America’s individualist Constitution

February 27, 2021 | By LARRY SALZMAN
What is the 5th Amendment?

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Pacific Legal Foundation’s quarterly magazine Sword&Scales.

PLF exists to establish a rule of law under which all Americans may live free in their pursuit of happiness. We fight to preserve and advance the American ideals of individualism and liberty, and our mission has never been more vital.

Individualism is the animating moral principle of our Constitution. It is the idea that each person is an end in himself, endowed by nature with rights to think and act according to his own conscience and interests. Government is a servant, on this view, and it is good to the extent that it protects individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.

That sentiment is reflected in the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s founding document, which recognizes our inalienable rights and holds that the purpose of government is “to secure” them. The Constitution states that it is instituted to “establish justice” and “secure the blessings of liberty.”

In America, government derives its power by our consent for the purpose of securing liberty and justice for all. Each person is free to live their lives independently, in any way they choose, so long as they do not violate the rights of others; government may do nothing except what it is permitted under our laws and Constitution.

There is great confusion today, however, about these most basic premises of our legal system. Many hold a familiar and competing view that individuals’ lives, liberty, and property are mere legal privileges, which government may take or diminish as it sees fit in the service of some alleged greater good.

This is the fundamental issue at stake in all of PLF’s work: whether government will be held to account as our servant or whether it will become our master; whether government exists, as the Declaration promises, to secure our liberty, or whether each of us exists to serve the goals of the state.

Each day we are on the front lines in court and the court of public opinion defending the Constitution and the principles of limited government, whether the issue be free speech, property rights, economic liberty, or the abuses of an out-of-control administrative state.

At PLF, we are proud to be on the side of individualism and liberty, defending those whose individual rights and property are threatened by overreaching government.