Keyes on the 9th Amendment

The 9th Amendment is my favorite provision in the Constitution because it establishes the idea that the scope of individual rights is essentially limitless (which is not the same thing as saying that there can be no limit on those rights, only that it is impossible to make a list of all the rights a person has or should have). Alan Keyes pretends to like it too, but he doesn’t really:

Thus, as a logical consequence of the principles of the Declaration, every valid claim of right is associated with the freedom to exercise the right. But in light of those same principles, not every exercise of freedom entails a valid claim of right. This is the essential point forgotten or willfully rejected by many so-called libertarians these days. As a result, they advocate positions that ignore what America’s founders were determined to respect, to wit, the distinction between liberty and licentiousness; and between the wholesome courage wherewith we stand upon our rights and the rebellious arrogance that disdains decent self-government.

As I point out in the essay on Ninth Amendment rights quoted above, the Declaration’s logic in this respect allows Americans to recognize and properly assert rights not mentioned in the Constitution. The 9th Amendment exists to provide them with clear constitutional grounds upon which to stand as they invoke these rights, as constraints upon government power.

At the moment, the relevance of this constitutional claim is painfully obvious. The elitist faction forces presently controlling the U.S. government and some state governments (including Republicans as well as Democrats) are moving to deny the constitutional right of individuals or states to oppose the taking of human life, as required by the first law of “nature and Nature’s God.” They are doing so in the context of an insidious, persistent assault on Second Amendment rights. They are also doing so in the context of Obamacare, as they prepare, by force of unconstitutional edicts and “laws,” to deny the constitutional right of individuals and States to refuse complicity in so-called health-care practices that disregard this same life-preserving natural law obligation. In addition, by promoting so-called homosexual rights, they are engaged in a general offensive to disparage, subvert and ultimately deny the constitutional rights – rooted in obligations antecedent to any and all humanly instituted law or government – that are inherent in the God-endowed family, the primordial institution that is the paradigm, in terms both of liberty and obligation, for natural justice and human community.

The Constitution’s Ninth Amendment provides the key to recognizing and justifying legal and other moves to oppose what amounts, on every front, to a wholesale assault on the first principle of constitutional self-government in the United States, i.e., the Declaration’s affirmation of God-endowed individual rights. Next week I plan to post an article at my blog in which I will discuss specific instances in which politicians and other public figures, who claim to be conservatives, are cooperating with this assault. By discussing these examples, I hope to awaken Americans committed to our founding principles, and to the constitutional republic based upon them, to a simple fact: No one prominently associated with, or promoted by, either of the so-called major parties appears to shares this commitment. Unless Americans who do share it rouse themselves and unite against the regressive elitist faction agenda, the incomparably successful American experiment in principled self-government will give way, first to disorder and dissolution and then, in all likelihood, to the most thoroughly totalitarian elitist despotism humankind has ever known.

The problem lies in the fundamental error at the center of Keyes’ entire view of this subject. All of this flowery rhetoric can be boiled down to a basic syllogism:

P: The Declaration of Independence says our rights come from God.

P: God doesn’t like some kinds of behavior, as the Bible states.

C: Therefore, there is no right to do anything that God condemns.

For Keyes, it is the Bible that determines the scope of legitimate liberty; anything outside of that is “licentiousness” and makes both the baby Jesus and the founding fathers in his head (as opposed to the real ones) cry. He ignores the fact that the man who actually wrote the Declaration of Independence, while he did believe in a creator who endowed us with natural rights, rejected completely the Biblical conception of God as “cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.” He was right, of course.

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