A year ago, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise him on how America’s human rights policy could be re-centered on the nation’s founding principles, the left-leaning human rights establishment howled, fearing the move threatened not only women’s and LGBTQ rights, but the very firmament of international human rights. Yet the lengthy report the secretary released late last week at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center suggests they have little to fear, despite their renewed outrage. The report doesn’t advocate restricting the rights of women or sexual minorities, but it does paper over a contradiction at the core of our human rights policy, and therein lies a problem, with implications that are more than theoretical.
Make no mistake, this draft report is sophisticated and tightly argued. Proceeding chronologically, it starts with the moral and political theory underpinning our Declaration of Independence, locates that theory in the Constitution, and then focuses on our post-Civil War corrections. It does not sugar-coat our history, but neither does it shy away from highlighting the role of property rights, religious freedom, democratic institutions, and civic virtue in securing our unalienable, pre-governmental rights to liberty.