On My “Right” to Everything

We can approach political things from two angles: “What ought I to do?” or “What is owed to me?” The first approach entails that we acquire sufficient virtue to rule ourselves to do what objectively is worth doing. The second approach looks to someone else to supply what we cannot obtain or make for ourselves.

These alternatives rose to visibility in the riotous reaction to the Greek austerity legislation. In our recent elections, the same issues appeared. We do not rely on ourselves but on someone else. Such a principle is quickly politicized into the notion that government is responsible for me and everyone else. Thus, government defines my “rights” as measures of what it thinks man is. In lieu of higher law or reason, it brooks in practice no other source but itself as the origin of “rights.”

Unfortunately, many governments delight in conceiving themselves as the responsible organ for everything and everyone. The more people depend on the government, the more secure it is in its own power and longevity. What is the origin of this citizen willingness to cede to the government the responsibility for defining and supplying our “rights?” Several components are pertinent.