The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 May 2004

Shot by both sides

Susanna Cornett points to this Charley Reese column, ostensibly about Michael Moore, which offers an explanation of the difference between rights we have and rights some of us think we deserve. And that difference?

The best way to understand the difference between a true right and a falsely claimed right is that a true right does not compel anyone else to do anything except leave us alone.

That's why it is wrong to say that people have a "right to medical care." To say this implies that someone else must be compelled to provide it. Medical care that is affordable is a desirable social goal, but it is not a right. Ditto education, housing, jobs and other economic benefits.

Reese goes on to provide a definition of a truly free society:

A truly free society is one in which people can think, say and do what they please as long as they don't infringe on other people's rights to think, say and do what they please. No one has a right to not be offended. No one has a right to demand that others agree with him or her. No one has a right to utter defamatory falsehoods. The reason maintaining a free society is so difficult is that it butts heads with the itch many people have to control other people.

And am I imagining things, or has there been an upsurge in itchy buttheads in recent weeks?

Susanna notes:

Some controls are necessary to create the order and predictability a society must have to function, and societies also make laws delineating moral boundaries. The head-butting comes from competing views of what those controls and boundaries should be.

I don't think we'll ever get everyone to agree on the location of those boundaries, but the phrase that pays is "competing views": each gets its chance in the marketplace of ideas. If some of them get shot down, well, that's the way the system works. A surprisingly large number of people believe that if their trial balloons don't fly, it's the result of a conspiracy by Those Other People; it can't possibly be because their ideas were laughed off the market.

Posted at 7:44 AM to Almost Yogurt

TrackBack: 9:38 AM, 12 May 2004
» Rights and Inflation from Acorns from an Okie
Charles Reese has an interesting quote in Michael Moore: While I'm no fan of the present-day Disney corporation, it has a right to block the distribution of any film by its own subsidiaries. Moore, a pseudo-blue-collar multimillionaire, apparently does......[read more]

Well, it's not quite that simple. Philosophers would call what Reese has done "affirming the consequent." I have to say that, even though I agree with his position.

To arrive at Reese's conclusion honestly, one must first define "a right" in the classical, genus-plus-differentia fashion, and then ask, "What sorts of claims fall into the space thus defined, and what sorts of claims never can?"

It's a matter of some controversy, even after 2500 years of abstract theorizing about rights, right and wrong, the nature of Man and the nature of society.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 4:05 PM on 12 May 2004

I see the fallacy, but unfortunately, I agree with him. :)

I suppose the true measure will be how much I continue to oppose government prescription plans for seniors as I approach the starting age for such things and my daily dosages become more costly.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:22 PM on 12 May 2004

People *do* have a right to demand that others agree with them, just as other people have the right to ignore the demand. :)

Terkish Payne, as long as they're just talking..

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 6:14 AM on 13 May 2004