“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…”
Here is the most basic tenet of Conservatism, the source of rights. The source of man’s rights is God.
The Founding Fathers knew that inherent in the composition of every man, woman, and child is a spark of the divine. That spark is God’s endowment of self determination and free will and it is only present in the individual. Governments are created for the purpose of preserving and defending this spark, this right, of self determination. Anything beyond that is, at best, a distraction, at worst a betrayal.
It is popular in modern political and legal circles to say that legislation gives a person a right or privilege to act in a certain way. In reality, flow of power moves in the exact opposite direction.
This is significant: If rights only exist because a government has granted them, what is to prevent that government from taking them away? What if dictatorship is benevolent or equality gauranteed? Does that justify the denial of freedom? If government is the granter of rights, then the natural question is why should the average citizen have any say over its function. Certainly the natural aristocracy of Jefferson’s later life should rule the ignorant masses for their own benefit.
All of democracy decries this notion. Government’s authority is derived from the people it governs. It is the people in whom all divine authority resides. These people then delegate some of their authority (as opposed to relinquishing it), to representatives, who, in turn, exercise that authority in governing the affairs of the people.
This was the “great experiment” of the founding of the United States. Can a people govern themselves? The world watched in rapt anticipation with Kings and despots doubting.
History is filled with examples of the effects of the loss of freedom. Even the marginal decrease in freedom required for a more “secure” economic equality proves the rule. (I’ll leave the challenge to you to find a single exception to that rule.)
Here then is the balance government must strike: Preservation of a common framework that is secure enough to protect individual freedom while still being subject to that freedom. For this critical balance humanity delegates its authority to governments.
The exercise of rights inherent in every individual may be denied, it is true, but the right can never be separated from the individual. The result of such a denial, however is, at minimum, retarding, and at maximum, devastating. Anyone who was in Eastern Europe in the years following the collapse of Communism can attest to the toll Communism took on the human soul (more on this later).
Most American’s hold this notion true, that God is the source of our rights and we are all created equal (in those rights), and the denial of those rights is detrimental. The difference with Conservatives is that we adhere to the principle. We expect our government to adhere to the principle as well. The principle is eternal, and no matter how much we deny its truth, we can not alter it.