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Friday, October 15, 2004
In a previous post I complained about the lack of distinctions people now make between what is a 'right' and what is an 'obligation'.
Roger Scruton in a piece for The Spectator nicely sums up my concerns from a British standpoint:
Under the influence of socialist planning and statist theories of the law, another idea of rights has been imported into modern systems of justice — the idea of rights not as freedoms but as claims. My right to something, in this view, is not a freedom that others must respect, but a claim that they must fulfil. Of course, rights in contract and tort are like this. But that is because they arise from positive relations between people — relations which create those rights from the raw stuff of human action, but which do not create them universally, for the very reason that they arise from the history of the particular case. To suppose that there are ‘natural’ and therefore ‘human’ rights which are also claims against others is to make a large and dangerous assumption, one that would certainly not have been upheld by Locke or Kant or the founding fathers of the American constitution. To think of human rights in this way is to fill the world with vague and unfulfillable obligations, and therefore with vast and irresoluble conflicts.I appreciate how he describes these changes and how they lead to 'vast and irresoluble conflicts'. Conflict is what I am concerned about. Once a group of people feel that others are not doing enough to ensure their rights are being fulfilled they are likely to become angry and possibly violent.
This only makes sense. If I feel that I am entitled to be paid by my employer for work performed I am liable to be upset if they decide they have better things to do with their money. I think most people would agree that I would be justified in being upset.
So what happens when the majority of people begin to think that their rights are dependent on a minority that can financially provide them? How many 'rights' will be created before those who provide them are crushed under the burden? What happens as a result?
Do the 'providers' become violent in frustration or do the beneficiaries when their 'rights' begin to go unfulfilled?
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