I’ve had occasion to do some reading over the Holidays. In the midst of that, I’ve revisited The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk. If you do not own it, I suggest you acquire a copy. Why? Well, this on the matter of “rights.’
Kirk, quoting Edmund Burke, writes,
This lengthy catalogue of “rights” ignores the two essential conditions which are attached to all true rights; first, the capacity of individuals to claim and exercise the alleged right; second, the correspondent duty that is married to every right. If a man has a right to marry, some woman must have the duty of marrying him; if a man has a right to rest, some other person must have the duty of supporting him. If rights are confused thus with desires, the mass of men must feel always that some vast, intangible conspiracy thwarts their attainment of what they are told is their inalienable birthright.
Burke, writing in the 1700s, has nailed America, and much of the western world, in the 21st century.
The whole of our culture has been upended from one where our obligation to our own betterment founded in a shared morality can and should make society and culture better to one where a growing majority obsessed with relativism demand things from others in exchange for nothing.
Sorry, that’s not quite right.
If you give in (or elect politicians to do the same work against your will through force of law), they promise, at least temporarily, to stop harassing and intimidating you. A state that is always temporary.
While natural rights may be limited to a few basic ideas – the right to the products of our labor or to defend ourselves or our property if attacked – desire is limited only by imagination.
The irony is that while those confusing rights with desires can imagine a great many things to which they might be entitled, the tyranny that ultimately rises in response and then suppresses both is beyond them.