What I’d like to do today is cover a bit of history — not ancient history, not even as distant as the American Revolution. This lesson goes back just 81 years to the days before World War II and an address that FDR delivered to the 77th Congress.
In the speech he envisioned “a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He named them:
- “Freedom of speech and expression”
- “Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way”
- “Freedom from want”
- “Freedom from fear”
Notice how cleverly FDR used the First Amendment as covering fire for entitlements — not merely for America but, as he said repeatedly, “for the world.” Earlier in the address he’d invoked Franklin — “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” — but in outlining “essential human freedoms” he turned his back on that timeless principle.
While his first two “freedoms” are birthrights protected by our Constitution, the third and fourth are human aspirations. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to be free from want and fear, but they’re not by any stretch human rights.
Big-government globalist that he was, and aided by America’s entry into “The Good War” 11 months later, FDR used the speech to bolster The Entitlement State. With an assist from Norman Rockwell, who in 1943 created a wartime propaganda poster based on the “freedoms,” he also helped to corrupt Americans’ understanding of the Constitution.
Is it any wonder, then, that today’s progressives often point to FDR’s “Four Freedoms Speech” as the birth of modern liberalism?
Nothing in this 1941 speech was out of character for the 32nd President. In an address to Congress three years later he suggested that the Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness” and that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” He proposed “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established.”
Whatever else FDR may have been, whatever else he may have accomplished as President, there’s no denying that he skillfully and systematically perverted The American Ideal.
The United States of America is a constitutional republic with democratic electoral and representative features. The Constitution of the United States defines the mechanism and bounds of government. The Bill of Rights, with equal force of law, enumerates individual rights and further limits the role of government.
The Declaration of Independence generally isn’t considered a legal document. It’s an expression from which Founding Principles are derived.
You and I, as American citizens, benefit from enumerated rights contained in the first eight amendments. The Ninth Amendment provides protection from the federal government infringing on rights not named in the first eight, so-called “unenumerated rights” which belong to the People.
We can infer that among our unenumerated rights are things like voting, travel and (consistent with the Fourth Amendment) personal privacy. The neo-liberal mindset, however, turns the Ninth Amendment into a blank check. In short, progressives make shit up.
Everything is a penumbra. Anything unenumerated, given favorable political winds, can be a constitutional right.
That’s what FDR did. That’s what perpetuates The Entitlement State.
Worst of all, this ideological poison presumes to infringe on enumerated rights while creating rights that don’t exist and can’t be supported by a rational reading of the Constitution. Because of that, some say we’re living in a “post-Constitution America.”
I can’t argue with that. But if we actually read the Constitution we can easily differentiate protected rights from invented rights (decisions by activist judges notwithstanding).
Under federal law (and that’s what we’re talking about here) we have no right to safety — no right to be safe or even to feel safe. We have no constitutional right to government protection.
We have no right to prosperity. We have no constitutional right to guaranteed income, a minimum wage or a steady job.
We have no federal constitutional right to marry, regardless of gender, no right to have or perform an abortion, no right to health insurance. Immigrants have no right to expect an easy “path to citizenship.”
And there’s no right to be free from religion.
Some of you think that all those things (and more) are federal constitutional rights, or that they should be. Sorry to kill your dream here, but they’re not.
I suppose this is the point at which I have to say that government doesn’t create rights. It doesn’t grant rights. There are natural rights every citizen is born with, a number of which are protected by the Constitution, and government has no authority to nullify them.
Government does, of course, have the power to make it difficult for us to exercise our birthrights, even those enumerated in and protected by the Constitution. That’s our fault. We can’t escape our role in allowing the federal government to grow well beyond what the Founders could’ve imagined.
As provided by the Tenth Amendment, “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That’s the bedrock of federalism, and in practical terms it means that when the Constitution is silent on a matter of individual rights, the People of each state have the authority to govern themselves.
Sometimes federalism is abused (like unconstitutional “gun control”) and sometimes it takes decades to work the way it should (like SCOTUS recently overturning Roe and Casey). But that’s the system under which we operate.
For America to survive and thrive it’s crucial that citizens understand how that system works. Knowledge keeps government properly small, helps us resist efforts by the likes of FDR (and pretty much every progressive since) to distort the citizen-State relationship, and cultivates healthy skepticism that prevents government overreach — like basing immigration policy on a poem instead of abiding by the Constitution.
Ultimately this country is made up of individuals, each of whom possesses natural rights and has the ability to exercise free will. Our government was established “to secure these rights,” our “inalienable rights,” and it’s subject to “the consent of the governed.”
And so we assert our rights as sovereign individuals, holding our government to account, aware that with the benefits of essential Liberty can come the consequences of Law. Wishing for another way doesn’t make it so.
One year ago today, we hung out at the campground and noticed things.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.