October 17, 2014
The Lockean underpinnings of the American Constitution were supposed to protect against this kind of distorted thinking. Unfortunately, the principles taught by Locke were infused with a kind of revolutionary ardor that overtook the lessons of prudential governance and reverence for a higher power. The driving call to liberation, expressed most prominently in the American Revolution, began the crusade for human freedom. What that liberty looks like in its final form is up for debate. But what’s not questionable is the wisdom of the relentless drive to achieve salvation. If humanity must always be barreling down the linear path to history’s end, then there’s no problem with helping it along by perpetuating erroneous theories about rights.
By putting the label of “human right” on certain commodities or practices, those things slowly become an expected norm. Health care is widely available in the U.S.; thus it’s not a heavy burden for the government to demand that every citizen have free access to it. The Internet is cheaper and more widespread than ever before; therefore Governor O”Malley can refer to wireless access as a human right and not be laughed off the television screen.
As long as capitalism continues to create material prosperity, new rights will be discovered for every new gizmo. The goal isn”t finding truth about the human condition embedded in reality. Progressives are concerned with creating a utopia where everyone is equal to everyone else. In practice, that requires a grand scheme of redistribution implemented by the state. Some are robbed for the sake of others, while being given the excuse that certain human rights trump their own.
As long as the debate over natural rights is muddled with demands for bigger and better stuff, the welfare state will expand. Few politicians want to tell voters they are taking away their biweekly check in the mail. Even fewer want to tell taxpayers that they should be on their own, not counting on government bureaucrats to fix their problems. It’s better to be given something; and better still to be told you deserve it for no other reason than you have a right to it.
Democracy hinges upon the unthinking masses voting themselves more and more favors. Nearly a century after the progressive era took hold in the U.S., the idea of the old republic is gone. Government no longer exists to protect the nation from enemies. Washington, D.C. is now a sugar daddy that buys the affection of the public. The political class calls these Stockholm syndrome payments a “right” to distract from the creeping trend of serfdom.
A reorientation of public opinion toward understanding what constitutes a real and proper human right would put a stop to the unrivaled growth of the federal government. But that would require instilling a sense of duty and morality in the masses. Perhaps it’s better to settle for free Wi-Fi in the end. At least the downfall of civilization can be witnessed while live blogging the rise of the new dark ages.