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July 25, 2017

Opinion piece, Arizona Daily Star

Each day we hear that we have a right to health care , a right to education, a right to a job, a right to clean water, etc. Is this accurate? What is a “right”?

A right is a moral principle that gives each individual freedom of ACTION. Rights pertain to individuals and to actions: each of us has the right to speak freely, to debate, to write; I have the right to travel and move about, to trade with others and make money; I have the right to create and invent in a thousand ways.

The foundation of all rights is the right to life. This means that I as an individual have the right to take the actions necessary to prolong and enhance my life. At the same time, my right to life defines other people’s right to their lives. I have no right to enslave others, they have no right to enslave me. A right, therefore, is a moral principle that applies to everyone.

Obviously, I do not have a right to THINGS, “things” meaning anything that belongs to or is created by others. This includes such blessings as health care, education, a job, or clean water. No individual or government has a right to rob or enslave one group in order to provide these benefits for another group. Each of us must earn these benefits, or pay for them, or create them ourselves.

You can tell a politician’s view of rights by his or her actions on issues like those mentioned above–health-care, education, etc. Clearly, few of them understand what individual rights are. Most presume that my life belongs to the State, to society, or to God. My wishes and desires are secondary. Only a tiny minority affirm that I have a right to ALL aspects of my life (Rand Paul); a few say I have a right to MOST of my life (Donald Trump); a majority concede that I have a right to SOME small percentage of my life ( U.S. Congress); and the remaining fringe deny that I have a right to life at all, that the State retains the right to dispose of my life and property as it sees fit in order to create an ideal society (Bernie Sanders).

If you agree with this definition of a “right,” you must feel, as I do, that you are a voice crying in the wilderness. But take heart and remember kindred voices: Patrick Henry’s rallying cry for freedom, Susan B. Anthony’s quest for equality, Martin Luther King’s campaign for justice. These heroes remind us that governments must never be allowed to enslave our minds or bodies. Keep crying out. Your rights depend on it.
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