Since I actually had a whole day off today (sleeping in is so rare, I fantasize about it now the way desert travellers fantasize about water – I dream about sleeping past 4am) – there wasn’t much to talk about here. (The other day I took a ten-minute nap in the call room, woke to find it light outside, and ran halfway down the hall before I realized that I was already at work, and had not just overslept to an unbelievable degree.)
Until my sister called. I trust she’ll excuse my turning our conversation into a blog. She’s involved in some discussions about medical ethics, specifically involving the concept of positive and negative rights. Positive whats? I said.
Positive rights, it appears, are a big concept largely developed by those who want us to believe that we can/should/do depend on the government for everything. Even in the basic discussion found in Wikipedia, you can see the difference between these new “positive rights” and the classic natural right theory on which our Constitution was based. Positive rights essentially mean that you have a right to have something provided for you – healthcare, education, food, income after retirement, income while unemployed. Natural rights, on the other hand (which have now been redefined with truly Orwellian freehandedness as “negative rights”), simply mean that you have a right to not be something – killed, kidnapped, robbed (since the three natural rights are life, liberty, and property).
Positive rights are a key concept for those who argue that a healthcare is a right which ought to be provided by our kind, beneficent, ever-growing government to all Americans. Somewhere, somehow, the socialists introduced into popular American thought the concept that being alive isn’t enough, if you’re not also happy, healthy, and fairly well clothed and housed. So if we are to truly enjoy the right to life, we also have to have the following rights enforced – in other words, funded – by the government: secure retirement (social security); healthcare for the poor and elderly (medicare and medicaid); funds with which to not be employed (unemployment benefits); education (free public education); and very soon now, healthcare funded by the taxpayers in the classic redistributionist scheme of socialism.
These kind of rights were not even in the imagination of our Founding Fathers. As I told my sister, Ron Paul is mild compared compared to what James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, and the rest of them would have to say if they were around to see the current state of affairs.
Let me quote the Declaration of Independence – at length, because I love these thundering phrases:
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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,
— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . .
The Founding Fathers based their claim to independence, and later the Constitution, on the political philosophy of men like John Locke, who taught that human rights are granted by God and the laws of nature, not by the gift of any government. If a “right” is given to you, it can also be taken away, and so is not unalienable. Universal health care, if, God forbid, it materializes in this country, will not be an unalienable inborn right of all humans. It will be a gift from the government (at taxpayer expense, of course). As such, should the government ever decide that dissidents don’t deserve free healthcare, or that it can no longer afford healthcare for anyone, this “right” will disappear as easily as it was created.
The natural rights, however, depend on no human for their existence. We are all alive by the gift of God. Our right to freedom – freedom of action, of thought, of speech – comes with the rationality that God gave us. The government can try to limit these rights, but humans everywhere continue to break through repressive rules. Property is also a right which even the youngest children understand. The Communists’ efforts to eradicate this concept failed. The peasants always worked hardest on the little plots of land which belonged to them, not on the acres which belonged to the “soviet.”
The government’s function is only to protect these rights, not to create them. The government’s job is to prevent people from being murdered, being kidnapped, or having their property stolen. Again, the government’s role is preventive, not creative or donative.
There is no such thing as a positive right. It’s socialist-speak for “things that we want the government to give you so you will lose your independence and become dependent on the government for all aspects of life, and thus obliged to follow all the government’s [politically correct, atheistic, humanist, socialist] whims, whatever those may turn out to be.”
To equate healthcare with the true human rights is to denigrate the suffering of those whose human rights are truly being violated. For an American, a citizen of the wealthiest country in history, for whom the poverty level is ten times above the standard of living of most modern countries, to have to spend their own money for healthcare, is not, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, on the same level as Jews, Rwandans, Sudanese, and others being the objects of genocide; or as Chinese and Cuban dissidents who spend decades in labor camps for daring to question the ruling party; or as Christians in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Indonesia, or Muslims in China being tortured and killed for their beliefs; or as blacks in South Africa being oppressed for decades as an inferior race; or as the white farmers in Zimbabwe being driven off their farms and deprived of their livelihood; and the list goes on. These are true human rights violations. These are indeed appalling crimes against humanity. To even mention the absence of national healthcare in the US in the same breath is a slap in the face to all these people, and only undermines the validity of the very concept of human rights.
We’ll see if my sister tells her friends all that. I’ll be proud of her for being a disruptive firebrand in the hypnotic echo chamber of liberal academia if she does.
(And please don’t quote the UN Declaration on Human Rights to me. The UN put Libya and Sudan on the Human Rights Commission. To quote Shakespeare, I snap my fingers at the UN.)