People have been throwing around the word “right” way more than I am comfortable with. “I have a right to education,” “You have a right to health care,” and recently in a gotcha moment a Republican senator was asked if people had a right to food. He didn’t answer it well.
All of the above claims are false. Now you can have the belief socially funded X, Y and Z would result in a stronger more prosperous society, sure. But to say any of them are “rights” is a dangerous proposition to make. This may sound petty, but language is important; the meaning of words is important. Telling people they have a right to things they simply do not is damaging.
So what is a right? What is a privilege? How can you tell the two a part? According to the Declaration of Independence, all men (i.e. mankind) are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights such as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Before non-Christians get all hung up on the creator part, let me say it in a secular way. The Declaration is saying every human has rights that no one can take away. Seems like a pretty legit idea whether you’re a believer or not.
Can education be taken away? Yes. Can it be given? Yes. Therefore, not a right. What I mean is, the government could declare all education is now free; kindergarten through college. Let’s say this goes on for five years and then higher education markets collapse. So the government now says, “hey guys, we’re shutting down all the colleges until we figure this out.” They gave education and then they took it away.
I know what you’re thinking, someone could shoot me tomorrow and take my life! It must not be a right then! Yes, someone can stop your heartbeat but can they take your life? When MLK was assassinated did his life’s work suddenly become that of his killer? Of course not. His life was still his life and no one can take that away.
And what about life? You need healthcare and food to stay alive. You have a right to life, so food and healthcare must be rights! That may be true if there was an endless supply of food or healthcare and if food and healthcare didn’t rely on the labor of others. What politicians who push free healthcare and endless welfare programs would be saying if they were honest is they think you have a right to someone else’s money. Because nothing is really free. It might be free to you, but someone paid for that apple you are eating. Someone paid for that MRI machine. Do you think doctors should work for free? Do you think apple pickers should work for free?
Maybe you think we should just tax the rich and they’ll pay for stuff? Again, this is the same as saying you have a right to someone else’s money. Taxes are the government taking money from richer people, on poorer people’s behalf. At gunpoint. Seem extreme? It’s really not. People pay their taxes because if they don’t someone with a gun will make them. If I refuse to pay my taxes I will get a notice. After that doesn’t work I will be charged with tax evasion and a court date will be established. I don’t show up to court, the police show up at my house. I refuse to go with the police. Do you know what happens next? You guessed it. They take out their guns and make me go with them.
Rights are not transferable. Not directly or via some form of payment. Any time you take one thing from someone and give it to someone else, you know that thing is a privilege. I can’t transfer my life to you. You can’t swap liberties with another person and you can’t pursue someone else’s happiness. That’s why those things are rights.
True rights give you complete control over your life.True rights are your personal declaration of independence. Statist rights such as healthcare, education etc. do not give you independence but make you dependent on others.
So next time someone claims something is a right ask yourself these questions:
- Can this thing be taken away?
- Does this thing rely on the labor of others?
- Is this thing transferable?
- Does this thing make me more dependent?
If the answer is yes to any of the above you’ve found yourself a privilege, not a right.