W. Williams Contributes to the Argument Store
Walter Williams writes about the difference between rights and wishes. He makes a great point.
He suggests that the housing/wage/healthcare "rights" are equivalent to suggesting that, under "free speech," one has a right to "an auditorium, microphone and audience." Those who erroneously appeal to "rights" in this way might suggest that these examples are enhancements to free speech and hardly equivalent to wanting a place to live. So, let's keep the analogy as close to the same level as possible: we would not have the right to government-supplied vocal chords, either. The right that we do have to housing/wage/healthcare is to not have the government take these things away from us.
Despite this distinction, as Williams suggests, categorizing such life necessities as "wishes" rather than "rights" does not mean that we shouldn't strive to supply them. It's the difference between a donation and a tax. At the level of basic housing needs, the distinction may seem unnecessary... even selfish. But it is important to make it in order to head off "rights" creep. Many so-called "dissenters" have recently proven that they, in fact, do believe "an auditorium, microphone and audience" to be a right at least for them.
In considering ways to bring the point home even to such people, I thought that perhaps pointing out that the "right to life" does not equal the "right to immortality." Then I remembered the embryonic stem-cell debate and decided even that suggestion might be disputed.
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:47 PM EST