This blog addresses several points about rights and politics:
1) Laws always reflect the values of the rulers in any society.
2) Values are interconnected with morals, or judgments about what is right and wrong.
3) Beliefs about the origin of humankind largely determine the morals and values that follow.
Laws Always Reflect the Values of the Rulers
Every society is bound by four principles, or universal laws: Order, Industry, Autonomy, and Sacrifice. Within a society, we may choose how we will live those principles, but we cannot remove any of these principles and still be considered a society. A value is a decision about how to live a principle.
The principle of Order includes how we choose to be governed in a society. Whether we establish a monarchy, a democracy, a republic, or another form of government is determined by the values of the rulers in our society. If the people rule it is likely to become a democracy or a republic. If a certain class of people rules, it is likely to be some other form of government.
Morals and Values are Interconnected
If a value is how we live a principle, then a moral is why we chose that value. In other words, our values are based on our determinations of what is right and wrong. Our determinations of what is right and wrong come from our beliefs about purpose (of a thing, person, life, institution, situation, etc.). Beliefs about purpose start with beliefs about intention: Why something was created.
To illustrate this point with material things, consider a man who finds a guitar in his attic. If he believes that the guitar was created for the purpose of creating music, he may then ask himself how well it fulfills that purpose. Finding the neck of the guitar damaged beyond repair, he does not value this guitar, because the guitar does not fulfill its purpose (moral: a guitar that does not play music is not right). As such, he throws the guitar in the trash. If this same man held the belief that this guitar was built by his grandfather (a famous luthier) for the purpose of practicing a new technique, he may value this guitar as irreplaceable (moral: throwing away a historical guitar is wrong).
Beliefs about Origins of Mankind Determine Morals and Values
Just as the purpose and value of a thing are measured by our beliefs about their creation, our beliefs about the origin of mankind affects our morals and values regarding other people. Our different values are, again, illustrated in the differences between the philosophy of Rousseau and the philosophy of Locke:
Rousseau’s writings quoted scripture, but ignored the biblical creation in favor of a theory that mankind developed from the state of “savages.” All of his conclusions about natural rights flowed from this assumption.
On the other hand, Locke, who greatly influenced the Founding Fathers actually applied biblical teachings, including the creation, to claim the natural rights of life, liberty, and property.
Rousseau’s theory followed (actually pre-empted) Darwin’s ideas of evolution and “survival of the fittest,” as mankind evolved from a state of basic hunting and gathering to build societies. Evolution could never produce equality in society. If evolution produced equality, we would have had it a long time ago. Yet, it is hard to identify any time in human history when it has really existed.
If we are to assume an evolutionary perspective, that would assume that rights have changed over time. In other words, we were not always equal. If we were not always equal, then which group was dominant? If one group was dominant, did this justify the claims that have been made by despots throughout history? If this was the case in history, how do we know we are all equal now? There is no evidence that we are all equal in our rights, if we followed an evolutionary development along separate races and nations, for some have dominated others throughout history. All that has changed is which group was the “fittest.” The assumption of a Darwinian model assumes inequality. Are a bear and a fish equal in their rights? A bear takes the life of a fish for its food on a daily basis. What law of nature or evolution denies the bear of this right? In nature, the stronger, more adaptable lifeform survives. If our rights are based on nature, the weaker and less adapted creatures should not possess any rights for protection against the more “fit.” This has been the dehumanizing argument against numerous groups of people during the last century alone.
On the other hand, the biblical account of the origins of mankind demonstrates an agrarian society in which the earth was cultivated, animals were raised, and property was divided (as also discussed by Locke). This is evidenced within one generation, in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). If we follow this belief, as Locke and the Founding Fathers did, we must see pre-agrarian societies (described by Rousseau) as an abandonment of cultivation and a regression of that society from its previous capabilities.
Equality of opportunity is also demonstrated in this story (as are the rights to life, liberty, and property). We are not told in Genesis why the Lord did not have “respect” for Cain’s offering, but that he had the same opportunity is illustrated by the statement of the Lord to Cain that: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7). It was Cain’s choices that led to being rejected by God. He had as much liberty to choose as Abel had. He also had the right to do with his property as he wished to do. Where he really crossed the line was in taking the life of Abel. Both had equal opportunity. Both had equal rights provided by God, until Cain violated Abel’s right to life. God established that both were able to choose how to use their property, as long as they observed the same rights of each other.
Our entire claim to these rights of life, liberty, and property is based on observations made by Locke from the teachings of the bible. It is only by our common births as children of Adam and Eve, created by the same God that provided for our creation, that we are equal. Without the assumption of a Creator, equality cannot exist.
As such, we have further evidence that equal rights can only come from God.