Human Rights and Responsibilities
I thought this was really insightful:
The latter—the teaching of natural law and natural rights—is the view from the American founding. We may take our bearings from the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In its second and most famous paragraph, the Declaration says human beings are “endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.” What can the men who wrote and signed this document have meant by this?
A right that is unalienable is one that cannot be alienated—that is, it can be neither taken away nor given away, neither stolen nor surrendered. But I can of course give away all I own. So this must mean that our unalienable rights are not really ours, all the way down, as it were. We do not own them. We do not really own ourselves. And when we consider where these rights come from, in the Declaration’s account, this is not so surprising. We are “endowed by [our] Creator” with them. He gave them to us in such a way that they are part of us, and we cannot part with them. The source of our rights is something—or rather, Someone—to which, not for which, we are responsible.