Something I wrote years ago. As valid today as it was then.... if not more. What Are Our "Rights"? You hear an awful lot about our "rights" these days. And justly so-- our rights, in this country, are our most valuable possession, outside of life itself. And some people say that our basic rights, are even more important than life. When Patrick Henry defiantly told the British government during colonial times, "Give me liberty or give me death!", he was stating that he considered a life without liberty, to be worse than no life at all (death). So, what are our rights? The Declaration of Independence mentions a few, and implies that there are others. So does the Constitution-- in fact, it names many, and categorically states that those aren't the only rights people have. The Declaration says that among our rights, are "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". It also says that these were given to us "by [our] Creator". Take that as you will, depending on whatever religious outlook you hold. But one of the implications is that, wherever our rights came from, they were NOT granted us by government, or by our fellow men at all. We had them long before government existed. And these various government documents simply say that government cannot take them away or interfere with them. Here we refer, of course, only to normal law-abiding citizens. The Constitution contains the phrase "except by due course of law" in many places. If you rob someone, assault him, destroy his property, murder him etc., then you can legitimately be deprived of liberty (you go to jail), property (you get fined), or even life in some extreme cases (Death Penalty). Outside of such lawbreaking, your rights are held inviolate. But today, our "rights" seem to be multiplying without end. This is not necessarily bad-- as we said, rights are extremely valuable. But, are we getting ahead of ourselves, granting to ourselves so many things under the name of "rights"? "Old Rights" Some are pretty indisputable, such as the ones mentioned in the Declaration. The ones mentioned in the Constitution, especially in the first ten Amendments (which was even called the "Bill of Rights" by its authors), are similarly vital... though they seem to be undergoing a methodical erosion. Freedom of religion, right to peaceably assemble, freedom of speech and of the press, the right to keep and bear arms, etc. all are very basic, and it is scary to think of trying to exist in a country in which any of these do not exist. New "rights" But lately we have heard about other "rights", such as the right to work, the right to decent medical treatment, the right to a decent standard of living. These all sound salutary-- what kind of society would we have, if working for a living were forbidden, decent health care were forbidden, etc.? But there is a big gap between "forbidden" and "compulsory". The rights found in the country's founding documents, are compulsory, to the extent that we all have them whether we want them or not (who wouldn't want them?), and no one can take them away. What about, say, the right to decent medical treatment? Those who favor this "right", point out that they don't necessarily mean the rare, exotic, super-expensive treatments; nor "elective" procedures such as cosmetic liposuction or a luxury suite in the hospital. They usually mean that, if you get sick or injured, you have the "right" to have a doctor look at you, make sure the problem isn't unusually dangerous, and administer the routine treatments needed to help you on the way back to good health. An absence of such routine treatment, could occasionally put your life in peril, obviously-- a simple broken bone could lead to infection if untreated, and possibly far more. But there are differences between the "Old Rights", as we've called the ones in the founding documents, and these "New 'Rights'". Your "right to life" protects something that no man gave you-- you simply had it, from the day you were born. Nobody had to go to extraordinary effort to create it for you, outside of natural processes that move forward on their own without deliberate effort or guidance by humans, government, etc. Same with the "right to liberty". You were your own man, as it were, the day you were born. Nobody had to go to special effort to create that status for you. In fact, they would have had to go to considerable effort to take those things away, by deliberately coming to you and killing you; or by building a jail and imprisoning you etc. If they leave you alone, you have life and liberty, and can pursue happiness. They have to work at it to deprive you of those things. The Difference in the "New 'Rights'" But this isn't the case with what we've called "New 'Rights'". In order for you to get the kind of routine medical treatment its advocates describe, somebody has to stop what he is doing and perform work for you-- the doctor who examines you, the clerk who sets up your appointment, the people who built the office or hospital where you get treatment. If this routine medical treatment is to be called a "right" on par with our "Old Rights", doesn't that mean that you must be given it when needed? And doesn't it follow, then, that others must be compelled to do the normal things needed to treat you? Uh-oh. How does this compulsion upon those others (doctors, clerks etc.) fit in with THEIR rights? They "have" to treat you? What if their schedules are full-- do they have to bump another patient to make room for you? What if they were spending precious quality time with their families-- do they have to abandon their own kids, to fulfill your "right" to treatment that only they can give? Doesn't this fit the description of "involuntary servitude"? This is an important difference between the rights envisioned by the country's founders, and the new "rights" advocated by more modern pundits. In order to secure your "old rights", people merely had to leave you alone... do nothing to bother you. in fact, they were required to. But these new so-called "rights", required that people go out of their way to actively contribute to you. And that "requirement", in fact violates THEIR rights-- specifically, their right to liberty. They must be left free to live their lives as THEY chose-- free from compulsion to come and help you out. If they want to help you, that's fine-- often it's the decent and moral thing to do. But they cannot be forced to help you, no matter how much you need the help. These new "rights", are in fact not rights at all. They are obligations upon others, imposed on them without their agreement or consent. Beware of announcements that you have the "right" to this or that. Ask yourself if this "right", forces someone else to do something for you, that he didn't previously agree to. If it does, it's not a "right" possessed by you. It's an attempt by the announcer, to force others into servitude... an attempt, in fact, to violate the others' rights.