Do Liberals Believe in Any Limiting Power on Government Action?

Here’s a great description of natural rights from Judge Andrew P. Napolitano:

As we have been created in the image and likeness of God the Father, we are perfectly free just as He is. Thus, the natural law teaches that our freedoms are pre-political and come from our humanity and not from the government, and as our humanity is ultimately divine in origin, the government, even by majority vote, cannot morally take natural rights away from us. A natural right is an area of individual human behavior — like thought, speech, worship, travel, self-defense, privacy, ownership and use of property, consensual personal intimacy — immune from government interference and for the exercise of which we don’t need the government’s permission.

Read the whole thing, the main thrust of which is the role of the Second Amendment and the natural right of self-defense.

However, with so many of the Democratic Party’s urban elites embracing atheism, is it is even possible for them to comprehend, much less agree with, a natural rights framework for limiting the power of government? Why should humans have any rights at all if they are, in Charles Murray describing the viewpoint of European elites, “a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate”? (And if you haven’t read Murray’s entire piece before, I urge you to do so.)

There was a time when a good many patriotic liberal atheists believed in the Constitution as a sort of civil religion, even if they tended to ignore or downplay sections (such as the Second and Tenth Amendments) they weren’t wild about. But now a prominent liberal professor of constitutional law has just come out and said we should get rid of the Constitution because it doesn’t let liberals spend as much as they want, which is rather like a librarian endorsing burning books because they get dusty.

So too, many liberals wanted to believe in a framework very similar to natural rights in order to ensure their children lived in a strong, free and fair America. But, as Murray points out, our elite are increasingly childless, because children are a hassle. So why should liberals worry if they’re bankrupting their children and grandchildren when they have none?

Do modern American liberals believe in anything but their own smug sense of moral superiority? Or their own will to power? They seem distinctly uninterested in “a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people,” unless the people in question are their kind of people. Many see themselves as “citizens of the world,” with more in common with Eurocratic elites than with the working class lumpenproletariat shopping at Walmart. They seem uninterested in the baleful effects of welfare policy and unlimited illegal immigration on the poor as long as such policies continue to swell a permanent underclass of Democratic-voting dependents.

Conservatives believe that America is a nation of free citizens first, not a political entity embodied in an all-powerful federal government. By contrast, liberals did not seem to have any limiting power to their conception of the size and power of the federal government (at least beyond sex). Is there any limiting factor they are willing to accept as a bedrock principle rather than a temporary expedient?

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