Human Rights: God Gave Them or He Didn't

Eric X. Li, a Chinese venture capitalist, nails the core issue in American politics in an op-ed in the New York Times. He is much clearer on it than most political pundits in this country are. He clarifies the fact that we stand on two sides of a chasm -- a chasm between the worldviews that shape nations. Here is what he said in "Why China’s Political Model Is Superior":

"The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation."

He is exactly right. The "God-given" part is the basis of our Declaration of Independence. It is liberally scattered throughout the writings of our founding fathers and implied in the Constitution. It's a huge strand of the American cultural and political DNA in both parties. It spreads across our history and our colors our landscape. God-given rights, including the right of conscience and free exercise of individual religion and life-aims, are core to the America we inherited.

Li's point is that this worldview is outmoded and we need something more modern and utilitarian. He ends the article likening us to the old Soviet Union, primarily because it was ideological. (I could diverge and discuss how Lenin quickly took the "ideals" of the young Russian revolution down a much more utilitarian path, including murdering much of the Russian intelligentsia and another 2-3 million Russians, instituting the Cheka and brutally imposing Bolshevism even when that party got a mere 20% of the vote -- but I won't).

Li's parting shot?

"History does not bode well for the American way. Indeed, faith-based ideological hubris may soon drive democracy over the cliff."

Li's point is that we must become utilitarian and rational, as he posits China is. In his worldview there is not much room for faith or ideology. Many in our own country and in the liberal "West" are promoting a similar evolutionary path for our future, even if in a more nuanced way. What stands in the way of that course is the American experience with -- and belief in -- the source of our rights and our very humanity.

And this one clear issue:

Either God gave us these rights -- or He didn't.


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