The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Rights vs. “Rights”

I
developed a dislike for Franklin D. Roosevelt in high school because he was
oversold by my history teachers. He was portrayed as a kind of canonized
secular saint who had saved the nation and the world from the ghastly phenomena
of the Depression and the Axis. Too young to judge FDR’s political accomplishments,
what inculcated an unshakable suspicion in me was the tone with which FDR was
uncritically presented by the teachers to my history classes. (They were still
called “history” classes back then, not “social science.”) He
could do no wrong, his intentions were unquestionably noble, he had sacrificed
himself for the greater good, and to criticize him was to belabor the picayune
and the arcane and reveal oneself as an ignorant, reactionary lowbrow. So it
was also with JFK and Woodrow Wilson. 

Of
course, my real education began after leaving school and by not going on to college. I learned much,
much more about FDR, JFK and Wilson without the benefit of teachers whose eyes
would shine brightly in adulation when their names were mentioned and who would
brook no disagreement (mostly with a sneering ad hominem), and maintained my status as a reactionary, but highly
knowledgeable lowbrow.

Cass
Sunstein’s eyes also shine brightly when he speaks or writes about FDR and
President Barack Obama. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a post he left to return to Harvard
Law School) had an op-ed on the Bloomberg
View on January 28th, “Obama, FDR and the Second Bill of
Rights.” In it he approves of, promulgates, and sells Obama’s alleged
desire to establish that “Second Bill of Rights” while keeping the
“old” Bill of Rights.

George
Orwell noted in his Appendix to Nineteen
Eighty-Four
about the totalitarian take-over of language, in his novel
called “Newspeak,” that a full translation of Jefferson words about
“self-evident truths” from the Declaration of Independence [into
Newspeak] “could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s
words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.”*

Sunstein’s
article is such a panegyric on absolute government, written not in
indecipherable Newspeak jargon, but in one in which certain terms are dropped
into the text without justification or validation, and intended to allay the
suspicion that a fast one was being pulled on the reader. Sunstein claims that
FDR was not an enemy of capitalism, nor, he claims, is Obama, simply because
Obama mentioned “free enterprise” in his inaugural
address without making a face.

Sunstein
pulls his own Newspeak shell game when he writes:

Drawing on
Thomas Jefferson, Roosevelt insisted that “these economic truths have become
accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of
Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established
for all regardless of station, race or creed.”

It is important
to be clear about what FDR meant. He did not propose to amend the Constitution. He did not think that the Supreme
Court should enforce the Second Bill of Rights. He believed in free markets and
free enterprise; he had no interest in socialism.

What
twaddle! Roosevelt did not believe in free markets. If he had believed in them,
he would not have pushed for all the welfare legislation he did. He would not
have tried to pack the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his economic and
social welfare programs. He would have advocated getting the government out of
the economy, beginning with the abolition of the income tax and the Federal
Reserve System. Roosevelt took the side-door approach to socialism, as
leftist/progressives do today, not calling it that, but instead the
government’s “responsibility” to do something about all the
government-caused and perpetuated problems and crises that existed in his time.
So it is with Obama.

Except
that Obama is a nihilist whose agenda on the surface appears to be fascist or
“national socialist,” but which fundamentally is geared for
destruction for destruction’s sake in the name of “transforming” the
country.

But,
what are rights? Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand wrote:

A “right” is a
moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social
context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its
consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life….The concept of a
“right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means
freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.**

Let
us look at and analyze Roosevelt’s schedule of “rights,” a list he
included in his 1944 State of the Union address
and which Sunstein cited as a model on which Obama and Congress might create a
“Second Bill of Rights.” Roosevelt prefaced his address with a
statement which contradicted what followed:

“This
nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world’s
greatest war against human slavery.
We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world
that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.” (Emphasis mine.)

The
right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or
mines of the nation.

