Sunday, July 17, 2005

An open letter to Susan Eagle

Dear Comrade Eagle;

Please read Thomas Sowell.

Regards,
Lisa

Take, for example, the proposition, "Every American has a right to decent housing." If all that is really being said is that some (or all) of us would prefer to see all Americans living in housing that meets or exceeds whatever standard we may have for "decent housing," then there is no need for the word "rights," which conveys no additional information and which can be confused with legal authorizations or moral arguments, neither of which is present. Moreover, if we are candid enought to say that such "rights" merely boil down to what we would like to see, then there is no need to restrict the statement to Americans or to housing that is merely "decent." Surely we would all be happier to see every human being on the planet living in palatial housing - a desire which has no fewer (and no more) arguments behind it than the "right" to "decent" housing.

However modest a goal, "decent" housing does not produce itself, any more than palatial housing does. Be it ever so humble, someone has to build a home, which requires work, skills, material resources, and financial risks for those whose investments underwrite the operation. To say that someone has a "right" to any kind of housing is to say others have an obligation to expend all these efforts on his behalf, without his being reciprocally obligated to compensate them for it. Rights from governmental interference - "Congress shall make no law," as the Constitution says regarding religion, free speech, etc. - may be free, but rights to anything mean that someone else has been yoked to your service involuntarily, with no corresponding responsibility on your part to provide for yourself, to compensate others, or even to behave decently or responsibly. Here the language of equal rights is conscripted for service in defense of differential privileges.

From The Vision of the Annointed by Thomas Sowell

1 Comment:

Pietr said...

Ah,yes.
'Decent'.
The moderate-quality buzzword,the word that sounds as though to demand would be 'plain good ole common sense'.
Outrage can be respectable!