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What’s Right vs. What Is A Right?

Whether we’re talking about national health care, immigration reform or two children fighting over the supposed infringement of the imaginary Maginot Line between their respective seats in the back of a minivan, the concept of “my rights” is constantly at play. C.S. Lewis addresses this very subject in the opening lines of his classic work, “Mere Christianity.” After pointing out the typical language used in the bickering one hears on a daily basis—“That’s not fair!”—Lewis continues:

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.
Today, our society cares a great deal about handing out “rights” to groups that the intellectual and cultural elite deem worthy. Conversely, and to our detriment, we care very little about responsibilities. Let’s turn to a trusted voice in the on-going fight for constitutional freedoms and personal responsibility. Listen to this short clip from Dr. Walter E. Williams of George Mason University. We’ve let the concept of “rights” elude rational, thoughtful discussion and debate. What we’re starting to see happen is what our founders feared most: the nation willfully choosing self-imposed tyrannies and economic shackles that throughout history have lead to enforced tyrannies and actual shackles. The reality of the situation is that the Constitution is, on some level, perceived as nothing more than a piece of paper. It can be amended. It can be ignored. We can choose less freedom. But we don’t have to. We need discerning minds and bold advocates to recognize that the same empty promises of “new economic rights” will eventually capsize the life-raft of liberty we’ve been floating on since the Pilgrims set out for Plymouth Rock.