by Richard W. Stevens

  On December 10, 1998, world and national leaders commemorate the birthday of an impostor. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 50 years old on that date. Because Americans know so little about their Constitution and Bill of Rights, most do not know that the Universal declaration destroys both the letter and the spirit of the Bill of Rights (BR).

The Bill of Rights, the true statement of individual Rights and limited government, turns 207 on December 15, 1998. Unless Americans actively celebrate Bill of Rights Day that day, the proximity of two anniversaries permit the Universal Declaration (UD) to shine as an international protector of rights, while the BR is largely ignored. To borrow from Gresham's Law, "bad rights drive out good".

Erasing the Bill of Rights

  The UD does not require any government to respect any particular individual rights. Instead, it provides, according to the preamble, only a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations". It "standard of achievements", however, practically obliterates Americans' constitutional rights.

  Of the roughly 34 individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, the U.N.'s Declaration nominally protects only eight.


No ex post facto laws
Habeas corpus (no arbitrary imprisonment)
Free exercise of religion
Freedom of speech and press
Freedom of assembly
Right to life, liberty and property ("due process")
Right to public trial in criminal case
No cruel and unusual punishments

UD Provision

Article 11
Article 9

Article 18
Article 19
Article 20(1)
Article 3, 7,11(1),17

Article 10

Article 5

Five more rights find only partial support in the U.N. Declaration, including the prohibition of of bills of attainder, the protection of citizens' privileges and immunities while travelling or living in other states and the protection against "arbitrary interference" with privacy, home and family. Fully 21 other American individual rights disappear entirely.

Two witnesses required to convict person of
No punishment of families of person convicted of treason (corruption of blood)
No established government religion.
People's right to form citizen militias.
Individual right to keep and bear arms.
Prohibition of peacetime quartering of troops in private residences,
Probable cause, oath, and particularity requirements for search warrants.
Grand jury requirement.
No "double jeopardy".
Government compensation for taking of private property for public use.
Right to a speedy trial in a criminal case.
Right to a trial by an impartial jury in a criminal case.
Right to a trial in the location where the crime occurred.
Right to confront witnesses inertial.
Right to require witnesses to appear in court.
Right to a lawyer for defense in a criminal case.
Right to a trial by jury in a common law civil case.
Right to have a single jury to decide the case.
No excessive bail in criminal cases.
No excessive fines.

Universal Power to Plunder

 The U.N.'s Declaration not only fails to protect core American individual rights; it also enshrines the power to plunder... The UD runs directly contrary to any notion of a plunder-free society.
  By couching itself in the language of individual rights, the UD legitimizes the power to plunder. For example, Article 22 declares that "Everyone... has the right to a social security." The only way that "everyone" can have such a right is for government to force workers to pay for non-workers' welfare and retirement funds.. So the declared "right"of "everyone" to social security requires that national governments institute schemes for plunder.
  Using the device of granting "rights" to "everyone", the UD mandates such schemes. The Declaration grants:

  • the "right to work"
  • the right to "just and favourable conditions of work"
  • the right to "protection against unemployment"
  • the "right to just and favorable remuneration... supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection"
  • the "right to rest and leisure"
  • the "right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [the individual and the family], including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services", as well as health, employment, and disability insurance
  • the "right to education"
To bestow of these "rights" on everyone, the the government must decide what each citizen is entitled to, how much to spend, what private business conduct is permitted and prohibited, and then compel the citizen to pay. Massive government intrusion into all facets of human life becomes necessary to implement these rights to plunder. After all the systems of compelling and plundering are installed, little remain of the UD's Article 3 right to liberty and its Article 17 right to own property.
  None of these plunder "rights" appears in U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights.

Declaration of Government Rights

Beyond granting roghts to plunder, the Universal Declaration gives governments nearly total power to dictate all aspects of human life. Article 28 states that "everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized." In other words, the people must have large, intrusive government.
  In addition, under article 26, governments must require each citizen to accept the UD's big-government gospel: "Elementary education shall be compulsory [and] shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms... and shell further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace."
  Article 29 imposes on all people the duty to serve the "community" within the "social order" envisioned by the UD: "Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible." As government defines nearly all of the functions of the community within the social order, including work, leisure, education, and economic decisions, these "duties" are defined by, and owed to, Th government.

Both the U.N.'s Declaration and the Bill of Rights contains "catchall" provisions. These provisions explain how governments are supposed to analyze questions about rights and powers that cannot be answered directly from the documents themselves. Nothing shows the difference between the two documents better than comparing those provisions.  Amendments 9 and 10 of the bill of Rights instruct the government to operate within its limited powers and to leave other powers to the people. The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration of the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construes to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The Tenth Amendment states:"The power 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." These provisions limit federal power and leave any unexpressed powers and rights to the local governments and the people.
  The Universal Declaration defaults in favor of government power. Article 29, section 2, states that individual rights and freedoms are limited by "due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society." Government, under the U.N. Declaration, defines morality, public order and the general welfare. The limitations of rights are to be "determined by law" - which in the Declaration means determined by the government. But Article 29, section 3, appears to say that the U.N. may override governments to assure that rights are properly interpreted: "These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations"

Article 30 is ominous: "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein." This Article destroys the right to actively oppose big-government programs. It abrogates the Bill of Rights' guarantees of free speech, press, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances. Article 30 guarantees government the right to stop people from opposing compulsory education, taxation, social security, the minimum wage, compulsory "public service," and any other government plunder program.
  The U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights bears no similarity to the Bill of Rights. Americans should reject the attempts to lump the two documents together in one annual "human rights week." On December 15 of each year Americans should celebrate Bill of Rights Day by learning more about their rights and teaching others. When Americans understand their precious Bill of Rights, they won't be impressed by the United Nations' dangerous substitute.

By Richard Stevens, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., specialized in legal research and writing.

This slightly abridged article was reprinted from "The Freeman", December 1998, a monthly publication of The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., Irvington-on-Hudson, NY 10533.
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Revised: 12/04/08.
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