I’ve covered the definition of a right here and there. I think it’s essential knowledge if you’re going to achieve freedom, prosperity, and civilization, which is the goal here at the Spherical Model.
|Bill of Rights in the US Constitution|
image from the National Archives
In 2013 I wrote,
What is a right? Something you are entitled to just by virtue of being born a human. God has granted it to you. Others are required to respect your rights, but not to provide them out of thin air.
In the Economic Sphere section of the Spherical Model website, in the section called “How to Tell What Is a Right,” I offer this:
Let’s be clear on what a right is: it is not a privilege, something you might be granted under certain circumstances. It is something that you deserve simply for being human. You do not have to earn a right; you can’t rightfully be deprived of it (with possible forfeitures such as committing capital crimes). If it is a right, it does not come from government; it comes from God. Government may use its power to either guarantee a person’s rights, or to deprive a person of his rights. Restraint from depriving a person of his rights is not equivalent to granting rights. Rights simply do not come from government.
So, if something is a right, it is a person’s natural right whether there is a government entity guaranteeing it or not.
We’re born naked, impoverished, and inexperienced. It is by growth, hard work, and gaining in expertise that we try to overcome this condition throughout our life. We are born with the right to life, the right to live free (not enslaved), and the right to pursue our own path to overcome the naked impoverished state.
I came across an additional good source this weekend, reading Dr. Larry Arnn’s book The Founders' Key. He does a good—and fair—job of laying out both the definition of natural rights and the “progressive” definition of “positive rights,” as defined by FDR. And then explains why we should prefer the way natural rights are understood. He says,
The Founders thought that all our rights are connected. Our right to property is based on the same facts as our freedom of speech. Our right to the material things that we earn is founded in the same nature as our freedom to worship and pray as we please. Our civil and political rights depend on our ability to hold the means of our well-being in our own hands. We can have no rights of any kind that do not leave “to everyone else the like advantage.” This means that nothing properly called a right takes anything from anyone else. [p. 62]
The highlight is mine. I thought that was a main idea worth exploring.
Let’s look again at FDR’s list of “positive rights”:
In our day certain economic proofs have become accepted as self-evident: a second bill of rights, under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station or race or creed. Among these are:
· the right to a useful and remunerative job, the right to earn enough to provide food and clothing and recreation;
· the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return that will give him and his family a decent living;
· the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom—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, medicine, and unemployment;
· the right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward in the implementation of these rights to new goals of happiness and well being. For unless there is security here and home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
So, if you have the right to a “useful and remunerative job,” then you have the right to an employer to provide it. If there’s a free-market agreement between you and the employer, you both benefit. But if the employer is coerced to provide for you, regardless of your skill or success in bringing profit to the employer, the government must enslave the employer in order to provide you with that “right.”
If you have the right, as a farmer, to raise and grow whatever you want, regardless of market supply and demand, and receive a particular government-set rate of return—even in a season when crops fail and the farmer provides nothing of value to society—then someone is going to be coerced into giving that farmer his “rightful” share, regardless of whether the farmer provides value.
The right to trade in a free market is a good idea; a monopoly is not a free-market idea. There are sensible laws to prevent monopolies from keeping supply and demand from working. However, if a company innovates and creates something new, they aren’t required to also create a competitor. They simply put their product out there and compete when/if a competitor shows up. So that one depends on whether government does its policing role to protect free trade, or steps in to pick winners and losers, which ends up actually interfering with free trade.
If every family has a “right” to a “decent” home, who buys it for the family that can’t afford it? And who decides what “decent” means? If everyone has the “right” to adequate medical care, who is coerced to provide it or pay for it? And who decides what “adequate” means? And while it sounds nice to allow everyone the “opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health,” who decides what the opportunity consists of? If illness or disabilities are preventing that person from enjoying good health, who is required to intervene and see to it that the person doesn’t have to suffer? And how, if a solution is unknown?
If someone has the “right” to be free from financial worry in old age—whether or not they work and save, or have higher than normal health care costs because of inadequate self-care or just circumstances beyond their control—who must be coerced to provide for that person?
If a person has a “right” to a “good” education, shouldn’t teachers be providing that for free? Shouldn’t builders be building the necessary buildings for free? If so, who works for free to provide housing and food for the teachers and builders? And who gets to decide what qualifies as “good”?
While it sounds nice to “give” security to every citizen, a government isn’t God; and a government isn’t a wealth source. Government is power, and a cost. Everything government does is a cost to society. So anything it “provides” that costs money must be taken from someone who earned that money.
So let’s be clear: if government is “giving” us rights that we weren’t born with, government is coercing someone to work to provide for someone else it deems worthy. Government deprives Person A of his natural rights to life, liberty, and/or property in order to give the illusion it is providing the extra, “positive rights” for Person B. Whatever Person B feels, Person A rightly feels oppressed by that arrangement.
|image found here|
If we want people to have some basic shelter, food, health care, and education, there’s a way a free people can do that: charitable giving. Local charities and philanthropies are a lot better at identifying the best way to provide those things than governments can ever be. Then, a person decides when he can afford to offer from his surplus, and he can decide what conditions apply when he makes his donation.
We can do that with anything that is not a natural, God-given right, but is nice to have. We can accumulate enough to offer it freely to those who can’t manage to work their way out of their naked, impoverished, and inexperienced state. We can care about, and for, one another.
Government has no feelings. It is only coercion. That power should be limited to necessary protections of our life, liberty, and property.