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The Fallacy of Positive Rights

The entitlement mindset is poisoning a generation and ruining our economy.

by
Stephen Gutowski

Bio

February 26, 2009 - 12:45 am
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I know it’s not fashionable to worry in the hopeful times we now find ourselves in. And I know it’s not proper to worry when you’re only 22. And I know that when 22-year-olds living in the time of change worry, they are supposed to worry about midterms or finals — and believe me I do. But there is something larger that worries me: positive rights.

Positive rights are the greatest fallacy affecting this country today and for well into the future. Their entrenchment in my generation’s culture has handicapped us more than any recession has or ever could. The idea of positive rights effectively turns selfish envy for the possessions of others into mere desire for your rights to be upheld. But, on more practical terms, it is the programs they directly lead to that are perhaps the clearest example of the dangers of this attitude.

The Heritage Foundation has estimated that Medicare and Social Security alone will cost us $42.9 trillion more than we have budgeted for them over the next 75 years. And that’s just the unfunded commitments of two programs which have developed directly out of a positive rights mentality. There are dozens, if not hundreds, more programs and trillions upon trillions of dollars tied up in them.

So, now you see the problems with positive rights, but what exactly are they anyway? What is the concept behind them? Well, when I say “positive rights” I mean the idea that I have an undeniable right to take from you that which I have not earned. It is the idea that I, just by virtue of being born, am entitled to something that you have rightfully earned. I don’t need to work for these things. I don’t need to rely on your compassion or sympathy for these things. I simply deserve them because it is my right.

I’m here to say what is rarely said. Neither you nor I have an undeniable or unalienable right to take something from somebody else. We have no right to take what is not ours. This principle extends to all things, even water and food. We are born with no inherent right to someone else’s water or food no matter how little we have or how much they have.

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