Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's So Hard To Understand About Rights?

I was reading a review this morning on Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story. (I won't go there. I've never seen a Moore film and probably never will, so I am not qualified to comment.) What interested me was the fact that the reviewer was a self-professed Republican and was not, as might be expected, simply bashing the movie. It was a balanced review with many points the author liked and many others he did not like. At one point in the review, the author stated that he did not believe, as Moore apparently does, that FDR's proposed "second bill of rights" was the solution to our problems and this statement resulted in the comment which resulted in what I am writing now. The commenter asked why the author disagreed with this concept, which the commenter referred to as an "economical bill of rights", and then quoted the following as a demonstration of said bill:

"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 businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad
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"

I freely admit that I only got as far as the second line before convulsive shuddering made me stop and then have to go back and read more slowly and cautiously so as not to blow a gasket.
In a nutshell, the right of everyone to a good job where he or she makes a good living and, thus, can live a good life. Sounds great, right? Who could be opposed? How about anyone with a rational understanding of the concept of rights and/or freedom?
The fatal flaw in just about this entire list is that none of these so-called rights can exist without someone being forced to give them to you. How can you have a right to a job unless someone is required to hire you? How can you have a right to a certain renumeration unless someone is required to fulfill that renumeration? How can you have a right to sell your products at a certain rate unless someone is first required to buy them and is then required to buy them at that rate?
Let's take it a step further, shall we? What right do you have to a job if you are not qualified to perform that job? What right do you have to a particular level of renumeration if you do not perform work that someone paying believes to be worthy of that renumeration? What right do you have to sell a product that no one wants?
Do you begin to see a problem with this idea? It's a nice dream. Yes, wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone were happily employed and could afford a quality life without having to make do or settle or cut corners? I think it would be wonderful if everyone could fly to any point in the world to visit any loved one you choose at any time you like, but that doesn't make it my right to get on a plane and zip off to Texas every other week unless I can somehow come up with a way to afford that airfare. Just because something is a nice idea doesn't make it a right and erroneously labeling it a right doesn't improve your position.
No right can be in conflict with another and no right can require the active participation or contribution of someone else. This is a very simple, easy to use formula to help determine whether or not that nice idea you are considering is actually a right. The fact that your idea meets this criteria does not automatically make it a right, but you'd be amazed how many "nice ideas" can't even get past this starting gate.

No comments:

Post a Comment