The United States was founded on the idea that there is a thing called natural law. This tradition goes back to the ancient Jews. The founders called it God’s law. It means we have certain basic rights that are not given to us by any government or document or ruler, but by God — or nature or the universe or whatever you want to call it. Simply put, these rights are life, liberty, and property.
The founders also believed in a limited representative government. In other words, the government should do as little as possible and leave the people as much freedom as could be managed. Also, the people should choose their own government.
Small government by definition has a small scope. It isn’t there to do everything for us, just the basic things we expect governments to do, like build and maintain roads, and raise an army to fight wars if another nation wants to tangle.
Because the basic rights of every human are life, liberty, and property, a government should protect these rights for its citizens. There has been and probably will long be a lot of argument about how far beyond these three a government should go, but most agree our government should have laws saying you can’t murder, enslave, or steal. We fought a Civil War about the meaning of the word “liberty,” and who it applied to, in which hundreds of thousands of men died.
First on the list is life. Whether or not the government should be responsible for funding art exhibits or space exploration is hotly debated, but no one can deny life is first on the list. It is the single most basic human right, so if a government can’t or won’t protect it, what good is the government? Which is to say, what good are we? Our government, after all, is representative of us.
Today we have laws about how much water our toilets can hold, but we do not have a law protecting the unborn human being from being killed for any reason at all.
I need a license to kill a deer or a fish. But I can go into an abortion clinic and pay someone to perform a procedure that will stop the beating of my child’s heart. I can do it because I wanted a boy and the baby is a girl, or because I want to focus on my career for a while, or because I feel pressured by my boyfriend. I don’t have to give a reason.
If you think the government should be responsible for making sure our toilets don’t use too much water, that’s fine, but shouldn’t we take, as the saying goes, “first things first?” If the Sierra Club kicks up enough of a ruckus, we can get judges to halt highway construction to avoid displacing a nest of endangered owls. But we cannot get a court to stop the legal killing of over a million unborn human beings every year.
The government gives grants to artists who submerge crucifixes in urine, loans money to businesses so they can avoid bankruptcy, and spends millions of dollars protecting endangered animals they aren’t even sure exist. That’s right, in 2007 we spent all or part of a proposed $27 million searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, based on two possible sightings.
We protect — or try to protect — trees, animals, industry, and the feelings of various interest groups. Is all this the government’s responsibility? That’s up for debate, apparently. What isn’t up for debate is that ensuring the right to life of its citizens is the government’s responsibility. And by “the government,” I mean us. The government belongs to us, and it’s our right and responsibility to make sure it carries out the will of the people.
Is the government carrying out the will of the people?
And if so, why do we protect everything but life?