Can a Government Simply Create New "Rights?"

Many Americans feel the government should provide universal health care.  That, however, does not make it a "right."   A study of philosophy and constitutional history makes clear the views of the founding fathers regarding rights.  Those views were influenced by several millennia of philosophers regarding natural law and natural rights, most notably the 17th c. philosopher John Locke, and the 18th c. philosopher Thomas Paine. 

    The Declaration of Independence tells us people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."   Neither the government nor the constitution "gives" us any rights, they come from our Creator.  The government cannot simply create a right.   It must be inherent in the natural law.   The Declaration also says ". . . That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . . ."  In the view of the founders of our nation, the job of government is to protect our rights, not to create or grant them.

    Anything the government can bestow, it can also take away;  it is therefore considered a "privilege."  An example of a government granted privilege is a driver's license.  That is not a "right."  According to natural law, our rights are "unalienable," which means no person or government can take them away.

    Universal healthcare cannot be considered a right simply because it is a popular idea.

    The writings of Locke, Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and countless others describe the three most basic rights as life, liberty, and property (referred to as "the Pursuit of Happiness" in the Declaration).  Property includes the fruits of a person's labor, because a person spends his time, which is part of his life, to obtain those fruits, whether they are in the form of a paycheck, bartered or purchased goods, or other reward.

    If the fruits of one's labor are considered his property, and property is an unalienable natural right, no person or government can take that away without permission.  When the government levies a tax on people, forcibly taking the fruits of their labor, in order to provide something (universal healthcare for example) to another group of people who have not expended their labor for it, that is a violation of the right to property.   

    So, under the natural law, universal healthcare is not a right.  At best, it is a misguided utopian goal.  At worst, universal healthcare is a gross violation of our legitimate rights to liberty (freedom of choice) and property (the fruits of our labor).


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