By Tom Rhodes, 2/17/2012
Statists, liberals, socialists, communists, the U.N. all claim that there is are rights to healthcare, food, housing, clothing, social services, security in sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood, education, clean water, the right to rest and leisure including paid holidays etc. The list of rights statists say we have is almost endless. They pay lip service to natural rights like freedom of thought, opinion, speech, press, religion, self-defense etc. (see US Bill of Rights). To further the power of the state, and the goals of the state, Statists have changed the very meaning of a right. No longer do they talk about rights being “unalienable, ” but we have types of rights like “positive” or “negative.” Let’s discuss the difference.
Positive rights are claim rights, a right to something, like a right to food, to healthcare, to education, whatever. The veracity of a positive right is that whatever the object of the right is, it needs to be created before the 'right' can be fulfilled. This somehow creates a duty upon others to create it. This is the basis for slave societies and statist dictatorships. This may seem a bit extreme, but it isn’t. It all falls down to the basis of all rights - Property.
All natural rights are based on property rights, the first and foremost being that you are a discrete individual.. No human can be another human, and no one can live another’s life. By virtue of your nature as an individual, you are born with the inalienable property right to yourself. This means that no human being has a claim on your time or your effort without your consent. This is the basis of natural, or unalienable rights; rights which statists term “negative.”
A negative right is the right to think and act free from the coercive force of others. Free from muggers, fraudsters and restrictive laws and taxes. Simply put the right to be left alone. You are either free from the above or you are not. You cannot claim a right while violating the same in others. A mugger cannot claim a right to be left alone whilst mugging people.
The kind of society where this right is prevalent is a society whose government exists only to protect the individual from the force of others. The American Constitution and Bill of Rights are the closest examples - which, sadly, modern day America is abandoning daily.
Dr. Walter Williams did a great video titled “What is a Right.” To quote him, “At least in the standard historical usage of the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.”
You not anybody else is your sole owner. Think about it, if you do not own you, then who does? If you are anything but your own property, you belong to someone else, which makes you that someone’s slave. Your property right to yourself extends to a right to possess legally acquired property. You cannot exist without some kind of property but this does not mean you have an claim to someone else’s property by the simple fact that you have a need for it. What the basic fundamental right to own yourself does clearly mean, is that you have the right to possess property, of necessity or leisure, if you can obtain it without infringing upon another. Because your neighbors all have the same right to own themselves and own property that they did not acquire through force or fraud, you have no claim on their property without their consent.
Despite our 40-year expansion in the bureaucracy and erosion of the Constitution, America is still at a center-right country (polls indicate that liberals only make up 20% of the population). This means that the people will not be satisfied until America is again governed by its founding libertarian principles. It cannot be reasonably argued that the Founding Fathers of the United States did not indicate their acceptance of, and based the United States Constitution on, the basis of unalienable (a.k.a. natural or negative) rights. Your unalienable rights stem directly from a simple fact few can argue: You are a discrete biological entity.
Now let’s apply the concept of a Positive right, like the right to health care to our negative rights. Statists claim that because everybody has a right to health care, that it must be provided to all people equally regardless of their ability or willingness to pay for such goods and services, places a financial obligation on others to pay for those services and goods. If we applying that same bogus logic to the rights to free speech and the right to travel freely, then those rights would bestow financial obligations on others to supply you with an auditorium, microphone and audience. Your right to travel freely would require that others provide you with airplane tickets or a even a car. No reasonable person would claim that their right to free speech and freedom to travel within the USA obligates others to pay for your that travel, or the costs associated with exercising free speech. Does the right to freedom of religion obligate others to build a church?
Legally rights cannot be voted on, cannot be determined by congress, cannot be granted. "Personal liberty, or the Right to enjoyment of life and liberty, is one of the fundamental or natural Rights, which has been protected by its inclusion as a guarantee in the various constitutions, which is not derived from, or dependent on, the U.S. Constitution, which may not be submitted to a vote and may not depend on the outcome of an election. It is one of the most sacred and valuable Rights, as sacred as the Right to private property ... and is regarded as inalienable." 16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, Sect.202, p.987
The very idea of a positive right is simply a term and methodology used by statists to justify infringing upon unalienable rights. They are not nor ever were supported by any of our founding documents. Our government was not established to do “positive” things for the people, to make things “fair”, or to provide for any individual’s “needs.” It was established for one purpose, to protect the unalienable rights of all people equally. To be exact the purpose and mission statement of our government was clearly 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.”
For the government to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must shrink others rights, chiefly their rights to their labor and property, their earnings. This is because the government does not have resources of its own. There is no Genie in a bottle, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy to provide those resources. Because government has no resources of its own you must recognize that in order for government to provide one American citizen with a dollar, it must first, confiscate that dollar from some other American. It does this through intimidation, threats and coercion. If you have a right to something you did not earn, it requires that someone else not have a right to something that they did earn.
To argue that people have a right that imposes obligations on another is completely bogus. Rather than “positive” rights, the better term for a rights to health care, decent housing and food is desires. If we called them desires, most Americans would agree that we desire that everyone had adequate health care, decent housing and nutritious meals. The problem is that if we called them desires, instead of human rights, the average American would cringe at the thought of government punishing one person because he refused to be pressed into making someone else's desire come true.
This is not an argument against charity. Taking your own resources and using them to assist your neighbor in need is good, just, right, praiseworthy and laudable. But taking someone else's money to do so is appalling, despicable, evil, shameful, and deserves condemnation.
Self ownership, the basis for all rights, cannot obligate others to support or supply the necessities of life. In reality there is only one right FREEDOM, which is independence from being constrained by another's choice, insofar as it can coexist with the freedom of every person. Our government was instituted to protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all equally. Thus the welfare of citizens cannot be the basis of state power. The state cannot legitimately impose any particular conception of what happiness is upon its citizens. To impose what the state thinks happiness is, or should look like, would in essence be for the state to treat citizens as children, assuming that they are unable to understand what is truly useful or harmful to themselves. Statism in all its forms, including the current nanny state, is not based on freedom, but on slavery. If the state owns you, then it has first right to your labor and earnings, then it has first right to your children and what they learn, it even has first right to determine how and what they are fed. If it has those rights, then you don’t own yourself, what you produce, what you legally trade for, and have no rights. If the state has first claim on your labor, property, savings, and children, then they not you own you, and are in essence you a slave.
Are You a Slave, or do you have rights?