What are laws? Laws are rules that are based on the values of the rulers in a society.
What is a society? A society is a group of more than one person that is bound by the Principles of Society, including: Order, Autonomy, Reciprocity, and Sacrifice.
Just as the Principles of Society are universal laws that govern society, there are Natural Laws that govern individuals. These natural laws include the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. When a social unit is formed, these natural rights between each member of the society are bound together by the principle of Sacrifice. In other words, there must be some sacrifice related to each of these natural rights. This is not a sacrifice of these rights, which we are unable to sacrifice, but the sacrifice we make in society is to accept the duty that is now necessary to preserve the rights of all other members of that society. We sacrifice previous duties and prerogatives for increased duties and unity. The creation of society is the expansion of duty. That duty is not to provide for the outcomes we may desire from these rights, but to protect these rights from violation by others.
Our rights were granted from God, but we are more stewards than owners of these rights. This concept becomes clearer if we look at Christ’s parable of the talents, while considering the talents to be a symbol of our liberty, or our ability to use the rights we were given. Because there was a reckoning and each man was held responsible for his use of the talents he was given, it is implied that each man also had the authority to use those talents. This authority represents our rights. So, authority to use the talents represents our rights and the talents themselves represent the liberty we have to exercise those rights.
These rights are individual rights. Although he showed more responsibility and wisdom in fulfilling his duty, the man with five talents was not held accountable for the actions of the man with one talent. Nor was the man with five talents given the right to take that talent from the slothful servant and put it to better use—only the lord had the authority to make that transfer. Neither wisdom nor ability changed the individual rights each man was given while the lord was away.
Because we are stewards and not owners, we do not have the ability to give up our rights. We may work together, as those with talents may have found it advantageous to invest together, but we cannot take rights from another or entirely give up our rights. Had the man with one talent given it away, he would still be responsible for the talent and may have been required to go retrieve it. If he left it in the open for others to take, he would still be responsible for it. If he attempted to select an agent to invest the talent, he would be responsible for the agent he selected. He would also be responsible for selecting another agent, if the first had poor results. The rights we have are unalienable—meaning they cannot be taken away or transferred to another, except by the one that gave us these rights: God. This brings us to the aspect of duty.
Having been given the sole right to act, we have also accepted the duty to act as well. There is no right given without a duty attached. Our natural rights include a duty to preserve and increase our liberty. At best, the man with one talent only preserved that talent, but he did not increase it. As such, he may have fulfilled his duty to preserve, but neglected his duty to increase. This increase of liberty can only happen in society—not by rejecting, but by fulfilling duty. Although we possess liberty in nature, the security of that liberty is uncertain and under constant threat. Joining with a society not only increases our ability to produce, but also improves our ability to secure our rights.
Liberty is expanded to the degree that a society provides the legitimate functions of government (securing liberty), with the least possible cost (of life, liberty, or property) to its citizens. A failure to fulfill duty is a failure to preserve or increase liberty. This also follows the parable of the talents. The man that was given one talent did not fulfill his duty with that talent. No one else had a right to do so. Only the man that was given the talent could fulfill that duty and he was given time to fulfill it. When the lord returned to find that the servant failed in his duty, the talent was taken away from him and, with it, the authority to act.
The individual right to life includes the authority to exact justice when someone violates that right. In a state of nature (before entering into society), the individual is the judge of these violations of right and the punisher of the offender. When an individual’s rights are violated, he may solicit the help of all others, who are willing to help (thereby increasing his ability to act), in order to bring the offender to justice. This authority of each individual to judge and punish is sacrificed when the individual enters society and a common judge is selected. However, in securing a common judge, we also adopt the duty to support that judge in maintaining our rights. In the state of nature, our right to life also includes defense against those who are violating, or attempting to violate, our rights. We also have the right to act in defending the rights of others, in defense of the law of nature. In a society, the defense of the rights of others becomes our duty, rather than our prerogative. Our sacrifice enables the principle of Order to unite the society in the preservation of life and the common protection against offense.
In the state of nature, we also have the liberty of making our own rules to live by, as long as they do not violate the rights of others. When we enter into society, we maintain the liberty to affect the rules by our vote, but we also accept the duty to be bound by the rules established by the majority. This sacrifice relates to the principle of Autonomy, which allows for united actions, while preserving individual liberty.
Finally, we naturally possess the right to private ownership of property, through the labor we put into those things that were once the common product of the earth. We can use (or dispose of) our property however we may choose and no one can rightfully take that property from us, when we have not violated the rights of another person. However, if a society is to function, it requires resources for both protection and enforcement of the laws. Therefore, it is each individual’s duty to provide a portion of work for the functioning of society. The principle of Reciprocity relates to the sacrifice of some property in order to secure the right to property, as well as life and liberty.
There is not a society that is not bound by some form of government, whether formal or informal. The Principles of Society, when rightly understood, should guide us to form a just government, or a government that protects natural rights, rather than violates them. Unfortunately, when individual rights to life, liberty, and property are rejected—and society is viewed as a collective—, the gate is wide open for tyranny.
A tyrant (which I mean to include any group of tyrannical rulers) makes use of Order, Autonomy, Reciprocity, and Sacrifice, but the body of the people is viewed as if an extension of the tyrant’s body and property. The tyrant defines what kind of order will fall on the people. The tyrant is autonomous in his decisions to enact laws and the industry (reciprocity) of the people serves the designs of the tyrant. As such, the tyrant determines the sacrifices that will be made.
If it is our duty to expand our rights, and if our rights can only be expanded in a society, then it is our duty to unite in society with others. However, this does not suggest that we are bound to unite with a particular society. When uniting with a particular society would lead to a loss of rights, it cannot be assumed that duty would require us to unite with it. Instead, our duty would be to form, or unite with, a different society. If no society existed that would not violate our rights, and if we were unable to effect a change in any of those societies, we may rightly keep ourselves separate from society. As long as we are united with a society, it remains our duty to seek the preservation of the rights of all those in that society.