The Basis of Human Rights

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Flight, captured here in an architectural detail at the air museum in Wichita Kansas, expresses the freedom to go as you please

Our rights, whether considering the US Constitution or those adopted by the United Nations, have a common origin. Put simply, it is the right to do as you please.

You can go where you please, say what you please, defend yourself, feed yourself, breathe and live out your life.

Living on another planet or in a remote wilderness in Montana and devoid of any human interaction, that’s pretty easy to do.

But it gets complicated when a stranger wanders in and poops in the stream from which you drink or stands outside your door shouting his religious beliefs day and night, threatening you with eternal Hell and damnation if you won’t see things his way.

His right to do as he pleases impedes – infringes – yours.

In other words, each of us has the right to do as we please as long as what we do doesn’t infringe on someone else’s ability to do as they please. But when the guy on the soap box keeps me awake all night, then something has to give.

Is he on the sidewalk outside your bedroom window? A noise ordinance comes to bear.

Are you sleeping in a public area? Vagrancy laws apply.

Rights are inherent. They are part of our genetic nature; the will to live.

Laws and city ordinances, on the other hand, ae what we as a group living in close proximity to each other make that compromise those inherent rights. We agree to limit our rights in the interest of achieving a higher, some say easier, degree of living.

The paved street in front of my house is very convenient. I can go out in my car in almost any weather to buy milk and bread. But the cars that use it, mine included, must have mufflers so I can sleep at night.

So, for the convenience of that road, I will surrender a little of my right to do as I wish with my money and, instead, agree to use it to buy a new muffler when a rust hole eats through the old one.

I will compromise my rights in order to benefit from living with others and doing things for the common good.

Today, however, a new right is being claimed. It’s the socialized healthcare debate.

Some now say that because ill health can impede (infringe) someone’s ability – their right – to speak their mind, good health is therefore also a right. While this right may be implicit or implied, they claim, it is nonetheless, a necessary precondition to those rights explicitly stated in public decrees. Without one, you cannot have the other. It is, therefore, just as much a right as any other, implicit or explicit.

But this claim ignores the basic precept stated above that begins with “as long as.” You have the right to good health as long as your right does not infringe any of my rights.

While this may be true, the simple fact is it works only if you live in the wilderness. Like the other rights, they are achievable only if you live without a connection of any kind to any other human being.

But if you live in a society, then you have already agreed to compromise your rights.

Your car has a muffler and you paid for it.

The only question that remains then is, how much? How much will you compromise your rights for your fellow man? How much are you willing to give up for your neighbor’s good health, and he for you? Just how much, in dollars and cents, is it worth?

The cost of a muffler?

It is disingenuous to live in and benefit from the advantages of a community while, at the same time, raging about the infringements of your rights.

You’ve already agreed to surrendering some parts of your rights already.

Where we differ is in how much. Put a number on it.

Here are some of my numbers.

My money for your birth control? $0.00

My money for your on-going Medicare? Ok, I’ll pitch in some as I’ve done throughout my working life, and to the degree that has been already established. Maybe even a little more. A little, mind you.

But change the rules big time? Nope, I’m not up for that.

And free care for everyone even if they can but choose not to contribute like I did?

Nope, not one cent.

That’s how much of my rights I will surrender.

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