Support Individual Rights, Not

By John David Lewis, Ph. D

Amid the political bickering in Washington today, one sure-fire way to condemn any proposal is to call it a plan for “bigger” government. Barack Obama is a “big government” president, chant many Republicans, who then whitewash the unprecedented growth in spending for social programs under George W. Bush. But this tactic is not limited to Republicans; in 1996 even President Clinton said that “the era of big government is over,” as he tried to assume the mantle of a “smaller government” leader.

Such political posturing flies in the face of the enormous growth of government spending—and interference in the lives of American citizens —that both parties have supported for a century. Neither political party has a right to claim that it has defended America’s founding vision of a limited government, or has opposed the juggernaut of increased spending in any principled way.

If we are to regain the vision of limited government upheld by the American Founders—and to challenge the growth of the welfare state today—we need a principled understanding of what a proper government should be. The distinction between "big" and "small" government is of little help. There are some things that a proper government must do in a "big" way, such as defend Americans from military attack, uphold property rights and protect every citizen’s freedom of speech, but other things that a government should not do at all, because no amount is too "little."

To take one example: Any law that told Americans what church they may belong to, or any government program that punished Americans for belonging to a particular church, would be thoroughly wrong on principle, regardless of the size of that program or the scope of the law. To argue for or against such a proposal because of its size implies that such a law would be acceptable, if it could be done at a lower cost.

Such an argument would subvert the entire principle of freedom of religion and would plant the seeds for unlimited control of religion by the government. That is why the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law..." in this regard; it does not say that some laws are OK.

But this is how our elected officials approach such issues today. From business regulations to socialized medicine; from environmental taxes on factories to government-imposed school curricula; from zoning requirements for homes to federal audits, politicians and pundits alike argue today almost exclusively in terms of the amount of economic consequences, not on the principle of individual rights. Almost no one today questions whether the government should have any authority at all in such issues.

This is why, despite the rancorous arguments coming out of Washington, every compromise increases the force levied against American citizens and brings new attacks on their freedom. The government has become an enormous instrument of power unleashed against its own citizens. While the two parties argue about the degree of force they are unleashing, the overall trend toward national bankruptcy, and a full-blown dictatorship, continues unopposed.

The principle needed to reverse this anti-freedom trend is not one of "big" vs. "small" government. The principle needed is Individual Rights—the only guide to what constitutes a proper government and the only means to understand whether any particular law is proper.

The American Declaration of Independence elevated Individual Rights into the central defining principle of American government. By defining these inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the defense of every American’s freedom to think, to act and to prosper became the very purpose of the American government. "To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men" was how the Founders saw the issue.

These rights did not guarantee any person the goods produced by another—they rather set every individual free of such redistribution. Such rights guaranteed that each person was free to pursue his own life and his own happiness. He could not demand that others provide him with food, clothing, shelter, medical care or any other need. To protect his freedom to act was the only job of the government.

Individual rights was the principle by which government powers were defined in the American Constitution. Each branch of government was limited to specific powers—and each branch was to be checked and balanced by the other branches—in order to allow the government to act as a defender of rights. Meanwhile, each branch was prevented from assuming powers not granted to it. When Americans of later generations confronted some of the errors in the original founding documents—such as slavery and women’s suffrage—they called on the principle of rights to guide them toward freedom for all.

A reader searches in vain for any passage in the Constitution that allows the government to redistribute the property of its citizens, as has become the norm in today’s welfare state. On the contrary, Individual Rights allow us to understand that such redistributions are deeply contrary to America’s founding ideals and deeply destructive of American life.

Given this understanding of which powers properly belong to the American government, and which are entirely off limits, we may now consider specific proposals in a principled way. Rather than weighing estimates of cost, trying to buy off one party at the expense of another, and basing criticisms in terms of "big" or "small" government, we may ask: Does a proposal protect the liberty of individual Americans, or does it attack that liberty?

What of nationalized health care? All such proposals in one form or another empower the federal government to redistribute the efforts and the wealth of some Americans in service to others. The Constitution provides no basis for any such powers—not to any degree or in any amount. There is no "right" amount of such powers, and no basis for opposing one bill because it is "big" while accepting another because it is "small." To accept any amount of such coercion will create a precedent that can only grow in scope over time.

