October 17, 2014

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When then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saw fit to ram the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (now affectionately known as ObamaCare) through Congress, the country engaged in a substantive debate over the duty and role of government.

Did I say substantive debate? What I really meant was childish rancor and outrageous demands.

Lefty politicians wanted to get the poor and working class further hooked on the government dole. Republicans, for the most part, rallied against socialized medicine, with a hefty amount of cognitive dissonance telling them that Medicare didn”€™t suffer from the same deficiencies. The voting hordes were just as divided. Seniors wanted protection from government regulation of medicine, while demanding no changes to federal entitlement programs. Democrat voters were up-front about their desire: to force other people to pay for their goodies, which include health care.

Out of this nonsensical debate arose the idea of health care being a human right. Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Obama called it a fundamental right. From there, the liberal press harped on the message. By the time ObamaCare’s passage came around, progressive mobs were declaring “€œhealth care is a human right“€ in the street. Who would pay for all this care was a question left unanswered.

“€œAll this cant about human rights is sucking away at the true nature of rights and what they mean to government.”€

The debate over ObamaCare demonstrated just how perverted talk of human rights is in this country. Maryland Governor Martin O”€™Malley recently said in a CNN interview that an increasing number of young adults believe that Wi-Fi is a right for everyone. The claim sounded like typical leftist gibberish”€”off-the-cuff theorizing in the name of government redistribution. But O”€™Malley, who is a possible contender for the 2016 presidential race, was just reciting a claim made by the United Nations in 2011. The international governing body declared that Internet access was a human right because it helps in exercising other rights. I suppose it’s a great injustice that some primitive tribesman on the African plains still can”€™t check his Facebook on a smartphone.

All this cant about human rights is sucking away at the true nature of rights and what they mean to government. The phrase “€œhuman right”€ is tossed around to justify so many things”€”gay marriage, abortifacients, sex reassignment surgery, untrammeled immigration”€”that it now repulses many conservative-minded observers. When young, idealistic college students preach the virtue of guaranteeing every citizen quality health care, a dignifying job, affordable housing, and a cell phone, it makes for a sanctimonious demonstration of unrefined self-satisfaction. No wonder it turns off mature listeners.

For something to be a human right, it needs to have been on the table for all of history. By that standard, Internet access and modern medicine can”€™t possibly be rights. How can something that’s the innate property of man come along thousands of years after civilization came into existence? It doesn”€™t make any sense for something that was invented less than a half century ago to be a hallowed, integral part of humanity. Either rights are inherent to man’s character or they can be made up on a whim whenever Silicon Valley develops a new toy. In the latter’s case, anything can be turned into a “€œhuman right”€ if enough people demand it.

From a natural law perspective, rights are claims that men have by virtue of being men. These include ownership over the self and justly acquired property. It’s illogical to say that people don”€™t have a right to their form, since the converse is that everyone owns an equal part of everyone else. As Murray Rothbard wrote, “€œThe concept of “€˜rights”€™ only makes sense as property rights.”€ Such fruits of logical deduction rarely leave a mark on the liberal mind. They only reinforce the belief that bourgeois rationalism is an evil tool used to keep the weak enslaved to the rich and powerful.

“€œHuman right”€ is now a catchall term for things people want. Want a Christian baker to sell a cake to your gay wedding? Demand a right to service. Want to walk into a hospital and be given free care without paying a dime? Just call health care a human right. Want to get more free time by sending your kids to a penitentiary-like school for eight hours? Declare that universal education is a right for everyone.


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