Your freedoms to, or power, are your positive rights. Your freedoms from others messing with you, or liberty, are your negative rights. In my last post, I described what rights you don’t have. Nobody called my on my description, so apparently I’ve convinced all of you and don’t need to justify it.
Positive rights are beautiful but a bit more complicated than the negative ones. For one thing, the degree to which you exercise your power may well interfere with somebody else’s liberty, or even their power. This is part of why I think it’s the government’s job to focus on liberty.
However, rightly or wrongly, many perceive that positive rights should require some sort of moral justification. “Why do you need to own an ‘assault rifle’ with a sixteen-round magazine?” “The Founders never gave you the right to drink moonshine?” “You have no right to offend me?” “When they wrote the First Amendment, they were NOT envisioning Joanie Loves Chachi.”
I could assert that I have the right to spend my entire life watching Hee-Haw re-runs while eating nothing but Cheetos and drinking only Mountain Dew. I could try to justify this right (I’m not hurting you), but when I’m challenged on it, I can come across as somewhat trite. “So my grandfather lost his foot on Iwo Jima so you could immerse yourself in cheesey one-liners, classic Country, and turn your fingers orange?” There’s no way to answer this without seeming like my priorities are skewed.
Instead, if somebody tells me I have no right to watch the Ray Charles episode yet again, I use another negative:
What right do you have to stop me?
Now, they look trite. It’s a nice little flip, and it works really well.
Of course, there are time when they do have the right to stop me. If I’m behind on electricity bill, eventually the power company’s going to stop the marathon. The Kwik-E-Mart is under no obligation to give me free Cheetos (not even stale ones). If my VCR burns out, I’d best be able to buy a new one. I have no problem with this.
Unfortunately, as we become
more subject to the whims of our nanny state a more inter-connected society, others have an increased ability to influence my decisions. Yes, they’ll pay for my health care if my genitalia turns orange because I’ve developed a crush on Misty Rowe. But if they’re paying for my health care, then don’t they have the right to stop me, or at least make me skip those cornfield jokes? Won’t they have more power over me?
Indeed, they might.
And this is yet another reason to oppose government interference in everything. The “help” always comes with strings attached, even if they’re invisible at first. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
If the public’s going to pay for my health issues, then my body becomes the public’s responsibility. If my body’s the public’s responsibility, then what right do I have to do what I want with it?
At some point (I’ll find the source if somebody insists) Ann Coulter made a similar case against marijuana legalization. If you become a total pothead and can’t hold down a job, then we have the right to keep you from using pot because we have to (there’s that phrase again) pay for your welfare. Can some people smoke dope and hold down a decent job? Yes. Can some people smoke pot every day and still somehow pull six figures and leave their employers none the wiser? Yup.
But why take that chance?
“Let’s all take care of each other!” It sounds great and almost brings a tear to my eye, but then I think. If you have to pay for my mistakes, then do I really have a right to my own mistakes? Is it really okay for me to insist you let me immerse myself Hee-Haw and Joanie Loves Chachi re-runs if you have to pay for my electricity, Cheetos, and provide me with some sort of scooter so I can get to the Kwik-E-Mart to buy another two-liter of Mountain Dew because I’ve gotten so damn fat?
No, it’s not.
On the other hand, I don’t particularly think it’s any of your damn business what re-runs I watch, even if I choose Punky Brewster.
But it is your responsibility if I can’t handle my own freedom correctly. Not in the moral sense. Not in the religious sense. In the legal sense.
“We’re in this thing together!”