Bruce Ramsey , one of the members of the editorial board of the Seattle Times, has been kind enough to respond, today, to an article I wrote, critical of an editorial he wrote, back in May of last year. (You can read his comment here.)
Mr. Ramsey and I disagree over what may seem to some a nit-picking, technical issue, that is, whether or not property “rights” are a “social construct.” Bruce protests that they are, that his opinion is a “FACT” (worthy of all capital letters) and that he is not against property rights, but a defender of them. This issue is important enough, though, that I wanted to redirect my point. Bruce, you may not be against property rights, but your idea, here, denies they exist in the sense that the founders meant them.
“social construct: a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is `constructed’ through cultural or social practice” – Webster’s Dictionary
What is at issue, at the bottom of the debate about all human rights, is really the foundation of right and wrong – morality. This debate underlies property rights, the right to life and every aspect of the great worldwide struggle between freedom and totalitarianism (Fascist, Communist, Islamic and Environmentalist) that defined Twentieth Century politics and continues to dominate the Twenty-first.
When the Founders of our Nation committed their lives and everything they had to the ideals represented by the Declaration of Independence, they believed they were more than “good ideas” they had invented and hoped would fly, like a business concept (printing your own postage, at home, for instance, or Hillary or Romney Care). It was more than an economic or political experiment. They believed they were risking their lives and fortunes for some of what is called, in the Chronicles of Narnia allegory, the “Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time.” They believed in spiritual realities that exist independent of the volition or creation of men:
A “social construct” is created by men, in society, by use or custom. It may be changed. It may be a good or great idea; it may be beloved of a culture, it may represent something noble, or, like the Hindu caste system, the right to kill ones own children, or slavery, it could be a measure of their darkest vice, but it is by no means “unalienable.” Unalienable rights exist beyond the ability of men to create or change. And they cannot die by man. If God does not exist, then unalienable rights cannot exist.
If “rights” are created by man, they may be abrogated by men: such is a “social construct.”
At the root of the atheist tyranny that murdered more than a hundred million innocent victims in the 20th century,
in the Soviet Gulags,
in Mao’s cultural revolution,
in the killing fields of Southeast Asia,
the underlying assumption ~ was that laws are the “social constructs” of man, that he may wipe out all thought that has preceeded him in history and begin with a clean slate, that the earth is man‘s, collectively, to do with as he wishes, at the whim of his utopian fantasies or by his obsessive lust to conquest.
What society can construct it can de-construct.
At the root of the freest societies of the ancient and modern worlds, respectively, Israel and America, was the opposite notion, that there are laws of good and evil, higher than man, unchangeable by man, laws to which he may aspire, but of which cannot pretend to have been an author.