Well,
where does this “right” come from? If you, the individual, exist,
then that somehow automatically entitles you to a job. Your mere existence
creates the “right” to someone else’s property, money, or livelihood.
Conversely, owners of industries, shops, farms and mines have a
“duty” to provide you with that job. This is a formula for mutual
slavery, not trade. In the leftist/progressive or cultural Marxist political
agenda, “rights” are not validated on man’s nature as a being of
volitional consciousness who must establish his own values and pursue them
without physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men, and without
resorting to force, but privileges that emanate from society and are doled out
by the state acting for society. Your metaphysical existence is accepted as a
cipher of society, but rejected as a free, independent individual.

The
right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

Who
is to determine what is “enough” to provide food, clothing and
recreation? A government bureau or agency or department, staffed by individuals
who assume the infallibility of the Pope and the omniscience of a deity? Who is
to determine what is “adequate”? The same bureaucrats and regulatory
“czars.” And if producers refuse to “provide” these things,
what then?

The
right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will
give him and his family a decent living.

Who
is to determine that “rate of return,” and by what measure can
“a decent living” be established? Again, government bureaus and
agencies are the arbiters. Between 1995 and 2011 government farm subsidies ran to $277 billion to
growers of everything from corn to dairy products to tobacco to sunflowers.  

The
right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of
freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

An
“atmosphere of freedom,” to Roosevelt and his economic managers and
regulators, meant punishing the successful for putting the unsuccessful out of
business with laws against “unfair” competition. Who defines
“unfair”? Lobbyists for industries and businesses jeopardized by the
successful, who press Congress to save their skins with laws and regulations
that amount to physical compulsion, coercion and interference. “This
business is under-selling its widgets
for $1.50 retail, and I don’t want to think about its wholesale rates! I can
only sell my widgets for $2.50, because of unforeseen conditions and economic
down-turns. This isn’t fair! I have a right to succeed, and this other business
is trying to monopolize the trade! Do
something, and I’ll foot the bill for you for a trip to Bermuda, all expenses
paid.” 

In
a fully capitalist economy, this lobbyist would be out of luck and have to
successfully compete against the other company or fold, and the congressman
would be stymied by a new amendment in the Constitution that would prohibit any
abridgement of trade. In a truly free economy, legally-enforced monopolies are
government-created monopolies, either run by the government or regulated by it.

Remember
General Motors? It, too, was saved from dissolution by government compulsion,
coercion, and interference, chiefly to save its unions’
“entitlements.”

The
right of every family to a decent home.

Shall
I mention the subprime
mortgage melt-town and TARP? The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department and
other government agencies encouraged and often compelled banks and financial
institutions to underwrite everyone’s “right” to a “decent
home.” That house of cards collapsed. When it collapsed, who paid for the
rescues and the lost billions? American taxpayers through direct taxation and
inflation, which is a form of tax, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Who
defines a “decent home”? Any government agency and NGO from the Department
of Health and Human Services to your local community organizing racket and
municipal housing authority.

The
right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good
health
.

This
“right” was achieved incrementally with Medicare and Medicaid programs
and climaxed with Obamacare
(aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010). All the alleged
benefits of this compulsory legislation accrue to the compulsorily insured
citizen at the expense of the indentured servitude of doctors, surgeons, and
other medical professionals, many of whom are leaving their careers in protest
to the servitude. In the legislation, the predictable consequences of doctors
abandoning their careers in such a protest, such as a shortage of doctors to
act as “health providers,” there is nothing in it that prohibits the
government from drafting retired doctors (regardless of their ages) into
“service.”  

The
right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness,
accident and unemployment.

This
is Social
 Security
and all disability and
unemployment legislation ever passed by Congress, which costs billions of
dollars and are called, not “rights,” but “entitlements,”
because everyone has been compelled to pay into the system. But the retirees of
today are getting more for their confiscated money than younger, still-working
adults will ever see in the way of their own “entitlements.”
Post-WWII “baby boomers” are the most fortunate recipients of their
“entitlements.” Their sons and daughters will not be so fortunate.
They’ll be expected to pay in more and get less.

The
right to a good education.

