Part 1: What’s So Great About Our Constitution, Anyway?
Essay 8 – Human Rights?
For our last essay concerning rights, lets take a look at the so-called “human rights”, as many apply them to a wide variety of things.
Usually, when people talk of human rights in this way, they are referring to more than just natural rights or even civil rights. They expand rights into the realm of entitlements to actual goods and services.
The belief is that everyone has the right to such things as housing, food, a job, a “living wage”, health care, health insurance and more.
For example, if you read the United Nation’s “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, you’ll find that the fist 20 Articles list rights that are fairly commensurate with the idea of natural rights. After that, it begins to list rights such as:
- Protection against unemployment (the right to a job)
- The right to equal pay for equal work
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection (a living wage)
- Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
Just in case you think that’s the United Nations, so won’t really apply to our nation, consider the “Second Bill of Rights” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed in his 1944 State of the Union address.
FDR’s rights included:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
Of course, all of these conditions of life are desirable and it’s a great goal to want everyone to enjoy them. However, we need to think very carefully about whether they should be considered “rights” and the implications of doing so.
By saying something is a right, we are saying that a person is entitled to it, whether or not any effort is put forth by that person.
If a person has a right to a job, what if they do nothing to get a job? Then I guess it will be the duty of the government to provide that job, and not only that, but at a wage that will “ensure for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.”
So what if this person chooses not to actually do the job or just doesn’t do it well? I guess that’s too bad, since it’s a right.
And who will pay for this right? That would come from taking other people’s money (infringing on another person’s property rights as well as the right to pursue happiness).
Therefore, in order to provide a manufactured “right” of a job to one person who may or may not even do the job that may or may not even need doing, it will be necessary to violate another person’s natural rights.
What about the right to a decent home, or medical care, or a good education?
The same thing applies here as with the job. In order to provide these rights to all people, you would need to infringe on the natural rights of others. That’s the difference between natural rights (on which our nation was founded) and these so-called human rights.
Your natural rights are yours, and do not rely on anyone else to provide them for you in any way, where these human rights depend on taking from some to give to others.
How can someone have a right (be entitled to something) that requires taking something from another person?
A common thought today is that everyone should have a right to health care. How can that be? In order to enforce that right, wouldn’t it be necessary to force another person to provide that health care? People work very hard to become doctors. They invest their time and labor and money (property) in order to gain the knowledge and skills. That knowledge and skill is now their property and the time and labor involved in providing health care is also their property. Can we then force doctors to provide health care to others in order to enforce this “right” to health care?
I ask you to please keep these thoughts in mind when you hear someone talk about what should be a right or not.
Is that to say we should just make everyone fend for themselves and shouldn’t help the needy at all?
No, far from it. Of course we should help those who are truly in need and cannot help themselves, but there is a huge difference between that and stating that these things should be a right. When declaring something a right, it implies a person is entitled to it no matter what they do or do not do and whether they are capable of providing it for themselves or not. That leads to infringing on another person’s natural rights, which leads to resentment and division and ultimately the demise of a nation.
Our country was founded on the principle of “natural rights” as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently stated in our Declaration of Independence,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Let’s take care to ensure these truths become and remain self-evident again.
Where we’ve gone wrong…
By confusing what would be great goals for society (everyone having a good job, wage, housing, food, and clothing, etc.) with what are actual rights that people are entitled to (life, liberty, property), it creates a situation where we necessarily have to infringe upon one person’s natural rights in order to provide a manufactured right to another person.
Doing this is contrary to the very purpose of our government…to protect our natural rights. This, in turn, creates animosity and turmoil, not tranquility.
About this series:
The People Are Sovereign! is a series of 30 essays that will be posted on a daily basis. The series will continue tomorrow with Essay 9 – Human Nature
To view the previous essay in the series, click this link: Essay 7 – Property Rights
To view the next essay in the series, click this link: Essay 9 – Human Nature