You dont have a "right "to be given anything!

From a closed post:

Our rights are not tangible. You have the right to say what you want, to think what you want. The right to engage in certain activities. In other words you have rights which bring freedoms.

YOu do not have the right to a free car, or house, or healthcare. Now these items may exist and may, possibly, be free. but no one has a “right” to them.

When did we get confused over this?

I would beg to differ, but not because of a difference in philosophy, in which case I’m actually in agreement.

“Rights” are human concepts that don’t exist in the natural world. So, since it strictly a human construct, a “right” is whatever we say it is.

Mr. Z., leaving aside the question of the utility of discussing a thread that was closed by moderators on grounds of inappropriateness, I think it is you who are a little confused. There are indeed many different, and in some cases competing, definitions of what constitutes “human rights.” Although no “right to housing” is specified in the US Constitution, Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows:

This rights proclamation was adopted by the UN General Assembly (including the US) via Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. One of the 1998 human-rights prizes commemorating the 50th anniversary of this Declaration was awarded to former US President Jimmy Carter, well known in his post-Presidential years as an advocate of housing for the poor. Therefore, for another housing advocate to insist that adequate housing should be considered a fundamental human right is hardly a sign of confusion.

It seems to me that in that quote the UN is saying all humans have a right to housing insofar as it is neccesary to maintain health and well being. The housing provided on submarines is adequate for these purposes, so you might be justified (in teh UN’s eyes) in demanding shelter of this level, you would not be justified in demanding that a developer provide you with a house.


Here is the problem I have with such thinking: If one has a right to something tangible, the government (or other people) can violate one’s rights by not doing anything. Most other rights are violated only when the gov’t or others take specific action that infringes on one’s rights.

I work for a restaurant. We get civil rights lawsuits from time to time for acting in ways that harm others. But let’s say that every citizen has a right to adequate food and shelter. If we don’t give free food to the hungry, then we are violating their rights, are we not? Or at the very least, the fact that a hungry person exsts means that the gov’t is violating that person’s right to be given free food.

Now, if the government demands that we feed the hungry (through taxes or by mandate) then they are violating our right to private property. YOu cant have rights tat conflict with each other.

How can we possibly have rights that require the action of others to have them be guranteed?

And I don’t want to hear that "rights’ are a human construct so they can be anything you want them to be. This is begging the question. I can’t say that a right is whatever I say it is without the debate deteriorating to a shouting match. After all, I can insist that I, and everyone else has a “right” to make kimtsu their slave, or to take his car, or whatever.

I think the distinction that Mr.Zambezi is making, and to which I agree, is between rights to be undisturbed in some manner, which have traditionally been the type of rights in the western world, and the entitlement to some material goods or comforts. The former are limitations on what other entities may do at your expense. The latter come at the expense of others who must provide it, making your “right” really an entitlement to someone else’s possessions.

Can’t say for sure, but I suspect that communism had alot to do with getting this started, or at least in giving it a big boost. The old soviet constitution was heavy on the “rights” of citizens to all sorts of basic material needs.

Sorry, Mr. Z. I did not see your previous post before sending mine out.

'sallright. You got my point.

Mr. Zambezi:

Huh?!? Why, of course you can, and usually do. Consider the arguments of segregationists during the Civil Rights movement that enforcing blacks’ right to equal protection of the laws would infringe their (the segregationists’) right to freedom of association. All systems of rights involve negotiating compromises between different kinds of rights that are sometimes in conflict.

Huh?!? again. What right doesn’t require the action of others to guarantee it? Societies (not individuals) proclaim rights, and societies have to take action to guarantee them against infringement. As Mr. Z. pointed out, anyone could infringe my (the correct third-person pronoun is “she”, btw) rights at will, unless I could count on the action of others (police, courts) to protect me.

C’mon, folks, I expect better from the Straight Dope Great Debaters. There are reasonable arguments to be made in favor of narrow rights definitions that don’t include material benefits such as housing, but this sort of assertion is merely naive.

Yeah, the Constitution of the Soviet Union was pretty creepy, guaranteeing just about every “right” you can think of, including this one:

They also had the “right” to Freedom (Article 39), Work (Article 40), Rest (Article 41), Health (Article 42), Welfare (Article 43), Education (Article 45), Culture (Article 46) … and blahbedy blahbedy blah all the way through Article 59, where they explained that rights and duties are the same. Duties then followed until Article 69.

Perhaps funniest were these:

Bless their totaletarian communist little hearts. They meant well, didn’t they?!..:slight_smile:


The right to free speech is tangible. The right to bear arms is tangible. If someone infringes on that right, the government can violate my rights by not doing anything. For not defending my rights. The sam goes in harrasment cases, people are sued not for their actions but for their lack of action to remedy the situation. I see nothing wrong with that.


