Among those rights are freedom of the press, of religion and of speech; right to bear arms; against unreasonable search and seizure; to due process of the law; a trial by jury; to bail; and the one most people forget, the restriction of the federal government: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
From the preamble, we have the right to pursue happiness, but none of the founding fathers ever indicated that government was somehow responsible for ensuring happiness or guaranteeing it in any way.
Today, The Blade, features a front page story - upper right side where the most important news traditionally goes - featuring a letter from the publisher of the paper, John Robinson Block, to Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
The letter to Sen. Obama, which his paper thinks is the most important thing going on in the world today, asks a question in bold:
Do all Americans who want to work have the right to a job where they live?
The obvious answer any presidential candidate who seeks to support and uphold the Constitution should have is: NO!
However, I suspect that Obama would provide a different answer, considering the last paragraph of the letter:
"President Roosevelt called for a "Second Bill of Rights" guaranteeing the right to a job, the right to a decent home, the right to adequate medical care and the right to a good education. Do you agree?"
The 'story' that goes along with this self-generated news, "FDR's economic fairness initiative resonates today," claims that many people today believe we need a return to the failed policies of socialism, though the paper doesn't it call it such. Instead, it quotes Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown talking about restoring the rules of economic fairness.
The article doesn't mention that the only economic systems which claimed to produce fairness have all failed, because they attempted to regulate fairness of results rather than fairness of opportunity.
It does, however, find plenty of room to detail Roosevelt's 'Second Bill of Rights':
President Roosevelt's proposed second Bill of Rights included:
• 'The right to a useful, remunerative job in industries, shops, farms, or mines.'
• 'The right to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing, and recreation.'
• 'The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return that will provide a decent living.'
• 'The right of every businessman to trade with freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies.'
• 'The right of every family to a decent home.'
• 'The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.'
• 'The right to protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.'
• 'The right to a good education.'
I find it ironic, though, that despite promoting 'the right to a good education' The Blade is opposed to school choice.
So let's take a look at these 'rights.'
How can government protect us from fears? No matter what actions a government might take to protect us from facing the consequences of age, sickness, accidents and unemployment, they cannot stop us from worrying or 'fear' about those things. And is there really anything any government can do to protect us from old age???
Every person within the borders of the United States of America has access to adequate medical care. No person with a potentially life-threatening issue is ever turned away from an emergency room. Many ERs treat people with non-life threatening issues. Access to doctors, immunizations, preventive medicine, prescription drugs, etc. is available. The trick is when government tries to re-define access as 'access without regard to ability to pay' and insists that others must pay for such care rather than allowing the free market to work and empowering individuals to be responsible (payment plans, etc.) for their own care.
Every person has the 'opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health' but government can never ensure such a thing without completely taking control of our bodies and dictating the food we eat, the exercise we get and the behaviors we embrace. Isn't that really where such a 'right' leads?
The 'right to a decent home' is part of what got us into the current financial mess. It was laws, rules and regulations Congress and government passed that put people into homes they couldn't afford, especially when unemployment benefits and welfare payments qualified as 'income' for the purposes of credit. And who gets to decide the definition of 'decent'? I think one of those lovely beach front homes in Newport, RI, would meet my definition of 'decent.' Does that mean government should give me one of them if it's my right?
The 'right' of business to be protected from unfair competition is all about government controlling every aspect of the market place. It can only lead to government price controls, government preferences and government mandates. We see how well those things work in Cuba. I bet the American people would absolutely love to have Cuba's economy these days. And if you don't like that example, you can look at how well the USSR did - oh, wait - that nation doesn't exist any more. What a ringing endorsement.
And if every farmer had a 'right' to sell his produce at a price that produced a decent (there's that word again) living, it would necessarily guarantee that consumers of such products would be paying a price that harmed their 'living.' Artificial price controls - that is, prices dictated by government and not by a free market - negatively impact our overall economy, driving the costs of goods beyond their value.
The "right to earn enough ..." I guess I'd have to equate 'enough' with 'decent' and ask who gets to decide how much is enough, and also to go back to the fact that mandating a wage or income drives the costs of labor beyond its value, which is sure-fire way to destroy an economy.
I guess I never realized how important some people believe it is for the government to guarantee my right to recreation. Does that mean they'll buy me that sailboat I've always wanted since that's MY definition of recreation?
But the most odious of these suggestions is this one:
'The right to a useful, remunerative job in industries, shops, farms, or mines.'
How does government decide what is useful? Do they tell the entrepreneur that her new invention isn't really 'useful' and prohibit her from going into business? Do the four categories (industry, shops, farms and mines) necessarily restrict us to just useful jobs in those areas?
If a person has a right to a job, does the employer - who is, also, a person - have any comparable rights? What roles do merit or skill or experience or qualifications play in such a system? Is one person's right to a job more important that another's? Since government doesn't create jobs or wealth, how can government even make such a guarantee?
And if the publisher of our local paper - born into wealth - thinks everyone should be guaranteed a job, why did he lay off people at The Blade? Did he, by reducing staff levels, violate the 'right' of his employees to a job?
When we equate the results of work to 'rights,' we eliminate any incentive to achieve. If everyone has a 'right' to the rewards, there is no reason to take a risk to attain them. There would be no reason for a person to work harder in order to gain an advantage or advancement. And if there is no reward for the effort, there will be no effort.
We must reject socialism on every level, but especially at the local one where small numbers of individuals can have a big impact. I encourage you to contact The Blade and tell them what you think of this letter and the publisher's opinion that people have a 'right' to a job.
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