Understand differences of privileges and rights

Iask readers to understand the difference between a privilege and a right. Currently, the tendency to confuse the two has run amok and is making it difficult to think clearly about issues like the state Council on Affordable Housing and the new federal health care programs.

Here are some true rights: No laws may interfere with the free exercise of religion, or cause the establishment of a state religion, or restrict freedom of speech in the public square, or freedom of the press, or freedom to assemble peacefully; no laws may violate the security of persons, houses, documents, or other personal possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, or cause someone to be tried twice for the same offense.

Here are some alleged rights I keep hearing about: right to have access to health care, right to obtain affordable housing, right to obtain an affordable education, right to have plenty of clean water and nutritious food.

These are privileges, not rights. Unlike the rights developed and delineated by the thoughtful Founders to guard against the tyranny of majorities, this second list is simply plucked out of thin air according to the whims of the time. They are all laudable things, and there is no doubt that everyone would like to have them and I hope everyone in the world gets them.

But each of these rights requires someone else to do work to provide you with the right. The negative rights in the first list restrict others from interfering with your basic inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The second list can be thought of as positive rights, the right to get material things that you did not have before, and that someone else must create to give you.

These fake rights require someone to go to school and learn their trade, write and print a textbook, build a hospital, design a medical device, build a house, dig a well, install a septic system, finance, design, and build the infrastructure for a sewage treatment plant, plow soil, sow seeds, run irrigation channels, and on and on. In West Africa, no one does the work and the people live in squalor. This is the norm for most of the world, believe it or not.

In other countries, like Cuba and Venezuela, these “rights” are obtained by forced labor and confiscations. In this country, people do the work, voluntarily, and we should consider it a privilege and be grateful.

The nomenclature is important because rights are obligations that people expect a government to protect and implement directly through laws and regulations. They are not debatable. By understanding that things like affordable housing are privileges, we can have a debate: Should there be a government program to regulate it? Should we force builders to provide it? Should we use tax dollars or rely on market forces?

I urge readers to be wary of politicians and others who childishly insist that this or that thing is a right. This is pure demagoguery that is designed to shut down debate and, ultimately, to create expensive and damaging bureaucracies.

Leon Goudikian

Freehold Borough

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