESS OF CITIZENSHIP, OR ANY OTHER FACTOR.

Thus, the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which also includes rights of conscience and expression, due process, the ability to be secure from arbitrary searches and seizures, and even the right of self-defense, are ALL enjoyed by EVERYONE, citizens and NON-citizens alike.

Sometimes, the Constitution is explicit about what it seeks to protect. The Fifth Amendment, for example, refers to “persons.” But even where the governing charter fails to be so definitive, the principle remains…

Human rights are “pre-constitutional” rights.

To argue otherwise is to say that your rights are NOT inherent to your humanity, but are instead a privilege conferred by other human beings, simply because those humans happen to have power. If you believe this then you have built on a foundation of sand, and your life and liberty will be washed away.

Such a view also raises the question as to where and how the humans who control The State gained the power to grant and deny rights to other people? In fact, there can be no answer to this question, because no such power exists. There is no magic that elevates some humans above other humans.

This is why we at Downsize DC will no longer use the term “Constitutional Rights,” but will instead ONLY use the term “Pre-constitutional Rights.” Please be clear about this — It does NOT matter which nation-state claims a human being as its chattel, that person’s rights are still pre-existing and inalienable.  

Pre-constitutional rights are necessary to a natural law viewpoint; the philosophy held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the framers of the Constitution, the ratifiers of the Bill of Rights, AND Downsize DC. We shout it loud and proud — “Pre-constitutional rights precede and are superior to Constitutional rights.”

Obviously, we’re still grateful that our pre-Constitutional rights are acknowledged in the Constitution. It’s important that the requirement for The State to protect these rights is the law of the land, because those who covet State power constantly seek to harm humanity. But . . . 

If we’re depending on the whims of the employees of The State to protect us, simply because we’re all Americans, then our faith is misplaced. The Constitution cannot protect a people who fail to vigilantly understand from where it is their rights derive. Neither can the protection of those rights be honestly maintained if we’re unwilling to acknowledge that everyone else has these rights too, NOT JUST CITIZENS. Remember the Golden Rule!

To deny that human rights are inalienable in any one case, it to deny them in every case, including your own.

We ask you to please join us in replacing the inferior term “Constitutional Rights,” with the superior formulation, “Pre-Constitutional Rights.”

Copyright (c) 2012 by Jim Babka. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.

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