“True” rights are inalienable. They exist whether or not they are recognized, and whether or not the ability or the will to defend them exists.
True rights do not impose an implicit obligation upon any other person to provide them to us. In fact, rights exist in greatest measure when we are each simply “left alone”.
If something must be provided to us at the expense of someone else in order for us to have it, then it may be an entitlement, a privilage, or an act of charity – but it is not a “right”.
If you can make the distinction between proper,inalienable “rights”, and legislated “entitlements” or “privilages”, then we are on the right track.
Undoubtedly, life is better when we are each able to exercise our true and common rights to the fullest possible degree.
As you say, the crux of the matter (and the challenge) is indeed how to best “secure and defend” those rights, WITHOUT infringing upon or violating them, or the equal rights of other individuals.
The American founders (Jefferson, Mason, et al) arguably devised the best system to date – although it has clearly suffered at the hands of many of it’s caretakers over the years.
“To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.”
Government derives it’s just (and limited) powers from the people. The people do not derive their rights from the government. The distinction is incredibly important.
The Ninth Amendment (Bill of Rights) to the Constitution articulates this thusly: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others RETAINED BY THE PEOPLE.” (emphasis added)
Which was followed, in context, by the Tenth: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are RESERVED to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.” (emphasis again added)
Governments are however, simply ONE institutional form by which people may properly act together to defend their common rights.
Any group, committee, association, society, organization, union, club, PAC, brotherhood, church, lodge, or even a commercial businesses, may function in much the same way – to stand up in defense of the rights of their members – or even of those who are not members.
The sole advantage generally bestowed upon government (by the people) is a legitimization of the collective use of force.
This monopoly of police powers however is what makes government, like fire “a useful servant, but a dangerous master”.
The answer for a society that has grown increasingly accustomed and reliant upon the confiscation of property through taxes (and those who “willingly and gladly” go along) to fund every imaginable activity from after-school basketball to support payments to farmers in foreign countries NOT to grow crops – is to NOT seek more of the same.
“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. “
– (author unknown, but variously attributed to Alexander Tytler and Alexis de Tocqueville)