The perils of government-given ‘rights’

By Brian Sussman

“Health care is a right!” That’s the swank mantra from the new class of progressive Democratic presidential candidates. Some also suggest that private health insurance companies be shuttered and the government shoulder health oversight services instead.

How long before we hear one of them declare that food is a right? After all, one needs nourishment to live. The stock soundbite might proclaim, “It’s shameful to think that humans should have to purchase their sustenance from corporate-owned grocery stores and for-profit farms!”

And, if government is to provide health care and food, certainly housing for all must be a right as well.

Cue the cheering simpletons, like the one I overheard at the gym recently. A young millennial was complaining to a guy with whom she shares a college history class, “The only history I like is the one on my Instagram.”

And I’m thinking, those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it.

Our rights do not come from the government; they come from God. America’s founders understood this, as dictated in the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. This brilliant apology for revolution contains a theory of rights dependent on a Supreme Being – not government – for its validity. The Declaration states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Whereas the Declaration justified a rebellion against the king of England to secure God-given rights, the eventual Constitution (which is religiously neutral) is a blueprint for stable and effective republican government in a free country.

Now, let’s talk history.

Generally speaking, the Instagram/Snapchat generation has never been taught about the Russian dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Josef Stalin, who established health care as a constitutional right. His empire also determined food was a right, and all privately owned farmland and livestock was eventually seized by the state. The fate of the farmers was horrific.

The Soviet government also established, as a right, stack-and-pack community housing. Ask any older Russian immigrant to America about how awful those conditions were. Today’s progressive would likely uphold such housing as an example of a reduced carbon footprint.

History proves that when government, rather than God, determines what is a “right,” things never end well. Initially, the regime’s benefits are funded through heavy taxation, then property confiscation, then complete servitude and bondage.

And God loathes bondage – recall how He dealt with Pharaoh.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the latter’s original reference was to property, which includes thoughts, beliefs, ideas and dreams) are in keeping with what God would have for us. After all, God gave us the privilege of being made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). He also told us to procreate and provide for ourselves and our dependents (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15).

Indeed, God wants us to be productive, as we read in Proverbs 10:4, “Idle hands make one poor, but diligent hands bring riches.”

The role of government is not to care for the sick, feed the poor, or provide housing for the homeless. Instead, the proper role of government is to protect our rights and ensure order within our society.

Some may reply, “But Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor.”

Of course. He came to earth as Messiah, God in the flesh. He did a lot of awesome things during those three years of earthly ministry, and all these many years later his followers continue to do amazing things for the sick, poor and homeless – all over the world!

Even as the United States becomes more and more secular, have you ever noticed the number of hospitals that still have a Christian name? Lutheran, Methodist and Mercy hospitals (just to name a few) can be found in every major city.

Families, churches, Judeo-Christian organizations and voluntary associations serve as a buffer between the individual and the state. But sadly, in recent generations, these institutions have shrunk in their effectiveness. A such, secular liberal leaders stake their claim that government is the final solution.

In closing, consider these words of Lord Acton, the great 19th century historian of liberty who gave us the saying, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”:

The great question is to discover, not what governments prescribe, but what they ought to prescribe; for no prescription is valid against the conscience of mankind …for by birth all men are free; they are citizens of that universal commonwealth which embraces all the world, brethren of one family, and children of God. The true guide of our conduct is no outward authority, but the voice of God, who comes down to dwell in our souls, who knows all our thoughts, to whom are owing all the truth we know, and all the good we do. …(from “Freedom in Antiquity,” 1877)

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