So it is with economic regulations, from antitrust laws to the income tax. When originally proposed, all such measures were far smaller than those looming over us today, and no proposal of today’s size would have passed. But, by accepting a "small" amount of such coercion, the foothold was created for today’s massive government programs, which have grown without limit because no principle of liberty stands against them.

The same holds for matters of intellectual freedom—such as the rights to free speech, the press, and to religion. Any attempt by the government to regulate these matters, even in a "small" way, will necessarily grow until every area of life is subject to the dictates of our officials.

Now we may return to President Clinton’s full statement about "big government," and understand what a deep betrayal of individual rights it was: "The era of big government is over, but we can’t go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves."

But to fend for oneself—through independent thought, production, and trade with others, under the rule of law—is exactly the meaning of Individual Rights. If American citizens are not free to act for the achievement of their own prosperity and happiness—including the right to help others voluntarily, should both parties wish, and including the right to fail if they make a mistake—then there will be no limits to what government officials may do, should they think that some citizen somewhere is in need.

If this freedom is not defended everywhere, then the power of such a government, and its violations of the rights of its citizens, will necessarily grow. Such a government will create huge bureaucracies to enforce its dictates, simultaneously abdicating its responsibilities to protect its citizens’ rights. As it expands its improper functions, so its defense of individual rights will wither and die.

To challenge this unmistakable trend, Americans need to stop arguing about the size of government programs, and to ask whether these programs are proper in any size. "Big" and "small" will not help us to distinguish between right and wrong. To do that, we must understand the principle of Individual Rights—and we must defend it against all opponents, of any size.


Return to the April 2010 Index of Fusion

'Lord, we are SORRY it has taken us this long': BlazeTV hosts react to historic Roe v. Wade decision

Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Supreme Court of the United States officially overturned Roe V. Wade, and the debate over abortion rights has been given back to the states. On this historic day, BlazeTV hosts celebrate the Supreme Court's incredible decision and take a look at some of the insane reactions as the left comes completely undone.

Jason Whitlock: Today will forever stand as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history

The Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision and the reaction to it have already revealed a lot about our people and politics. Pro-life groups celebrate, pro-choice groups call for “a night of rage,” and Nancy Pelosi just seems completely confused by the United States Constitution.

Glenn Beck reacts LIVE to Roe v. Wade ruling: 'Lord, we are SORRY it has taken us this long'

I never thought that in my lifetime, I would see Roe v. Wade be overturned. But today, that day has come. The Supreme Court has voted 6 to 3 to return decisions about abortion to the states. But this fight isn't over. We are about to see good versus evil side by side. Many states will stand with the unborn. But others will become abortion mills. It's your turn to choose now, America!

Allie Beth Stuckey: 'Praise God, Roe v. Wade is overturned!'

I don't know about you, but I just had the most euphoric feelings. It almost seems too good to be true. I didn't think there was any way that this would actually happen, especially with all the backlash, intimidation, and violence toward the Supreme Court justices. And yet, here we are. Roe v. Wade has been overturned. This is an amazing day!

Dave Rubin: Big disagreement on what happens next now that Roe v. Wade is overturned

Dave Rubin, Libby Emmons, Jeffrey A. Tucker, and David Reaboi debate what will happen in the wake of the Supreme Court’s breaking decision on Roe v. Wade. Now that abortion rights have been pushed back to the states, will there be a summer of massive riots or not? Will the Roe v. Wade ruling make America’s political polarization significantly worse?

Stu Burguiere: Here are the reasons SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade

I never thought this would happen. I never thought I would see this day. I just never ever ever ever never ever believed that Roe v. Wade would actually be overturned. I really didn't. But let's take a look at the reasons this day has finally come ...

The Rick & Bubba Show: 'This is history! Unfortunately we're 60 million lives too late'

We were live on the air when news broke of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned its controversial 1973 Roe v. Wadeopinion, concluding that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," the syllabus of the decision reads.

As expected, the leftist outrage erupted instantaneously, fueled largely by the misinformed idea that overturning Roe v. Wade means abortion will be banned nationwide. But, as stated in the above-mentioned Supreme Court syllabus, the authority has actually been returned to individual states and their duly elected lawmakers.

