My son, preparing a homework assignment on 'rights' last night, engaged me in a discussion about the topic. He had been instructed to list five 'rights' and to delineate for each any attendant responsibilities.
I've discussed rights in this space before. I believe that there are only three real rights (life, liberty, property) and that everything else flows from these rights. So, whence these five rights that he was supposed to write about?
He came up with, I think, free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and two others (I can't remember what they were) that he thought would suit his teacher's prejudices. These are all merely part of the rights to life and liberty and in my opinion don't, or shouldn't need to be spelled out individually. Still, they are all part of what I consider to be real rights.
My son is no fool and knows that real rights properly exist with or without sanction by the state and don't cost anybody anything. He also knows the difference between rights and privileges and that people who have no moral qualms about stealing from Peter to pay Paul often attempt to enshrine these shenanigans as good and proper into our constitutions, bills of rights, and other acts and legislation.
He knows that rights to health care and housing simply mean that no-one should be able to stop you from getting medical treatment or buying or renting a home if you have the money to pay for what you want or need. These rights don't mean that you should be able to stick-up your neighbour and ask him to pay for your home, or your hospital bed, or anything else.
The problem is that individuals who think along these lines are rare, almost to the point of extinction. And, it is sometimes dangerous to think in ways that are out of step with the majority, those who do think it is proper to steal and extort from one person, via threat of jail or worse, to satisfy the 'needs' of another, as long as there was a vote on it somewhere. Whether the victim agrees or wishes to participate in the process is never considered. It is safer to simply chirp back what the teacher or professor wants to hear. It will save pain, ridicule, bad grades, and who knows what else.
But -- who wants to take the safe road? Not I!
I wonder if my son will take the safe road or the high road. No, I don't wonder. I know which road he will take. And I am proud of him because of it.