22 July 2007

Bill of Non-Rights: A quasi-hoax

I recently read a facebook friend's posted note extolling the "Bill of Non-Rights," falsely attributed to Georgia State Rep, Mitchell Kaye. According to snopes.com, it was actually written by an amateur philosopher from Mississippi.

Since the note was prefaced with, "This was too good not to share with others...To my liberal friends...don't be offended by the truth," I feel I must respond. Not because I consider myself a liberal (or liberaltarian), but because I am skeptical of any statement claiming to be "the truth" with respect to political matters. Here it goes:
"We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other liberal bed-wetters. We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of NON-Rights."
It starts off well enough. I take some offense to the term "liberal bed-wetter" in a paragraph that claims to want "to help everyone get along." But let's get into the substance:
ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is
guaranteeing anything.
Does anyone claim the right to "a new car, big screen TV"? No. People claim the right to welfare checks and farm subsidies and the such, so why not say that rather than things people don't claim a right to? Oh, and by the way, it is the law that is providing the welfare and subsidies, so I think we could come up with a higher standard than, "if you can legally acquire them."
ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.
ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.
There are plenty of frivolous lawsuits with plantiffs of dubious character. Then there are those who have been duped by manufacturers of dubious character. The problem is it is hard to defend against one without allowing the other free reign. I opt for the market solution in most cases (e.g., screwdriver to eye).
ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.
As a general rule people should not have government supplied food or housing. There are people who are unable to obtain work due to disability. We live in a society that believes in a safety net for these people. Let's provide that, but be vigilant against breeding a generation of "disabled" people by keeping the definition of disabled suitably narrow.
ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.
As above, as a general rule people should pay for the services they consume and not for services they don't.
ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest
of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.
Is this alluding to capital punishment? The problem is "the rest of us want to see you fry" claims to much; there is not unanimity among non-criminals for the death penalty. We want to see just punishment to be sure, but that is a far cry from saying you have the right to harm others. Again, another non-right that should be more direct to avoid misinterpretation.
ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.
Um, obviously. Is this a cry for no TVs in prison? Really is that a big enough deal to have its own article?
ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to
take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.
I think the Bush administration combed through this before forwarding it along. The original Article VIII refers to the absurdity of foreign wars, with which I largely agree. This replacement is basically a rehash of Article I and IV. I generally agree, you don't have a right to a job. One the other hand, if you have a service someone else is willing to pay for, you should have the right to make the transaction. So you have a right not to be kept from doing a job.
ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.
Agreed. We have too many laws. This is a direct result of the large number of lawyers and polly sci majors. Hahah, just kidding. But not about the laws. Too many.
ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from! (lastly....)
I'm glad they didn't say this to me when I was in Brazil. I would have considered them a bunch of snobby, uncharitable, isolationist bigots. If you can get by without English here, be my guest. I don't think the government should go way out of the way to provide multilingual services.
ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!
This one is hard to argue with. It isn't really saying anything other than, you don't have the right to re-write history or take IN GOD WE TRUST off the money. I can live with that. If it is claiming more, be more specific.

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