Conservative commentary: 'Rights' do not burden others

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— When we consider drastically altering our expectations of government, we risk undermining the principles on which our country was founded and proving Ronald Reagan's maxim: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."

Every expansion of government entitlements masquerading as rights - like a "right to health care" - is a dangerous step along this path, no matter how well-intentioned.

The founders of our country lived more than two centuries ago in a vastly different era, but they understood certain principles are timeless, such as the corruptibility of human nature and the danger of unrestrained power.

They risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor because their government was smothering them with taxes, regulations and bureaucrats - not because it failed to provide health care, welfare or education. They risked future, family, reputation and possessions because they were denied the opportunity to pursue happiness on their own terms

In the Declaration of Independence, these visionaries agreed to the "self-evident" truth that freedom comes from a source higher than the state and assures everyone of the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. They further agreed that the legitimate purpose of government is "to secure these rights."

Perhaps it's unfortunate they didn't substitute "freedoms" for "rights," but in their day, the two terms were synonymous. The idea that the people could impose their demands on government - rather than vice versa - was incomprehensible. This concept of rights leaves no room for entitlements that benefit some at the expense of others.

Authentic rights can be enjoyed without permission from anyone else. Freedom of speech or religion or the right to keep and bear arms impose no cost on others or government.

Only when competing rights collide must one freedom yield. In these circumstances, the founders concluded the proper balance ought to be drawn by the people whom government serves.

However, there is no right to be free from annoyance or irritation. That the mere exercise of our rights bothers someone else is an inevitable consequence of freedom.

Freedom also demands we refrain from interfering in others' enjoyment of their inalienable rights. Freedom encompasses not simply the opportunity to make choices but the responsibility for those choices. Just because one choice seems wiser or safer doesn't justify using the force of government to require everyone to make the same choice. Likewise, government shouldn't protect those who make irresponsible choices from the consequences of their actions or, worse yet, make someone else bear the cost.

Entitlement programs always impose a cost, always interfere with someone else's fundamental freedoms and couldn't occur if government didn't have the power to confiscate our assets if we refused to pay taxes, even for causes we would not support voluntarily.

No society has achieved nirvana - with or without government. Yet, history is replete with the empty promises of politicians who suggested that a little less freedom would lead to equality and prosperity.

Conversely, history has but one example of a country founded on individual freedom. Despite its shortcomings, America remains a beacon to oppressed people around the world.

In his day, Reagan saw the horrors of Nazism and Communism and realized how fragile our freedom could be: "It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for (our children) to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

Our vision for the future should emulate the founders - not the empty promises and repressive systems that so many around the world are dying to escape.

Comments

Geary Baxter 6 years, 11 months ago

Thank you, Mark. Reagan certainly emulated core American beliefs. I don't ever remember him whining, do you?

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id04sp 6 years, 11 months ago

I think it's pretty sad that conservative entrepreneurs who benefit from our freedoms are always the ones to blame other people for their lack of success. True, many are not intelligent and motivated enough to succeed economically, and some choose to live simply rather than struggle 60 hours per week to make an extra dollar. Regardless of what Rush Limbaugh and others sometimes say on the radio, success in business does require good luck. We only hear about the ones who had success, and never about the vast majority who fail in the first year from no fault of their own. I would suggest that when your retail space landlord sells property to a chain store that will directly compete with you, that's at least "bad luck." I once signed a non-competition agreement that covered my next-door neighbor businesses who rented from the same landlord, but then the landlord did exactly what I described and sold property for a competing chain store business that people had to pass by to get to mine. That was an entrepreneurial success for my landlord, but certainly did violate the set of ethics that I was counting on when I rented from him.

How about the people who are fighting for our freedom in the Mideast and elsewhere? Don't you understand that a 20-year career defending our country is worth something? It's time put in that cannot be taken back. Social security benefits and military retirement checks, and health care, and the other meager benefits only guarantee a simple standard of living for those who earn them. Most put on a white or a blue collar on the first day of the 21st year and go back to work, where they will NEVER make back the difference they lost while serving. Even home ownership which so many take for granted can be a burden for military families who are forced to move, regardless of the real estate market at the time. Moving every three years means you often earn just enough equity to break even after the realtor takes her cut, and if your next house is bigger or nicer, it's because your pay went up enough to qualify for a larger no-down-payment loan from the VA.

Our heritage is full of examples where the founding fathers screwed other people over for a profit. Slavery was founded on the principal that black-skinned people were sub-human. Our so-called victory in the American Revolution was 100% due to the fact that it was an expensive and remote war that drained the Crown's resources (sound familiar in present day terms?). Large numbers of local rebels and insurgents from surrounding states ultimately prevailed over the British, and that's the only reason we don't sing God Save the Queen on her birthday.

Socialism is a losing proposition. Profiteering victimizes the general population. What's the solution? Strong moral and ethical values, taught at home, in school, and in a religious setting. Are we going to ever have those values back? Not in our lifetimes, we're not.

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freshair 6 years, 11 months ago

There are no better alternatives than capitalism and democracy. Other-isms have been tried and have failed. Capitalism and democracy are certainly not perfect. But to borrow from Churchill, they are terrible systems save for anything else.

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