What
is a “good education,” and why does anyone have a right to one?
There’s really no answer. The right is picked out of the ethereal realms of
leftist/progressive political philosophy. The Department of Education spends
about $30 billion a year on subsidies,
the “
bulk of that funding goes toward student aid programs,
with the balance going toward grants to educational institutions.” For all
the billions spent on education, from nursery schools on up to graduate
schools, America has been dumbed down and brainwashed and “socially
conditioned” to “serve” society, to “give back.”

Every
Roosevelt-Sunstein “right” cited above is plank in a socialist
program. Every one of them has been legislated for, with the right to
“adequate medical care” represented by Obamacare.

Sunstein
winds up his article with:

Obama’s second
inaugural did not refer explicitly to the Second Bill of Rights, but it had an
unmistakably Rooseveltian flavor. Just after a serious economic crisis, Obama emphasized
“that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people
from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” Recalling Roosevelt’s central theme,
Obama said that “every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and
dignity.”

I have
news for Mr. Sunstein: There is no dignity in servitude and being chained to
one’s fellow men, and even less security. But, I think he knows that. He
doesn’t need to be told. Sunstein, too, is a practicing nihilist.

A “Second
Bill of Rights” would render the original Bill of Rights redundant and
superfluous. It would be supplanted with a list of state-dispensed privileges. It
should be called instead a “Manifesto of Entitlements for the Hoi Polloi.”

*Appendix,
“The Principles of Newspeak,” Nineteen
Eighty-Four
, by George Orwell. Ed. by Irving Howe. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich. P. 205.

**”Man’s
Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness.

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8 Comments

  1. John Shepard

    Thank you, Ed.

    What twaddle, is correct. What madness! What unadulterated evil!

    In case you weren't aware, Ayn Rand's article, "Man's Righs" is available at ARI for free. So too are her articles: "The Nature of Government," "Collectivized Rights" and even "The Objectivist Ethics"

    "Man's Rights"
    "The Nature of Government"
    "Collectivized Rights"
    "Objectivist Ethics"

  2. RationalEgo

    I think it was von Mises who said the the "Right to Work" is, in practice, a duty rather than a right. Taken to its end, control of the means of production will lead to a nation of slaves shackled to each other and duty bound to provide others with the other phony rights in your essay.

  3. Edward Cline

    Correction: I wrote "In a truly free economy, legally-enforced monopolies are government-created monopolies, either run by the government or regulated by it." I meant, "In a mixed economy…." Ed

  4. jayeldee

    "… my real education began after leaving school and by not going on to college."

    I admit to not having noted that fact, in your "My Life in Words" interview. Forgoing "advanced" "education" was, in my view, the best mistake you didn't make.

  5. Edward Cline

    Jayeldee: When I lived in Houston, I attended a community college and took a higher mathematics course. I learned something from that. The teacher was an elderly Jewish fellow, and many of his Muslim students were always making under-the-breath comments about him. This was in the mid-1960's, mind you, when the term "jihad" might have been mistaken for a new kind of racket ball. When I lived in New York, I audited literature and writing courses at NYU. After one semester of each, I gave them up as a waste of time and money, because the instructors demanded agreement and weren't open to discussion about anything.

  6. jayeldee

    Or rather, I ought to have said ("he said, perhaps evidential of his own mistake")–"forgoing such 'education' is, in my view, INDICATIVE OF the best mistake you didn't make."

    …. And I take this second go to add that, nowadays, such forgoing is most often the first step in preserving and protecting the life of the mind.

  7. jayeldee

    Ah, I noticed your reply only after I'd posted my followup. Your experiences sound familiar to me. (I went, FWIW, as far as a baccalaureate–which was far too far–though I aimed, and tried, for more. But my heart was never in it: I had, you see, to keep scare-quoting "students" and "teachers" in my correspondence.)

    By the way, my sympathies to you, that you had to live in Houston for a spell. (I take your sympathies in advance: as I, FWIW, had to live in Austin for a spell.)

  8. Michael Neibel

    Great post. All of which demonstrates what the morality of altruism, aka human sacrifice, will do to a human mind.

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