Saturday, February 25, 2012

Number 11: A must-read from Mark Steyn on the evolution of "rights"

From Mark Steyn this morning, a pretty good argument for waiting until Saturday to post the Top 10 Reads of the Week.  His title is "The Perversion of Rights," and its launching point is the still-roiling controversy about Obamacare's (revised) contraception mandate. But the column is about much more than that one example of what Steyn calls the "transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power."  

Rights then
Here's a taste:
When it comes to human rights, I go back to 1215 and Magna Carta — or, to give it its full name, Magna CartaLibertatum. My italics: I don’t think they had them back in 1215. But they understood that “libertatum” is the word that matters. Back then, “human rights” were rights of humans, of individuals — and restraints upon the king: They’re the rights that matter: limitations upon kingly power. Eight centuries later, we have entirely inverted the principle: “Rights” are now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects — the right to “free” health care, to affordable housing, the “right of access to a free placement service” (to quote the European Constitution’s “rights” for workers). The Democratic National Committee understands the new school of rights very well: In its recent video, Obama’s bureaucratic edict is upgraded into the “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost.” And, up against a “human right” as basic as that, how can such peripheral rights as freedom of conscience possibly compete?
"Rights" now
The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right “to receive free compulsory education.” Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government.
 Read the whole thing. And file it away for the next time someone tries to feed you that line about there being 'no difference between the parties' in this country.

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