Understanding Natural Rights Philosophy The Work and Influence Of John Locke Purpose • Introduce students to the basic ideas of natural rights philosophy and the theories of government that influenced the development of the US government • At the end of the lesson students should be able to: – Explain the basic ideas of natural rights philosophy – Explain the purpose of government according to the natural rights theory 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, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government •The ideas in the Declaration of Independence had been familiar to almost everyone in the American colonies long before the Revolutionary War •Had been preached in churches, written in pamphlets, and debated in public and private Natural Rights Philosophy • Based in imagining what life would be like if there was no government • Questions to be addressed: – What is human nature? • Are people selfish, or do they tend to care for the good of others? – What should be the purpose of a government? – How do the people running a government get the right to govern? – How should a government be organized? – What kinds of government should be respected and supported, and which kinds should be resisted and fought? K e y B e l i e f s 1) “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it” 2) A legitimate government can not exist until the people have given their consent to be ruled by it 3) Natural (unalienable) rights are so much a part of human nature that they cannot be taken away or given up. • However, they can become very insecure without a government to enforce and protect them. People are basically reasonable and sociable, but they are also self-interested. Stronger and smarter people would often try to take away the rights of others 4) The best way to solve the problems from above is through A “Social Contract” • People give up their absolute right to do anything they could in a state of nature. In exchange, everyone receives the security provided by a government Natural (Unalienable) Rights • Life – People want to survive and they want their lives to be as free as possible from threats to their security • Liberty – People want to be as free as possible from the domination of others, to be able to make their own decisions, and to live as they please • Property – People want the freedom to work, and gain economic goods such as land, houses, and money which are necessary to survival Securing Natural Rights • The “social contract” b/w individuals and the government is expressed in a constitution • Hence, constitutional governments are also known as limited governments • If the social contract is broken, and the government fails to protect the people’s rights,they have the right to revolt Securing Natural Rights Constitutional governments assure the rights of citizens by: 1. Providing legal protection. Constitutions establish limits on the power of the government to prevent it from violating natural rights. 2. Providing organizational protection. Constitutions should organize the government in a manner in which power is distributed. Caution !! A constitution alone does not ensure that the rights of citizens will be protected. Historically, some of the worst governments have had constitutions that list the rights of citizens. The former Soviet Union had one of the longest and most elaborate constitutions in history, but in reality its citizens enjoyed few of the rights guaranteed by it.