Lucretia and I give John Yoo the day off for this special interstitial (and abbreviated—only 30 minutes long) episode that we’ll just call the *Two* Whisky Happy Hour, in which Lucretia and I clear up some confusion from our most recent fast-paced episode, where a few main points got muddled. Several new listeners want us to clear up exactly what we mean by natural right, how natural right (especially its ancient or classical version) differs from modern natural rights (plural) as they appear in, for example, the Declaration of Independence. And also what is meant by “historicism.”
Lo and behold, as we were getting ready to record, we noted that our great pal Michael Anton posted an article that is right on point, “Natural Right and Historicism,” which we recommend to all our listeners. Here’s his useful definition:
The point here is that in all these cases, there is an external standard by which to judge, one not invented by man nor depending on his preference or whim. At the most basic, commonsense level, that’s all natural right is: the notion that we humans don’t get to choose what right or wrong are. They exist, if not independently of us—they are inextricably bound to our nature—at least independent of our will. Our role is to determine what is right or wrong in a given circumstance, based on a standard we don’t set, and then behave accordingly.
Just so. Lucretia and I offer our own definitions and explanations, and also clear up the confusion over my point last Saturday about the crucial role of the so-called “Social Darwinists” in undermining natural right in the decades right after the Civil War.
Turns out I have an unpublished paper that goes into this subject, and readers who are gluttons can click on this link and read: “How Natural Right Fell Out of Favor in American Thought.”
More special podcast to come this week, but for now, listen here, or shuffle over to our hosts at Ricochet.