Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reactivating Liberty: Natural Law vs. Positive Law

Over the past few years, I've immersed myself in the books on history, our founding fathers, Austrian economics, and theories of political economy which have helped me understand causes of why this country has drifted away from the ideals those revolutionary heroes fought and died for in the late 1700s. One of these fine men was John Locke. John Locke was one of the founding philosophers of "liberalism." Now, this concept of "liberalism" is a far cry from what we consider to be modern day liberalism which is more in line with early 20th Century "Progressivism."

The concepts of liberalism relate to the rights of the individual through natural law that posits the existence of laws set through nature that manifest universal truths and "unalienable rights."  Natural law follows the idea that humans are born with certain rights given to us through our humanity: the right to one's own life and individual sovereignty, the right to one's liberty, and the right to one's property attained through the use of one's labor.  Individuals may recognize these rights as defined in the Declaration of Independence, which is one of the greatest natural law documents in history.  These rights are derived through the ability of humans to use logic and reason.

Our natural rights have consistently been threatened by the expansion of positive law.  Positive law is the opposite of natural law.  Positive law holds that a government or state authority in power has the sole ability to decide what is lawful and what is not.  Positive law is run by the whims of the majority while discarding the concerns of the minority.  If 51% of the people of in a State want to ban cell phones while driving, ban Christianity or Judaism, ban smoking, or ban alcohol; these laws will be legally binding as long as the legislature was democratically elected. [1]

The distinction between natural law and positive law is critically relevant today. The trend of an ever expansionary government has used the means of positive law to erode liberty in favor of more government control. While many citizens today, regardless of political ideology, have noticed the power grab by both the Obama and Bush administrations, the centralization of power and movement away from natural rights can be traced clear back to the Civil War and the Progressive movement in the early 1900s.

In order for American to return to greatness and the belief in the individual, she must dig deep and recognize what "Liberty" means. We must first understand and believe in the theory of natural law. Sadly, in today's modern times, Liberty is a foreign concept as opposed to entitlements, subsidies, redistribution of wealth through positive law which are the accepted norms our country. Liberty has virtually been erased from our DNA and now only exists as a dormant gene yet to be reactivated. American must find the will and desire to replace her authoritarian, collective, and positive law ideologies and replace them with the belief in individual sovereignty, Lockean liberalism, and the reverence to natural law.

[1] ideas for this paragraph found in Constitutional Chaos, Andrew P. Napolitano

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