It is not perfect: it does not state precisely where these Rights come from, only some ambiguous "Creator;" nor how it is we are imbued with them. Neither does it consider the economic, cultural, and social differences of various groups of human beings. But as a very basic statement of human liberty, I have never seen anything better.
Selling Our Rights and Liberties for a Moment's Comfort
"We have started out from the premises of [the economics of laissez-faire capitalism--RJG]. We have accepted its language and its laws. We presupposed private property; the separation of labor, capital, and land, and likewise of wages, profit, and capital; the division of labor; competition; the conception of exchange value, etc. From [the economics of laissez-faire capitalism--RJG] itself, using its own words, we have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity, and moreover the most wretched commodity of all; that the misery of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and volume of his production; that the necessary consequence of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands and hence the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form; and that, finally, the distinction between capitalist and landlord, between agricultural worker and industrial worker, disappears and the whole of society must split into the two classes of property owners and propertyless workers." (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, "Human Requirements and the Division of Labor;" p. 48, 1844.)
Marx may have warned us about how we would first cheapen, and then sell our rights--becoming for all intents and purposes a living commodity--but he was not the first to warn us of being given a choice between liberty and security.
Benjamin Franklin stated (and I will paraphrase since I can't find the exact quote): "Those who surrender their liberty for their security will soon find they possess neither." I think that in many ways even the great Franklin may have been optimistic.
Turning Against Ourselves
Our nation has turned in on itself individually, especially at the highest echelons of American society. As Chris Hedges stated in the header of his 12 May 2014 OpEdNews/Truthdig article "The Power of Imagination," "Those who worship themselves, the essence of the modern, commit spiritual suicide. In love with himself after seeing his reflection in a pond, Narcissus is doomed, as many in the modern world are, by vanity, celebrity and the need for admirers and sycophants. Narcissists master the arts of manipulation, seduction, power and control. They eschew empathy, honesty, trust and transparency. It is a form of mental illness." Narcissism--or more properly narcissistic personality disorder--is a recognized character disorder in the DSM IV, and historians and students of literature have seen this type of behavior before, in the Late Roman Republic, as well as in Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Grey;" a very real metaphor for the hypocrisy and moral decay that Wilde saw ravaging late 19th-century England.
We have seen a great deal of discussion on OpEdNews over the past several months concerning the human psychopath/sociopath, and their negative effect on our lives and on our nation. This is not new to me: I began writing about sociopaths, psychopaths, and their effects on non-violent resistance in my 16 June 2007 OpEdNews article, "Choosing the Hardest Thing." The following is a quote from that article [amplifications and corrections in brackets]: