How many times do we hear that on the news, from friends and neighbors, or even coming out of our own mouths? It's become as commonplace (and meaningless) as the word love ("I'd love some pizza", "That movie? I loved it!") The problem that plagues many is that there are two sides to every coin, two edges to the sword, two ends to the mule -- where there are rights, there must be, by definition, responsibilities.
In the movie "Oh, God! Book II", George Burns' God character says, "my problem was I could never figure out how to build anything with just one side to it" ... "there can't be good without bad, life without death, pleasure without pain." To put it in terms my science geek friends use, "There is no magnetic monopole."
Likewise, you can't have a Right without a Responsibility.
For example, consider the right (Note: I will use a lower-case "r" when talking about something not a legal or natural right) to own a pet. Sure, you can have a dog, cat, flying spaghetti monster or whatever, but if you don't take care of it -- feed, water, clean up, medicate -- then it will die. You have responsibilities. Or how about kids? How many times I've heard someone say they have a "right to have children". Sure you do (unfortunate, in too many cases -- the gene pool needs some chlorine, but that's another thesis) but if you don't feed, clothe, care for, educate, etc. your child then they will die or otherwise be taken from you.
|Sidebar: What's a right and what's a privilege? A right is something that, once assigned, cannot be taken away. A privilege is something that can be removed, temporarily or permanently by the issuing authority. Driving, no matter what the people texting on their cellphones on Highway 41 this morning might believe, is a privilege, not a right.|
So what about the Rights that are granted us by Government? Well, let's look at the ones most often cited -- increasingly during the Health Care debate -- by those in favour of bigger government: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Put aside, for a moment, the fact that it is the pursuit of happiness and not happiness itself that is a right and let's examine what it is that the Declaration of Independence (not, as some contend, the Constitution) actually says:
|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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.|
Let's take this apart:
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.
Note that these Rights - Equality, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not given by the Government. They are given by God, Allah, Nature, Cthulu, Randmon Fluctuations in the Space-Time Continuum, whatever you want to call it. And they are irrevocable (hey, that's why they're called Rights, imagine that). However, they come with Responsibilities. Very simply, those Responsibilities are that each individual's Rights end at the doorstep of the next individual. That is, your Right to Life doesn't trump anyone else's.
In real terms, that means that you can go ahead and smoke your pack a day, sir, that's your choice for your Life. However, you cannot expect me to pay for your health care when you're laying in the terminal ward with emphysema or cancer. You can decide that its fun (pursuit of happiness stuff) to get "stoned to the bejesus belt" but that doesn't mean you can get in your car and endanger my life. You can be free and unencumbered by insurance if you want. But don't expect, then, to have the taxpayers foot the bill if your house gets destroyed by a hurricane.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Ruh-Roh, Rorge! A couple of things jump right out, here. First is that Government does not give these Rights. It secures them. It insures, through law and enforcement of law, that these Rights are not taken away by anyone else. It makes sure that there's that very real and hard line at the individual's doorstep. It does this by enforcing Responsibility. That's all. That's the extent of it.
And (and here's the part that rankles those in favor of centralized government) it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. It gets its authority not from itself but by the continuous assent of those who band together to allow government to make these assurances. It is not a power unto itself, it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Finally, the part that will really blow your mind:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Think about that. Very simply, it is the Right of the People (that's right, us, the citizens) to remove and replace the government if it fails in its duty to insure (not provide, insure) these Rights. So, it is the Responsibility of the People to be vigilant. It is the Responsibility of the People to oversee and participate in their own governance. It is the Responsibility of the People to dissent and revolt when the People see our Rights in danger.
As I've proven in earlier posts, our Inalienable Rights are under attack. They are in danger. Therefore, it is our Responsibility to protect them, in the words of our very Founders, by rebellion.
You're given the Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. They can't be taken away by any power on earth. And its your Responsibility, when Government won't protect those Rights or is, in fact, the very threat to those Rights, that you act to remedy the situation. Not by words. Not by force of arms, but by becomming involved in the process of Government. By giving your consent, as the governed, to whatever replacement is necessary to once again insure those Rights.
President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, said "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty." It's not enough to talk. We the People must act. It's mandated in our system of government. And so once again, I reiterate my Four Points for Action that I am following, each day:
- I am going to purchase small American flags. Each week, from now until November second, I am going to pin one upside-down to a piece of paper and send one each to my Congressmen and Senator with the simple notation "11/2" as a prediction and warning.
- I am going to get involved, right now, with a candidate.
- Through the winnowing of the primary process, I am going to choose and throw my support not just to my canidate but whomever is the closest to my philosophies and opposes the incumbent, regardless of party. We have been betrayed by both parties and all incumbents must therefore be voted out.
- I am going to personally and directly ask two people to do these four steps and to ask those people to do them as well. In that way, there will be a groundswell, a snowball of We The People.
"Well done is better than well said."
- Benjamin Franklin