Our Constitution concludes with a Bill of Rights, but these rights are of a particular nature — and are friends of real liberty. But within the last several generations, another set of ostensible rights, with a completely different nature, have crept into our public discourse. These rights, these entitlements, are enemies of liberty.
Not only so, but everyone who understands and defends human rights in the first sense is a friend of human liberty. Everyone who whoops for rights in the second sense is an enemy of human liberty. Some in this latter group are enemies of human liberty because they are envious, some because they think good intentions can be used as paving stones to the Big Rock Candy Mountain, and still others because economic illiteracy runs in their family.
What I would like to do here is explain the difference between the two kinds of rights. The first kind of rights can be called free rights. The second kind of rights should be called funded rights.
The first kind of right consists in the government not doing things. The second requires the government to do things. Now when you don’t do something, this does not require a staff. It doesn’t require offices. You don’t need a cabinet position to head the operation up. You don’t need a budget. “Not doing something” is free.
It doesn’t cost anything to let Americans build their own churches. Allowing them to keep and bear arms costs nothing. No budget is required to not interfere with their right to freely assemble. Leaving people alone is free. Not being an officious busybody is inexpensive. Walking away from the temptations of tyranny does not bust the budget of any department whatever.
The other conception of rights is never far away from any sinful human heart, but it really got traction in our culture with FDR’s bread and circuses do-over. In January of 1944, FDR undertook to recast how we think of our rights.
“We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.”
If you listen closely, you can hear the chains clanking behind his back.
The reason has to do with the nature of these new rights. The right to a useful and remunerative job. The right of a farmer to sell his products at a certain price. The right of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care. The right to a good education.
Tracking with me? All of these have a price tag, and the payment will not be made by the possessor of the right. A man who has a right to a free thing is a man who also believes that another man has an obligation to provide that free thing. For the one fulfilling the obligation, it is not a free thing. It is an expensive thing. Not only that, but also in the background is the unspoken assumption that the government is the guarantor of these new rights, which means that the government is the muscle, the heavy, the collector.
So let’s make this specific. If Murphy has the right to keep and bear arms, nobody else has to do a single blessed thing. If Smith has a right to own a shiny new rifle that costs a thousand dollars, then Murphy has an obligation to cough up a thousand dollars, and the government has the obligation to see to it that he does so promptly and with a good attitude. By defining rights in this way, you are building out the infrastructure of tyranny.
And that is why things are going the way that they have been going recently. For three quarters of a century, we have been investing heavily in infrastructure.
Life is simple. If you have the right to eat a Krispy Kreme donut if you want, transfats and all, then, when the muse strikes, you head on down to the donut shop with your own money in your own pocket, dreaming dreams of what is to come. But if you have an entitlement to a Krispy Kreme donut, then somebody else has the obligation to buy it for you, and a third party, the takers-away of true rights, the government, has the obligation to see to it that it happens. If you don’t understand this, that is all the explanation of your slavery that you need.
The entire system is evil, and so the fact that many Christians have learned to define it as “compassionate” is a very bad sign (Is. 5:20). The larceny in their hearts is covered over with a thin veneer of platitudes — things like “fair share” and “one percent.” But all such platitudes are nothing more than the spots of a greed cancer spreading so rapidly that it just looked like a veneer.
Fair share? Before we try to achieve that, what say we try to define it first? Why don’t we try to find it on the map before we begin the long journey?
In the United States today, the bottom 60% pay less than 2% of all income taxes. The top 1% pay around 46% of all income taxes. Let that sink in. The American people are liars and thieves, and this is why it is fitting that we are governed by liars and thieves. This is one of the glories of representative government. We have the rulers we deserve.
And if, like some scribe losing an argument with Jesus, a man tries to justify himself by saying that the one percent can afford it, let us simply point out that if you make more than 25K, you are part of the global one percent. That means he can afford it also.
We are watching. Show us how it is done. Don’t worry. You can afford it.