Confronting The Left On Rights

Ever tell  a ten-year-old to clean up his room?  The first time, you ask politely, and the answer is usually “it IS clean.”  After a little more prodding, the politeness drops by the wayside and you just flat out ‘tell’ them - “clean your room!”.  Right about then is when my son usually changes his tune.  But instead of following directions, it’s his argument that gets adjusted… “It’s MY room, I like it that way, why should I have to clean it?!”  (I know, I mean, who would have thought I would have a son that was THAT argumentative and stubborn – go figure).  It’s also right about then I figure out that, regardless of the request, I’ve failed, as a parent, to frame the discussion accurately.  “Excuse me, son, but until I see your name on the mortgage, it is NOT your room, so you will clean it to whatever specification I deem necessary.”

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t isolated to dealing with ten-year-olds.  I see the same issue coming up when I have heated discussions with my liberal friends.  Time after time, it’s the same word that seems to be the sticking point - Rights.  No matter what the topic, the debate usually devolves into a diatribe about how Republicans are trying to take away the rights of the middle class, the working man, or the poor.  And therein lies the real problem.  You cannot debate legislation regarding healthcare, education, collective bargaining, or any other socially centered issue without first finding common ground on a definition of “human rights”.

According to most of the left leaning people I’ve talked to, the founding fathers may have talked about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but what they really meant to promise everyone was a high school education, access to the best doctors and medicine, a steady job, a stable house, abortion on demand, flags to burn and college campuses free of guns, military recruiters, and Ann Coulter.

Try to challenge them on any of these issues, and their defense is always the same.  Those are their “rights”, and you shouldn’t be able to take them away.

But as a conservative, my mind works a little different.  In the passionate debate about what rights are granted, I fear that far too many people have lost sight of who grants them.  The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads: “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.”

These are not rights given by man, but by God.  These are not things granted by government, but sacred ideals that are to be protected by every man.  The government was created to protect the necessities of true freedom, the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to bear arms.  But this is not to say that the individual has any particular right to own a newspaper, or that the government should issue them a gun.  You have the right to own property; the government, however, does not have the responsibility to give you the property to own.

I think the founding fathers were very shrewd.  After all, whatever government gives you, it can also take away.  And that is why I think they make the distinction.  The only thing that is promised is the freedom through which we can fully explore, develop and sometimes, yes, even profit from these gifts.

The rights of man, as established in our founding documents, are also not anything the government has to acquire from some other source.  If something like healthcare is a right, then that means the government is mandated to provide it.  Problem being, healing people isn’t free.  If the government is to make sure everyone has healthcare, it has to guarantee somehow that someone will provide it.  And, as far as I can tell, this government has no mandate to tell people where they have to work, and what they do with their skills or talents.

Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone was provided for and basic needs were not at issue, but since the government can’t make anyone be a doctor, a teacher or a farmer, they cannot guarantee my health, education or well being.  And I have no real, rational way to consider them any part of my basic human rights.

There is a big difference between getting what we want and demanding what we think we’re entitled to.  And if we’re to have any kind of a meaningful discussion on what we have, we first need to establish the realization of who provided it.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 2:20 PM, 03.08.2011