Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The right to have no rights

My last post was an example of a regular feature of government in the secular West. In the name of individual rights, individuals lose their rights - and the government gains them. Paradoxical - but real.

When the government declares that a right exists, and puts it into legislation, it hasn't merely handed you a new supposed right. It's also handed itself the right to control and enforce that right. The government gains new rights to be involved in areas of life that it wasn't before.

It's actually one thing to have some supposed right, and quite another for it to be decided that the government is the best entity to police that right. But in the secular West, there is no God allowed, and the government has to take its place as the supreme being in every area of life. If there is a right to police, government is the only entity we can think of to be involved in overseeing it - church, parents, family, clan and community must ultimately bow before its omnicompetence.

When the government awards itself these new rights, it's always at the expense of others' rights. A new right to interfere into other spheres is a new loss of freedom in those spheres. When the government can barge its way into family or church where it couldn't before, liberty in those spheres is lost. Rights are not a license to print free currency for health, wealth and happiness - you can't magically gain them in one place all the time without losing them elsewhere. That's why previous and wiser generation didn't fixate upon rights the way our society does, but about responsibilities instead. Responsibilities promote true freedom - rights erode them.

The idea of "children's rights" has been the most pernicious and potent tool for the government to withdraw all kinds of rights from families. After declaring a mixture of rights, good and bad, for children, governments have then arbitrarily appointed themselves the guardians and providers of these rights - at the expense of parents. To say that Johnny has the right to X is one thing. To say that the government has the right to barge its way into your front room to ensure that X is provided on precisely the terms and in the exact way that the Minister in Whitehall deems correct is something else entirely.

The net result is that everyone is gradually having their rights eroded, and the government is little by little accumulating all the rights. The final step is the right to have no rights at all. This is when every individual has such a comprehensive and all-embracing set of rights that government eventually has the right to regulate absolutely everything in order to enforce these rights. It won't be called that, of course. But it's coming. Ministers openly discuss ideas like overweight children being removed from their families to protect their right to good health, and such drivel - in the broad daylight, as if it were vaguely sane. And a hundred over such petty intrusions and extensions of the government's remit fill the news week after week. You can't start rolling down the slope and pressing the gas without arriving at the bottom eventually. "The right to have no rights" - something to look forward to, is it not?

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