Ellis Washington
Dr. Arnn's 'Constitution Minute'
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By Ellis Washington
December 28, 2013


The law of the Creator, which invests every human being with an inalienable title to freedom, cannot be repealed by any interior law which asserts that man is property.

~Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

Dr. Larry Arnn, constitutional scholar and president of Hillsdale College has instituted a series of public interest programs aired on conservative talk radio called, "Constitution Minute." So far there have been nine episodes. Here are the first four:

1. What is the Difference between Natural Rights and Entitlements?

DR. ARNN: "America's founders knew, obviously, that human beings are not equal in terms of strength or beauty, or in terms of intelligence, industry or talents. They understood that because of such differences, differences in talents and things like that, some people would be wealthier than others. But human beings are equal, the founders believed, in their possession of natural rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and property. Today many American's reject this equality of rights in order to pursue equality of condition through redistribution, or spreading the wealth around to use a famous formulation. This is destructive of liberty as the founders understood it."

Entitlements (legal rights) are those granted onto a person by a known legal system, while natural rights are those not dependent upon the laws, traditions, or beliefs of any specific government or culture, and are therefore universal and inalienable. 17th-century English philosopher John Locke, who influenced America's framers in his famous work, "Two Treatises on Government" (1690) identifying them as being "life, liberty, and estate (property)," and argued that such fundamental rights could not be surrendered in the social contract. Preservation of the natural rights to life, liberty, and property was claimed as justification for the rebellion of the American colonies.

Social contract theory is an agreement between citizens to live within a common system of laws. Particular forms of government are the result of the decisions made by these persons acting in their cooperative capacity. Government is instituted to make laws that protect these three natural rights. If a government does not properly defend these rights, it can be overthrown by We the People.

In a draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (May, 1776), George Mason wrote that, "all men are born equally free," and hold "certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity." Therefore natural law, from which natural rights originate can be defined as laws, principles and standards not simply originate by mankind but rather part of an objective moral order, existing in the universe and accessible to human reason.

Redistribution or spreading the wealth around are just progressive euphemisms for Marxism, socialism and communism.

2. How Well Do You Understand Our Constitution?

DR. ARNN: "America was founded on the idea that human beings are born with natural rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and property. A person who holds this view of rights makes no demands on others except that they respect those rights. Today, however, many Americans talk about rights to a college education, state of the art medical care and even birth control pills. These are rights understood as entitlements and a person who holds this view of rights, far from making no demands on other people, is making claims on other people's money and resources. This understanding of rights not only sets citizens against each other, but it undermines the whole idea of natural rights."

According to Locke there are three natural rights:
  • Estate (property): everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights.

  • Liberty: everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn't conflict with the first right.

  • Life: everyone is entitled to live once they are created.
Increasingly since the 1850s and 60s the political left through the Democrat Socialist Party, have made an art form at deconstructing America's natural rights, sacred values and societal institutions in a systematic and comprehensive manner. I call it the Darwin-Marx-Gramsci long march through the institutions. For example, recently the left has convinced people to ignore the moral foundations of the U.S. Constitution to embrace that same-sex marriage is real (legal) marriage thus overturning by judicial activism hundreds of anti-sodomy laws; also that college education, healthcare, birth control, abortion pills and "recreational" marijuana are constitutional rights.

The diabolical genius of such a plan is that you make people think they have rights contrived through the leviathan State thereby conflating rights with wants. These Machiavellian tactics harkened back to Thomas Hobbes in whose magnum opus Leviathan (1651) wrote, "Good simply means getting whatever you want, and evil is anything that might stand in your way of getting it." Thus, it was Hobbes who over 460 years ago first elevated our wants, desires, needs and lusts to the heavenly dominion of Rights which has contributed to our present constitutional crisis and the deconstruction of societal morality.

3. Did America's Founders Intend to Create a Separation between Church and State?

DR. ARNN: "America's founders believed in the separation of church and state, in that the country was not to have an official religion or an official sect, but that did not mean that government was to be hostile to religion, or even indifferent to religion, as many today argue. In fact, America's founding document the Declaration of Independence includes both a reference to God as the author of the laws of nature and a confident assertion that human beings are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Far from being hostile or indifferent to religion, America's founders understood the theology of the declaration to be an essential part of the education of citizens."

If there was an original separation of church and state then that doctrine would be self-evident in the writings of the constitutional framers, right? To address the question of what writers and writings most influenced the constitutional Framers University of Houston political science professors Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman in 1985 published a monumental study that took them 10 years to bring together. They compiled over 15,000 items, including 2,200 books, newspaper articles, pamphlets and monographs of political materials written between 1760-1805, and discovered that the three writers the constitutional framers quoted from the most often were: 1) Barron Montesquieu (1689-1755), 2) William Blackstone (1723-80), and 3) John Locke (1632-1704). Significantly, all of these men were strong adherents of natural law and natural rights philosophy, which followed an inseparable connection between law and morality. The Bible was referenced in fully 96 percent of all political writings of this period.

4. Why Does the Constitution Limit Government?

DR. ARNN: "James Madison writes in Federalist 51 that "Men are not angels; their passions and self-interest often get the better of their reason and sense of justice, so we need government in order to protect our rights against those who would take them away." "But for the same reason," Madison writes, "government must be limited because people in government have passions and interests too." Many Americans today forget this, supposing that we can do away with constitutional limits on government, supposing that the unelected bureaucrats being put in charge of our health care, for example, will rule as if they are angels. If Madison was correct about human nature this is foolish and dangerous."

Human nature, an indispensable part of humanity which science, economics, business and politics knows little about, was well-understood by the constitutional framers like Madison who along with Washington, Jefferson, Mason, Franklin and others certainly realized that natural law and natural rights were derivative of God, morality and the Bible. Human nature, therefore is concurrently humanity's best character trait and our most intractable vice which Jefferson said to "bind him [politicians, judges] down from mischief by the chains of the constitution." This is a central reason why the framers borrowed the separation of powers doctrine from Montesquieu by not investing absolute power in any one branch of government but spreading those godlike powers to three branches of government – legislative, executive and the judiciary.

Tragically, since the advent of the Imperial Presidency (1901 – present) progressive presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama have increasingly conflated the three branches of government into one which inexorably leads to this existential socialism, fascism and tyranny.


Book Notice

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Please circulate this flyer to all your email contacts & Facebook/Twitter followers who may be interested in purchasing this opus which will serve as a ready apologetic against the rampant Marxist-Progressive propaganda taught in America's public schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools, and law schools. Thanks in advance to all my friends, associates and colleagues for your invaluable support! Law and History Blog: www.EllisWashingtonReport.com


Invitation for manuscripts

I am starting a new a program on my blog dedicated to giving young conservatives (ages 14-35) a regular place to display and publish their ideas called Socrates Corner. If you know of any young person who wants to publish their ideas on any subject, have them send their essay manuscripts to my email at ewashington@wnd.com.

© Ellis Washington

 

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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)

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