Posted by: JDM..... | March 11, 2017

Rights, privileges, …

and, entitlement….

We are living in a time where words like “right” and “privilege” are redefined to support ideas instead of describing them as they are on their own merit. The claim to a “right” rolls easily off the tongues of those who would take something not currently theirs, or to own something at the expense of another.

We have many “rights”, basically broken down in the Constitution to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I suppose it would be inevitable under the laws of nature and the nature of the human animal that such a noble concept would eventually begin to settle out at the same level as hyenas scrapping over pieces of fetid meat. The strong take from the weak, the weak gang up to take away from the strong, in a perpetual cycle, each blaming the other in turn.

Do I have the “right” to healthcare? Of course I do. There is no law that says I am not allowed to consume the products and services required to keep me alive, or at least reasonably functional while I do live. One of the scariest thoughts would be about a society where such laws exist. Equally frightening would be a society where selected “rights” are enforced by laws rather than protected by them. Do we want a society where one has a “right” to force his neighbor to finance same? I also have a “right” to fly to Aruba, but the onus is on me to pay for such a trip. Splitting hairs over what I have the right to make you pay for or provide is dangerous ground because it overrules our traditional sense of freedom and liberty and the right to pursue happiness, replacing that idea with raw versions of the Law of the Jungle.

Rights and responsibilities have a Yin-Yang relationship, and neither exists alone. When one or the other exists alone in direct proportion to the amount of force expended, it no longer “exists” in its original form, yet we find comfort in tweaking the old definitions to fit altered behaviors.

Healthcare is a right, but that doesn’t remove the responsibility side of the formula. We inherited a system of governance designed to interfere with the human need to play King of the Mountain and for the strong to exploit the weak. Some have operated under the mistaken believe that this system eliminated that side of our nature. It did not, and by not being vigilant, it has now reemerged under the guise of charity, goodness, and caring. Interesting. Those qualities are also part of the nature of humanity, but they cease to exist in their original form when defined and delivered in direct proportion to the amount of force exerted.

One of the aspects of rights versus privileges that we apparently have lost sight of is that, generally speaking, “rights” are natural concepts that simply exist because they are, whereas privileges exist by permission. I define my rights. Somebody else may define my privileges and what I must do in order to “earn” them. I have the right to travel freely, but doing so by operating a motor vehicle on a public highway involves privilege and permission. Self-described “sovereign citizens” might argue those points, but this is not the venue within which to engage in such a debate.

One final note about rights. It has been said that, generally speaking, my rights end where yours begin, and vice versa. Of course, the ink wasn’t dry on that declaration before exceptions were parsed out by the intellectually agile and others so inclined. Nevertheless, the fundamental idea remains intact. You do not have the right to exercise your rights by abridging mine, and the reverse. There are bound to be conflicts of interest, and we have a system of laws to address them.

I would like to continue living in a nation built around the recognition of, and respect for, individual rights. I have serious concerns when that nation begins to blur the boundary between right and privilege, when a “right” is redefined as whatever one wants without the responsibility to contribute to its realization. I don’t want to live in a society where my rights are defined by a committee or by whichever faction happens to be in power.

I have no problem with people declaring that they have a right to healthcare. I agree. I strongly disagree with their claims to the “right” to acquire those goods and services by force and at the expense of others.

* * * * *

There is another word that has found a new incarnation via recent politic; “entitlement.”

Merriam-Webster defines “entitlement” as follows:

  • a : the state or condition of being entitled,
    b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract

  • a: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed
    by such a program

  • a: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

As can be seen, entitlement is defined both as a “right” and as a “privilege”, and the concept of “right” has been shifted from that of a natural quantity to that of a government “permission” or award.

We talk about having an “entitled” culture. This has an unattractive ring to it, yet those so endowed cling to it with a death grip. Perhaps that is because the culture of entitlement has been molded from the debris of former dignity and self pride (in the positive sense of that word). Entitlement, therefore, becomes dependency.

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