One such misinformed leftist, Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky, was infuriated that those awful Supreme Court justices "just voted to kill women." So he took to Twitter to urge people to go to the homes of said Supreme Court justices to "let them know how you feel."

"Go to the home of every Supreme Court justice who just voted to kill women. Let them know how you feel," Kasky tweeted.

The backlash was immediate:

Kasky decided to delete his original tweet because he is apparently "sick of republicans talking to [him]." But, unfortunately for Kasky, the internet is indeed forever:

Speaking from the White House, President Joe Biden dutifully helped spread the misinformation about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and took the opportunity to prompt voters to elect more Democrats in November so that Congress can write abortion protections into law. Did the president just let slip the real reason Congress hasn't made any effort to start writing such laws in the nearly two months since Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion was "leaked" in early May?

Watch Glenn Beck and producer Stu Burguere discuss how Biden's speech reveals that Democrats are absolutely terrified of the upcoming midterm elections. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

CNN reporter tries to 'ambush' GOP candidate Kari Lake, IMMEDIATELY regrets it

Image source: (left) Video screenshot/ (Right) Mario Tama/Getty Images

CNN senior national reporter Kyung Lah thought she'd caught Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake off guard when she asked for an impromptu interview outside an event, but ended up sorely regretting her decision.

Lake, a former Fox news anchor, shook hands with Lah as she approached and immediately pointed out that the CNN reporter wasn't wearing a mask any more, a barbed reference to a contentious interview in October 2021, in which Lah smeared the GOP candidate as a “rising star of the right-wing and proud spreader of lies." Lah asked if Lake had “a minute to chat.”

“I’ll do an interview," Lake answered, "as long as it airs on CNN+. Does that still exist? I didn’t think so, because the people don’t like what you guys are peddling, which is propaganda. Thank you.”

Lake then walked into the event, leaving Lah utterly speechless.

It looks like Lake gained quite a few fans on Twitter:

Kari Lake has been a longtime friend to "The Glenn Beck Program." She joined Glenn last August to tell Glenn why she left the corrupt world of media, what prompted her to enter "the even more corrupt world of politics," and how she plans to make a big difference in her battleground state of Arizona.

Watch the video clip below to catch the conversation. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

Hunter's Biden's latest BIZARRE scandal reveals how red-flag laws REALLY work

Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Even if red-flag laws weren't unconstitutional (which they are), they've never been about your safety. They're about your submission, argued Glenn Beck on the radio program. Think of it this way: If red flag laws became the law of the land, do you think President Joe Biden’s son Hunter would lose his guns or face charges for violating the gun laws we already have?

You may have heard that he once "lost" a gun in a dumpster by a school. But there's a whole lot more to the bizarre tale. Newly revealed texts from Hunter's abandoned laptop detail the strange drama that unfolded when Hallie Biden, Hunter's sister-in-law-turned-lover, threw his handgun into a dumpster near a Delaware school in October 2018. The gun was found and turned in to police, but like so many of the Biden family scandals, the chaos created a sandstorm that conveniently helped cover Hunter's tracks. Only tidbits of information have emerged, the most significant of which is that the gun in question was purchased by Hunter illegally and, of course, no charges were filed as a result.

Glenn broke down the details of the most recently revealed Hunter Biden scandal, noting in particular that no charges or arrests were ever made as a result.

"If you voted for Joe Biden and you believe in all of these red-flag laws, then why isn't Hunter Biden in jail today?" Glenn asked.

"You and I both know that the ramifications of Hunter Biden's activities and his tragic saga go well beyond Hunter Biden, because they are teaching people a lesson. We are moving towards a society that has a ruling class that lives above their own edicts. They tell us they know better. They tell us that our neighbors and even some of us are dangerous, while ignoring the dangers in their own lives or in their own families ... We saw it during COVID-19 and we will see it again with gun regulations, 'The rules are for thee and not for me.' This is why Americans cannot give an inch, not one inch of our liberty away on the grounds of the government's good faith. They have no good faith left. They have violated every single principle of liberty and they've done it in a name of they know better," he said.

"Don't be fooled," Glenn added. "Just as we saw during COVID-19, just as we saw with the Patriot Act that is now being horribly abused by the people in power that swore they'd never abuse it, red-flags are not about your safety. Period. They are about your submission."

Watch the video clip below to catch the conversation. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.