Well, the argument isn’t for free food, but for adequete food. Maybe the government is violating the right by not poviding jobs. But, the idea that your restaurant would be held responsible is somewhat silly. It’s like saying that I have the responsibillity to make sure that my neighbors rught to freedom of religion is protected. Of course I have no responsibility to do so, it is the governments responsibiliity.


Kimstu pointed out the error in this one rather well. OF course I would challenge you to show me where we are garaunteed the right of private property. Or how taxes violate that right. But, that’s a different debate.

I thought socialists derive rights from government. Was I mistaken?

What happened to the “we are the government” argument?

Nah, he or she didn’t. Property and rights are ethical synonyms.

Well, getting a little snide there, aren’t you Kimtsu? I certainly respect you right to disagree with me, but such slurs as this do nothing to either further your argument nor to raise my opinion of you.

If you want to argue this in the pit, I am more than willing. Bu tongue is getting sore from biting it.
you said

It requires absolutely zero action to protect your rights. How can the government protect you right to life if not by refraining from taking it. OR your right to liberty except by not depriving you of your liberty. However, if I have a right to housing, they can only guarantee it by taking the action of giving me housing. If I have a right to diamonds, that right can only be maintained if someone takes the action of giving me a diamond.

With the rights guaranteed in the constitution, inaction from the gov’t is required to maintain those rights of the people. For example, teh right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.” The gov’t preserves this right by not acting, not by giving everyone a free gun. You don’t have the right to a gun, you have the right to bear one without the gov’t doing anything to take it away. See the difference?

If I infringe on your rights, It is I, and I alone that am infringing on your rights. If the gov’t fails to take action, it is not infringing on your rights (unless society decides that you have the right to never be harmed by another individual.)

Society can, and has, stated that individuals have a right to certain things (e.g the USSR). However, it is my assertion that any true right does not require action. It is makes more sense to guarantee that I wont kill someone, than to guarantee that they will never die. This how I disntinguish between the “rights” and “promises”.

Actually, I believe that there was a Supreme court decision that said, in essence, that the policy have no duty to protect the citizenry from crime. I can’t seem to find it though.

I think the issue is not so much that taxes violate a right to private property, but that the rights to material things are, in effect, another person’s “rights” to my property.

I have to go with Mr. Z on this one. I have the right to own property. I do not have the right to seize someone else’s
property simply because I want it. Christina25, the OP in the locked thread, advocated taking an abandoned building for the benefit of the homeless. That’s called theft.
My property has been earned by my labor. John Locke put it well in his Second Treatise on Government

I have a right to what I have produced by my labour and low-life commie liberals have no right to steal what’s mine.
To quote Locke again,

If the homeless want houses, they should get off their lazy butts, put down the pipe, and get jobs. If they can’t earn enough to live alone, then they can live in group houses. I have no sympathy for anyone who is not willing to work for what they want.

Nonsense! All rights are vested by nature in the individual, except for those rights we grant to the state as the price of living in a civil society.

Rights and Responsibilities are opposite sides of the same coin. You cannot logically discuss one without the other. In order for a rights to exist there must be a responsibility to make those rights real.

Rights can be classified in two way: Negative rights and positive rights. The difference, however, lies in the responsibility side of the coin.

Negative rights are rights where the responsibility requires inaction. My right to free speech is a negative right because it has the responsibility attached to others to NOT interfere with that right.

A Positive right, on the other hand, has the attached responsibility to action. A right to housing is a positive right becuase it has the implied responsibility that someone must provide the housing. Note there is a difference between the right to housing and the right to pursue housing.

As someone pointed out the differnece is extreme. Negative rights DO NOT violate one another, while postive rights frequently do. That does not mean negative rights cannot be violated of course, btut hey are not violated by someone else exercising their negative rights.

scratch said

I guess I am not being clear enough.

You do have the duty to make sure that your neighbors religious freedom is being protected. You protect it by not doing anything to your neighbor or his right to worship. Now if you take an action that infringes on his right, tehn you are going to get sued by him. You protects his 1st amendment rights by not doing anything

However, rights that require a tangible item, such as the right to food, require action on the part of someone. You aren’t going to have food unless someone actually gives it to you.

We get sued for civil rights violations when we take some action that infringes on the rights of others. By refusing to serve them, changing out hiring practices, forcing them to quit, etc.

I also disagree that our right to free speach is tangible. How much does it weigh? Where do I keep it? Does it burn or melt?

I forget, where does it say I have a right to private property? Or, is that an implicit right?

Huh?!? yet again. The government has the responsibility to take action to protect my life and liberty from those who would deprive me of them. What do you think laws against murder and kidnapping are about?

If nobody’s trying to take my life or liberty, or if I can protect myself from them without calling in the cops, the government need do nothing at all. Similarly, if I obtain and maintain my own housing without help, the government need do nothing at all. The government does, however, have to take action if I can’t obtain the things I have a right to without help. I’m sorry if you don’t like the term “naive,” but your choice of argument isn’t convincing me to retract it.

If you can, I’d love to see it.