Defending Rights

Bob Hyatt, a lefty sports columnist for the Capital Times, has decided to take me to task regarding a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about rights. Here is that column, which he quotes extensively. Let’s take a look at some of Hyatt’s feedback:

One envisions Robinson’s attempt to exercise such free speech “rights” (critical of government), or the possession of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with 30-round banana clip “right,” in North Korea, Russia, Iran, or any number of third-world dictatorships across the globe in order to back up his claim that such “rights” can be “exercised without any outside interference or assistance,” as he so eloquently argues in his definition of what constitutes a “right” and what does not.

I assume that this is some sort of childish slap at my courage and whether or not I would exercise my rights in a totalitarian regime. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are rights. It is just that they are rights that are restricted by totalitarian regimes. Hyatt actually bolsters my later argument of how the coercive power of government can by used to squelch people’s rights.

Robinson predicates his definition of what constitutes a “right” on language in a founding document of this country: the Declaration of Independence — a document that does not hold the force of law, incidentally, and is a poor basis for defining what is legally a “right.”

No, the DOC is not law nor did I ever say it was. This is a convenient straw man. The DOC is a statement of philosophy, which is what we are talking about. Rights are inherent in the individual, or granted by your Creator if you prefer, and can only be restricted by government – not granted. This is a fundamental difference between how the Left and the Right views government.
Hyatt then goes on to complain that I cherry picked out of the DOC, which I did, and then proceeds to do the same. Interestingly, he started out by saying that I was off base to use the DOC as a source for defining rights, but then does the same thing. Curious. Anyway, he rightly points out that the DOC says that:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
And then makes the illogical leap to:
Far from “rights” being inherent to one’s self, the declaration states that “rights” are in fact guarded and protected by a government with its people’s consent.
Yes, governments are instituted to guard and protect individual rights, but the rights are just that – individual. I’m not sure how Hyatt thinks that undermines my argument. In fact, it again bolsters that. Our government rests on the philosophical understanding that rights are the sole possession of individuals and that those individuals institute governments amongst themselves to protect those rights. The fact that we have government does not mean that rights are collective. The fact that we have government is to protect individual rights.
Hyatt then goes on to use more cherry picked language from the DOC to claim that it declares healthcare to be a right (again, I thought the DOC wasn’t a valid source document for this?). I’m beginning to think that this is the first time Hyatt actually read the DOC.
The Declaration of Independence makes the case FOR health care being a “right” under the governance of the people in its very first charge in the litany of grievances against then King George III.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

“The public good” — a concept Robinson and his ilk somehow fail to understand — is absolutely within the purview of the governing body of this nation to MAKE a “right” if it so chooses.

And there is the fundamental flaw in his thinking. Hyatt thinks that government has the jurisdiction, or even the power, to make something a “right” just because a majority likes it. Not at all. A group of people can form a government that uses the violent power of government to tax the people and use the collective monies to then buy stuff that everyone wants, like healthcare. That is certainly something a government can do. But that does not magically make healthcare a right. And in fact, history has shown that government does a very poor job at efficiently allocating resources for the collective good except in a few rare circumstances. So while government can use its violent power to control and fund healthcare services, that does not make it a right. Hyatt continues:

Robinson may not like the fact that the government has, in fact, the consent of its people for things that he does not personally endorse, but that’s democracy for you — a messy system of upholding those “inalienable rights” that Robinson seems so fond of trying to define on his own terms to avoid sharing responsibility for the health of all of the people instead of just those who can afford it.

I wish I was trying to define rights on my own terms. In fact, I am merely parroting the old enlightenment philosophy upon which our entire American Experiment is based. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and whatnot.

In his own words, Robinson declares: “One certainly has the right to practice health care on oneself, as that right rests in the right to own one’s own body.”

I would agree with Robinson on that account, if I could just prescribe various treatments, medicines, and procedures, exercising my own self-contained “right” without the necessary consent of pesky licensed professionals called doctors, pharmacists and medical technicians.

Again, Hyatt unwittingly proves my point. He is saying that healthcare is a right, but it relies on the expertise of others that must be extracted by the police state. If it requires government to force people to provide it, then it can’t be a right. So healthcare can be called a right insofar as one is exercising itself on oneself to the extend of one’s knowledge, but forcing a doctor to provide services impedes his/her right to self determination. We have a word for when the government uses the coercive force of law to require people to provide services to other people… slavery. Is there a difference between the government forcing someone to till a field and the government forcing someone to set a broken limb?

Hyatt continues:

Furthermore, I am barred from acquiring the necessary knowledge and licensing because the government and an entirely self-serving guild, the American Medical Association — designed to protect the income of all those licensed professionals — decides not only who, but how many, can access the training necessary to practice medicine, even on one’s self.

Actually, that’s not true. Hyatt can get all of the knowledge he wants. The information is largely available in all sorts of libraries and online. What he can’t do is practice healthcare on someone else without a license from the government.

Then Hyatt enters into scary tyrannical thinking:

Robinson’s self-serving exercise to confirm his own bias is not even supported by his own argument: “An individual can always exercise a right, but at the point that such exercise imposes upon another person, it ceases to be a right and instead slips into the realms of commerce or coercion.”

Such an assumed “right” does NOT exist in America — because its government does not support it — and without that support, such a “right” is meaningless — is no “right” at all — when I am forced by law to submit my time, my labor and my money to obtain the means by which I can treat disorders of my own body.

According to Hyatt, a right cannot exist unless the government supports it. Whoa. So do the people of Venezuela no longer have the right to free speech because their government doesn’t support it? Do the people of North Korea not have a right to assemble or religion because their government doesn’t support it? Wow. Hyatt’s philosophy of collective rights granted by government has been the foundation of totalitarian regimes since time began.

And Hyatt ends his screed with what I am sure he thought was a good point.

As an aside, one also wonders exactly where Robinson stands on the issue of practicing health care on one’s own body (and laws abridging such a “right”) when it comes to the contentious “reproductive rights” arguments — given the normally close opposition to such a “right” associated with the stance of those advocating the First and Second Amendment “rights” Robinson seems in favor of.

Does Owen Robinson care to inform us as to why women in many states are NOT afforded a “right” to practice medicine upon their own bodies as they see fit?

I got a couple of emails from lefty readers after that column was published making the same “point.” The problem with Hyatt’s argument is that it rests on the notion that an unborn baby is not a person – endowed with its own rights. So while a woman has a right to practice healthcare on her own body, that does not extend to killing another human being. In the classical example, I have a right to swing my arm up until the point it strikes another person. So too, a person has a right to one’s own body up until it harms or kills another human. At that point, we have a conflict of rights wherein we institute government to resolve the conflict.

I might suggest that Hyatt stick to sports, but this was an easy, fun exercise on a Wednesday morning.