Where fraternity exists to support the official structure of a government, it can command assent with no fear of being called despotic or prejudiced in behalf of one component of the society it represents.
Bradford on Jaffa
A recent very unfruitful debate at OneCosmosBlogspot has been enormously educative. I won't detail any more, it wasn't really much fun; suffice it to say that I am an agnostic when it comes to "human rights". After the debacle of this attempted exercise in mutual understanding, I became aware of several facts. For one thing, I am not the greatest or most impassioned debater in the world; others are certainly "better" at it than I am. However, I tend to know when people are flying off the handle, and when I do, this tells me that I drew a little blood.
So I did some very long thinking on why it is that I reject (ultimately) John Locke's account of "human rights", although Bradford points out that Locke actually helped write South Carolina's constitution. In a nutshell, this is it, the following -
John Locke (or his apologist, Van) thinks that "states have powers, human beings have rights". States have "unreserved" or delegated powers, and individuals have "negative rights" - that is, the right to not have this or that done to one, at least without due process of law (which presumably would act against one only if one has violated someone else's rights). The inevitable confusions are sorted out with Reason (Van is eager not to associate himself with JS Mill, who ultimately uses the pragmatic test of "one atom" versus "another" to determine whose rights have precedence).
On the contrary, I assert (based on what I have experienced in reality and reflection upon it) that this is merely a beginning point. That is, States possess limited powers, but over time, tend to progress to hold "rights", or attain an essence; call this the "Heavenly Serbia" theory, if you like. Likewise, individuals in a state of nature are disorganized and "equal"; however, over time (with any luck) they are supposed to acquire "powers". In a healthy social fabric, both these tendencies will occur.
You will note that the "Left" is actually a parody of what I have just described - they attempt to "empower individuals" and construct more "efficient and sustainable governments". Lacking the classically liberal starting point (the "spirit of the law"), they cannot possibly attain this.
However, neither can the Tea Party-er do much more. They begin quite well; they wish to mirror a "state of nature" with their government, appealing to unalienable rights, government of laws vs. that of men, principled action, etc. All the usual rhetoric. Governments, however, are subject to both crisis and the Fates or dooms.
It's as if the Lockean cannot see that any other persons exist besides biological-empirical entities, which are "mostly the same". "Human beings have a right not to be tortured". What will they do when genetic experimentation becomes rather common? And what is torture? I can imagine any number of scenarios in which the violation of property (even by the "Law") would be not only "right" but "loving".
But that is a side-issue. The main point is that Locke never allows for either adaptation or development (except incidentally, which is ironic, given their emphasis on principle). It's as if they think government is largely a matter of business law. Of national emergencies and the power of the political to act on behalf of the interests of the state, or of slow steady spiritual evolution towards a permanent form (united Europe in the Dark Ages) they know little or nothing.
What does the rhetoric of "rights" add to what we know or can make of the individual? Christian charity, loving the neighbor as self, is a much "higher law". Could not a concrete Magna Carta guarantee as much as our eternal "Declaration" has done?
Individuals are equal only in basic sense, a starting point. In this aspect only, are they equal. Actually, in any other sense, justice will require them to be nothing more than unequal in the eyes of the law. What of the unborn, the genetically mangled, the insane? We assert that justice towards these beings is not determined by property rights, but by Love.
Such can always be abused, as can Love. Which is why it makes no sense to try to circumvent this by impassioned rhetoric. All governments engage in this. Why sully Love with the burden of propaganda? A bill of rights can be circumvented just as easily, perhaps more so, than a Magna Carta.
The goal of man is to progress from divided Time and united Space towards united Time, and divided Space. This is freedom. The state of nature is to have chaotic and isolated chronologies, along with massive "Empires" or "milieus". This is only a starting point. Man must evolve towards separate mansions and a common language, so that we can better Love one another.
This means that the individuum must conquer himself and attain real power, and that the States which nurture and are formed by such men must attain the status of being "heavenly Serbias", shields of the earth, concrete progressions and traditions sustained through time as truly conservative and conserved entities.
This is Freedom.
(to be continued...)