Natural rights and US Constitutional rights

See Bojack’s discussion of natural rights.

Why would you link the wording to “natural rights”?


The only thing I would add about human rights is that the idea originated from Jews before World War II. Because they were stateless, they need protections as a minority. It wasn’t based on any religious tenet. A good book on the subject is Rooted Cosmopolitans by James Loefler.

Because the rights protected in the Constitution are life, liberty, and property, which are natural rights.

Because both the US Constitution and the idea of inalienable natural rights are products of the Enlightenment.

What Oyster is saying is that the wording expressly prohibits the violation of natural rights, the exercise of which include speech, worship, etc.

It seems to me you guys are defining those rights as “natural rights” and then trying to use that to support an argument that the Constitution embodies natural rights. That just seems like your opinion. That’s fine, but it would not have any legal standing, for example. I would just go with what the Constitution says.

That they are both products of the same thing doesn’t mean they have to have some other connection. To be “the product of the Enlightenment” isn’t a very defining concept anyway.

It’s what the guys who produced the Constitution discussed while doing so, I believe. It’s hardly opinion.

In fact, I believe parts of the discussions were about rights that people possessed even if they could not be exercised, or if they were prohibited (like by the British). Those rights were called natural rights by the founders.

The Constitution isn’t only about natural rights, though. Not one to one and onto. But natural rights was the term used in discussions leading up to the actual writing of the document.

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Why didn’t they incorporate their discussion of it in the Constitution, in any form? They certainly talked about all manner of related topics.

I don’t know. If I find time I may wade through some of the Federalist papers and see what I can find.


Here is a plain-as-day explanation from PBS.

What is a right, and where does it come from? A right is a power or privilege that is recognized by tradition or law. Natural or human rights are inherent to human nature; they are not given by government, but neither does government always protect them. Legal rights are those recognized by government, but they can often be taken away as easily as they are given. Throughout U.S. history, many Americans have sought to protect natural rights with law. Indeed, rights form the core of the American experience. As noted by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution: “America has always been about rights. . . . While many nations are based on a shared language or ethnic heritage, Americans have made rights the foundation of their national identity.”

This is what gets me about Originalism and decisions like the DC vs. Heller case. If you were truly an Originalist you would not need to look outside the Constitution to support your argument. However instead like Scalia, looking through English common law to support his argument, many conservatives will scour the federalist papers or drafts of the constitution to try and infer what the founding fathers were thinking. The Constitution was a compromise between competing interests, a direct result of deliberation, and can stand on its own. Once you go outside of that and try to predict what people were thinking in the 18th century you start inferring your own bias.

I understand what “natural rights” means, but you are not explaining why the negative phrasing of amendments is connected to them, much less connected to a sense of the origin of “natural rights”.

I can understand this in the case of an ambiguity that needs to be resolved, but if it’s trying to add something that’s not there, no.

The Declaration of Independence contains the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". The Constitution only says you may not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law- but, of course, you can be deprived of them: capital punishment; imprisonment, conscription; an fines, confiscation, eminent domain etc.
You may be thinking of Ho Chi Minh’s Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

They mean the same thing. The signers of the Declaration avoided saying “property” so to avoid connotations of slavery.

The triad comes from John Locke, whose ideas the Founders adopted wholesale. The government can only protect those rights.

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You can quarrel about his use of the term God, but it is uncontroversial that the founders viewed the rights as preexisting government and not granted by government.

Again, he didn’t quote accurately, but he is right that the Bill of Rights is largely a list of rights which cannot be infringed on by the federal government.

Doesn’t matter. The Constitution is explicit that “we the people” are the only source for it.

I’ve recognized that several times already, but received no explanation of why it matters, though I’ve asked several times.

Of course it does. It goes to the natures of the American government. If you don’t recognize that rights preexist government and are not granted by it, you don’t recognize the foundational principles of the country.

I haven’t read the thread closely, so I apologize if I’ve missed the point, but could you explain it?

We weren’t talking about “the natures of the American government”. We were talking about what the Constitution says.

You would really have to ask @OysterOmelet. I’ve tried to get an explanation from him several times, but have failed.

The US judicial, legislative, executive systems need some updates, education, public indicators, and accountability. It’s become an outdated sloth behemoth in function and appearance.

Kind of backsliding into retrograde.