In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt defined four freedoms: freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear. While we do all have the right to freedom of speech and worship, the notion we could somehow be freed from want and fear has resulted in less freedom and an avalanche in the demand for phony rights.
Freedom in the political sphere means each one of us has the freedom to control what we make or earn. In a nutshell, it means we can make what we need to survive, free from interference by other people, even when other people band together and call themselves government. Over time however, socialists transformed and perverted the word freedom to mean freedom from scarcity. But in the real world, resources are scarce. To get what we need to survive we can make it, but there is another way. We can take it. When socialists talk about freedom from scarcity they are talking about creating claims to the property of other people – they are talking about taking. When they say a person has a right to something made by someone else, they put taking above making. But claims to other peoples’ goods and services are not rights to those goods and services.
Real rights are things each one of us has because we are human beings. The Founders never laid out every single real right because the list is endless. Real rights are the same for everyone, everywhere at the same time. Real rights create the responsibility to respect the rights of others. The only obligations real rights create are negative obligations. My right to life, for example, creates the obligation that someone not take away my life. It does not create the obligation for someone to support my life, however. Understanding and respecting real rights mean we can live in a world of social harmony because real rights don’t conflict. This is the key to differentiating real from phony rights.
When socialists and their Nanny State comrades say claims to goods and services are rights to goods and services, they set the stage for the proliferation of phony rights and social conflict. Phony rights interfere with someone else’s real rights. They create a positive obligation that morphs into a claim to someone else’s life and property.
Since FDR accepted the ideology of the Nanny State, the demand for phony rights has grown like a fungus. The right to housing, medical care, education, social security, prescription drugs, leisure, a living wage, food, clothing – the list goes on and on. All these things must be made by someone. If a person has the right to take them without compensating whoever made them, the maker’s rights have been violated. This is why phony rights are phony – they are nothing more than taking. If a person wants housing but is not willing to pay for it, then someone else has to work more so that person can have what they are not willing to pay for. If a person wants a living wage, then someone else has to work more so that person can get paid more than what they are willing to work for. The rights of the person forced to work more have been violated to create an entitlement for someone else.
By perverting the definitions of freedom and rights, Nanny Statists have set the takers against the makers. But it is in no one’s interest (except perhaps for the bureaucrats who run the Nanny State) for a person to live like a parasite feeding off the hard work of someone else. We are better off in a society that respects real rights because they create a harmony of interests among rational people. Phony rights will continue to proliferate, and the rights of makers will continue to be violated, until we limit the power of the state to take, and return to the true definition of freedom.