Many Americans understand the elements of Natural Law that form the basis of their freedoms, constitutional law that protects those freedoms’ existence from government infringement, and statutes that protect them from the infringement of others. Government exists solely to protect our rights – from itself and from each other. It does not exist to give us everything we feel we need or want, two things that are entirely in the eye of the beholder, because that is simply a mathematically unsustainable approach that guarantees inappropriate intrusions and eventual failure.
Unfortunately, I often find that many of us do not appreciate this critical relationship, this hierarchy of liberty. Typically, this characteristic manifests in the form of simple misunderstandings, most commonly regarding the difference between rights and entitlements.
A right and an entitlement, though often enough advertised as synonymous, are not the same thing. As a society we tend to narrowly focus on instant gratification which subsequently leads us to expect and, in fact, demand entitlements that are not rightfully ours to expect. The politicians within the oligarchy know and understand this popular ignorance well, and prey upon it to fulfill their lust to dominate, their desire to control, and their need to impose their respective wills.
We must shed this growing superficial dependency on government entitlements and pursue a truer course, one which focuses on the understanding of our actual rights and what they substantively mean to individual, social, and economic freedom. To properly safeguard the blessings of our liberty for ourselves and future generations we must comprehend what our natural rights consist of in principle and how they differ from the tangible programs that the ruling class seeks to purposefully confuse them with. Dependency is one of the key ingredients to subjugation, a topic I will expound upon in a later post…
For example, we each possess a natural right to work but are not entitled to a job. What this means is that a free people have every right to work and subsequently enjoy the fruits of their labor without fear of government discrimination of any kind but this does not mean that government has a responsibility to provide us all with jobs or sustenance.* How can this be done in such a way that facilitates a person’s freedom to choose his or her own path? If we open the doors to a society where the government is the sole responsible entity for providing jobs then we affectively allow the government to decide what we do, for what wage, and for how long. Individual liberty requires independence which in turn requires self-reliability and personal drive.
*To be clear, I am not referring to a willful exchange of services between private and public entities or even programs which serve to legitimately help those in dire need from time to time – I am referring primarily to perpetual handout programs, new and old, which artificially prop up individuals, businesses, industries, and enterprises who, through their own actions, have demonstrated a sense of entitlement that overrules their respective senses of self-reliance and economically sound decision making.
We are also endowed with the right to pursue happiness but are in no way legitimately entitled to it. This right acknowledges that government must not intrude upon our pursuits in life, as in our self-chosen path(s) to a desired goal, but it does not mean that government is responsible for fulfilling these wishes for us. Government is supposed to leave us alone to do as we wish, provided our actions do not infringe upon the natural rights of others, and to punish others for interfering with us accordingly. But it cannot possibly satisfy everyone’s subjective definitions of happiness – which is precisely why it is supposed to be an individual (or at least a willingly cooperative) pursuit in the first place. Besides, can anyone honestly say that they would rather have the government determining what constitutes happiness for them?
We each have a natural right to pursue and earn a higher education but are not entitled to a degree or certificate. These things are tangible representations of one’s individual work ethic, critical thinking skills, ability to synthesize and digest information, and ability to meet established requirements or criteria in a given subject area. If we wish to, we each should be, and largely are, free to pursue an education without fear of discrimination or opposition but this alone does not guarantee that we will make the cut, so to speak. If we want the end result, we have every right to study hard for and earn it, but earn it we must as we are not entitled to a handout in this or any other form.
The list virtually goes on and on, from health care to wealth, from owning a home to personal retirement. We have every right to pursue such things but are not naturally entitled to government-sponsored issuance programs that come at the expense of others – which all do, as government cannot and does not produce anything on its own. While most reasonable people, myself included, can support a hand up to certain disadvantaged individuals, our gradual misinterpretation of entitlements as fundamental rights have led us to a near-catastrophic tipping point from which individual liberty and fiscal responsibility have come to mean next to nothing. Make no mistake; freedom on paper means nothing without the economic security that history illustrates is necessary to facilitate it.
Rights are derived from inherent concepts intended to eliminate or mitigate induced obstacles to a person’s own authority over self-determination and pursuit of prosperity, not to provide for every single subjective public demand or desire as judged appropriate by an elected bureaucracy. This approach is a direct contributor to why there is so much corruption, so many special interest juggernauts, and so few politicians with actual integrity in our government today.
This confusion over rights and entitlements has led us astray as a free society. We must recognize the underlying principle of what exactly our natural rights consist of and why they exist in order to properly secure ourselves against the liberty destroying, populist-abusing kleptocracy. Without this difficult but principled approach, we are institutionally guaranteeing that the hocus pocus will continue until we have brought the entire experiment in individual liberty crashing down around us.