Rights to Entitlements

Bill Neinast

neins1@aol.com

What a difference a few centuries of freedom make.


A little over two centuries ago, some residents of the North American Continent believed that they had chafed too long under the yoke of an absent king. They considered themselves vassals or serfs beholden to a foreign master.


When they agreed among themselves that they could not endure having no say in the way they lived, they decided to cut all ties with the foreigner.  They saw this as a way to exercise basic rights that were being denied to them.  


That thought is immortalized in the first sentence of the second paragraph of their Declaration of Independence from foreign royalty as, “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 so called Founding Fathers then adopted an owner’s manual for a new type of government they called democracy. This government of the people, by the people, and for the people was to operate in strict accordance with the manual they called The Constitution of the United States of America.


Shortly after affixing their signatures to the Constitution, someone said, “Oooophs! we have told the President, the legislative bodies, and the courts how they are to balance and share the burdens of government, but we left something out.  We forgot that important element about our rights in the declaration of independence from the king.”


They quickly returned to the drafting table and expanded the list of what they called God given rights.  In ten amendments of the new Constitution, they listed all activities they could think of that should be considered sacred rights of individuals. 


Among those amendments, now called the Bill of Rights, the ninth may be the most important.  It provides, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”


In other words, they said, “In case we have not thought of all the rights of the people, this document shall not be considered an exclusive listing.”


For about the first 150 years after the adoption of this blueprint for government, “rights” were treated as intended by the Founding Fathers.  Individuals were allowed to say what they pleased, worship as they pleased, print what they desired, etc. 


Note that there is no obligation under that old definition for anyone to provide the rights to anyone else.  Everyone already had certain unalienable, God-given rights.  The obligation on the government, as the Founding Fathers understood it, was to protect those rights and prevent anyone or anything, including the government, from infringing them.


Sometime in the last century, however, the meaning of “rights” and how rights were to be protected began to change and the list of rights began to grow.  Class warriors began to interpret the word to mean “have to have.”  In other words, if you have a “right” to something but cannot afford to acquire it on your own, someone else has to provide it for you.


That someone else quickly became the government.  The government could provide those rights because it had access to everyone else’s money.


Take housing as an example.  The class warriors decided that everyone has a right to “decent” housing.  Much to their surprise, they learned that some individuals and families could not afford the decent housing that the warriors thought was their “right.” 

 

The result was the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the passage of legislation like the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act. 


In implementing that legislation with taxpayer money, huge apartments and housing complexes were built around the country.  A number of the apartment complexes became gang, drug, and prostitution gulags, fell into disrepair and had to be demolished not too long after completion.


A more recent creation was the right to medical care or medical care insurance.  Do not worry if you cannot pay for enjoying this right.  Either your employer or others buying medical insurance will subsidize you.  If neither of those is sufficient, the government will take some other taxpayers’ money and subsidize your premiums.


Finally, the most recent expansion of the list of rights is the Supreme Court’s decision in the law suit involving Hobby Lobby.  The only right the court talked about in that decision is the right to practice religion.  


The court simply said that if the owners of Hobby Lobby believe that their religion forbids abortion, they cannot be forced to provide the means to acquire contraceptives that result in abortion.  


Their female employees cannot be denied those contraceptives, but Hobby Lobby does not have to provide them.


For political purposes, the class warriors do not see it that way.  They are proclaiming long and loud that this is just another step in the war on women. Most of the press emanating from these sources is that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has denied women working for Hobby Lobby their “rights” to abortions.  


There is not even a hint in the warriors’ arguments that the female employees can buy with their own money any of the four contraceptives objected to by Hobby Lobby.  The class warriors believe that would not be “right.”  The employees are “entitled” to that prescription and someone else should pay for it.


So here’s the perspective.


The Founding Fathers were concerned only with insuring that the government did not interfere with what they considered God given rights. 


Unfortunately, the country is looking down a steep slope from those lofty goals. Rights are being converted to entitlements that have to be provided by the government or someone other than the recipient.


Can we afford to slide down the slope?

  

enough


 
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