What are the principles that lead to a healthy relationship between citizens and government and allow for the greatest enjoyment of freedom and prosperity? “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 to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” In other words, there is a God, our rights come from Him, and the government’s role is to protect these rights. These self-evident truths provided the vision that guided the founding of the new American government and explained the form of government the Constitution establishes. These truths remain critical today – not only in understanding the Constitution, but in providing answers to major issues, such as the government’s role in health care and if it’s a right and if the government can coerce a business to provide services.
The Founders knew that rights come not from the government, but from God. God created all men and women and gave them rights that transcend countries, governments, and time – the only restriction being that individuals cannot violate the rights of another. These rights from God are abilities that individuals have independent of others and do not require consent. With rights being inherent to our nature, governments cannot create rights, such as a right to health care or a right to an abortion. Government usurps God in attempting to create new rights and can do so only by violating the rights of other individuals.
The Declaration of Independence’s answer to the question “What should the role of government be?” is crucial to a healthy relationship between citizens and government. The legitimate role of government is that of protecting and preserving rights, not creating them and certainly not violating them. The government cannot legitimately coerce a business to provide goods or services to someone against his will, or take someone’s money and give it to another. Each of these actions violates the rights of the citizens that government was created to protect. Government protects our rights from each other, preventing us from violating the rights of others by not allowing us to take the property or labor of someone against his will, or to deny him his right to life. When government stands aside and allows individuals to be forced to provide services or face punishment, that government becomes immoral and violates its own purpose. When government is the one coercing or violating the rights it was made to protect by threatening imprisonment or denying people’s rights altogether, it becomes tyrannical. The relationship with Britain was toxic because it violated the rights of the colonies. The colonists wanted to ensure that they would not be in a relationship like this again, so the Founders endeavored to organize a government that would fulfill this vision and did so in the Constitution. They created a system that would protect citizens from not only the tyranny of the majority, but also government tyranny.
These truths guided the framing of the Constitution, and the Constitution became the embodiment of this vision. However, knowledge of these “keys to a healthy relationship with government” has been forgotten and purposefully ignored, robbing the American people of the guiding lights that lead to a healthy relationship with government. This has led to the people-government relationship becoming toxic again in many ways, such as judicial overreach and punishment of businesses for acting on their religious beliefs. The Founders knew that if a government fails to protect the rights it is instituted to protect, then it is the right and duty of citizens to rise up and remove that government and “to provide new Guards for their future security.” We have the responsibility as citizens to rise up and restore the proper bounds and purpose of government by championing these truths and supporting political candidates who truly understand and believe these truths. By fulfilling our role as citizens and educating ourselves as to what the Founders said in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we can make our relationship with the government healthy again.
Written by Jacob Hibbard