Some of the signers of the Constitution believed that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary; they thought that it was “self-evident” that we are “…endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. The Bill of Rights was ratified in order to insure that the government created by the Constitution could not infringe upon those Rights, not to grant them.
The government was established to protect those Rights, not to grant them. Remember, any rights granted by government can be taken away by government.
I have recently seen statements that healthcare, education, and even broadband internet service were human rights; the Founders would have been astounded.
Matt Lewis weighs in:
This might sound like a pedantic point to make, but nearly all of our political discord comes down to fundamental differences in our worldviews. Two very good people can start out with two very different philosophies of life and inevitably come to two very different conclusions on a nearly innumerable amount of problems. Sometimes the consequences are profound. And that’s the case here. Rejection of this foundational principle of God-given law would inexorably lead someone to come to vastly different conclusions about any number of things compared to someone like me who embraces this premise. When liberals and conservatives differ over whether or not the state has the right to usurp this or that right, dig deep enough, and you will often find the root of the disagreement lies here.
I believe very strongly that our rights come from God. And I believe nearly as strongly that the implications of believing that our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are granted by the state are potentially catastrophic. Ideas have consequences, and while some might see quibbling over such esoteric and grandiose ideas to be a waste of time, the truth is that where one comes down on such fundamental questions will likely predetermine where one comes down on a wide range of modern-day “hot-button” issues. When you consider how much of the current political debate hinges on fights about individual liberty and the size and scope of government, this makes sense.
Set aside religion and consider this: If our fundamental rights are merely granted by the state, then they can be taken away by the state. What is more, the state would have no moral compunction not to rob us of our rights. The state is not particularly moral or special or better than people. The state is people. If they don’t have some larger, higher moral code that guides them, then assumptions about what constitutes the “good” are, at least to some degree, arbitrary. Absent an immutable standard, why wouldn’t the law of the jungle rule? In nature, predators prey on the weak. Can we honestly convince ourselves that people are better than that? Some are, sure. But many are not.
Without an absolute law that transcends the whims of man, the very concept of “rights” metastasizes into a definition having more to do with the current and often capricious preference of the majority. Oppressed minorities have long found comfort (and, in fact, seized the moral high ground) by pointing out that there is a greater law, a universal sense of right and wrong, that transcends the will of the majority.