Get out of the trash

Get out of the trash

Entitlements are intellectual junk.  If we want real progress, we need to stop rummaging around in history's trash heap.

Education is a human right.  Healthcare is a human right.  A minimum income is a human right.  And somehow the American nation is ignorant of these entitlements.  Or at least this is what the "progressive" devotees of such entitlement rights would have us believe.  What they rarely understand is that these new rights would contradict our existing rights.  And human rights can't conflict.  That means either entitlement rights are a logical fallacy, or the entirety of human civilization is founded on a lie.  Given that understanding, the truth is obvious.  It is time for us to leave entitlement rights in the intellectual trash heap of human history where so many  generations of humanity have previously discarded them.

The idea that every person is entitled to education, healthcare and income is not new.  It follows from a political philosophy concocted in the mid-19th century.  This philosophy revolves around entitlement.  It is based on the premise that every man is a servant of every other.  It is the philosophy of collectivism.

The civilized world follows the opposite paradigm.  Its philosophy revolves around independence.  It is based on the premise that no man has dominion over another.  It is the philosophy of individualism.

The individualist philosophy declares only a handful of human rights, which are often summarized as "life, liberty and property."  These individualist human rights are called "negative rights."  They specify things that cannot be rightfully taken from a person.  Every human being is born with these rights, and only another person's actions may violate them.

Collectivist  rights are known as "positive rights."  They specify things that must rightfully be given to a person.  Only another person's actions may satisfy your collectivist rights.  This bizarre implication is our first warning that something is amiss with the collectivist philosophy.

The collectivist philosophy declares an abundance of rights - not just education, healthcare and income, but leisure time, travel, technology, and anything else that might contribute to happiness.  In fact, it effectively decides everything is a right except life, liberty and property.  This is because positive and negative rights tend to conflict.  For example, I cannot have a right to a minimum income while you simultaneously have a right to property.  That is, I cannot have the right to take some of your money at the same time that you have the right to keep all your money.  If my income is below the minimum, then either I do not have a right to a minimum income, or you do not have a right to your property.  If the collectivist philosophy makes it impossible for us to have these rights at the same time, and it is very clear about the right to a minimum income, then it must oppose the right to property.  The argument is the same elsewhere.  If I am entitled to healthcare, and I am unwell while you are healthy, then I am entitled to your labor.  If so, then you have no right to your liberty.  And so on.

True human rights cannot possibly conflict.  If two notions of human rights conflict, then one of those notions must be wrong.  The individualist rights to life, liberty and property do not conflict.  Questions tend to be very black and white.  There may occasionally be a legal dispute about where one's liberty ends, or who owns a piece of property, but the principles of individualism provide the answers.

On the other hand, the many collectivist "rights" inherently conflict.  Every question is relative - does John need healthcare more than Jane needs education?  Does she need a vacation more than he needs access to the internet?  Almost every question involves arbitrarily choosing a winner and a loser, and there is hardly a clear answer to be found anywhere.  The reason for this inherent conflict is simple: there is no limit to human happiness, but there is a definite limit to human resources.

The civilized world has not failed to embrace entitlement rights because it is ignorant of them.  The civilized world has rejected them because they are a worthless idea.  It knows them to be notions of a backward and discredited philosophy.

The civilized world is, and always has been, individualist.  That is why it is the civilized world.  It is peaceful because it does not create reasons for violence.  It is prosperous because it does not interfere with the creation of prosperity.  The civilized world is the product of its philosophy.

Collectivism was preached by failed intellectuals like Engels and Marx.  It was championed by failed leaders like Hitler and Stalin.  It has failed spectacularly, at great human cost, in countries like Russia, Cuba and Venezuela.  In fact, the greatest man-made cause of death in the 20th century was collectivist governments.  Hundreds of millions of people perished in the wars, famines, plagues and purges of the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany, not to mention the victims in Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere.  Collectivism's winners and losers were determined exactly the same way winners and losers were determined by cave men - through power and force.

The collectivist philosophy is junk.  This fact has been proven, both theoretically and empirically, hundreds of millions of times.  Past generations of humanity have condemned it as having no place in a civilized world.  Yet later generations keep pulling it out of the trash because it is shiny, without realizing it is dangerous.  These are the people keeping the idea of collectivism alive in the civilized world.  They are in coffee shops, universities and political action groups.  They are in the United Nations, as proven by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a hodgepodge of contradictory individualist and collectivist rights that is patently absurd to any logical person.  Empowered by democracy, these people are unknowingly muddling one philosophy with the other, and are baffled when the results range from mediocre to disastrous.  Like the people of the dark ages, they are attempting to use tools they inherited but don't understand.  The only solution is to enlighten them.

The effort to enlighten means we may need to forsake perfect politeness by politely speaking up when the opportunity presents itself.  We shouldn't reserve ourselves to silence in the face of ignorance.  Our country's intellectual dumpster-divers should be invited to thoughtful dialogue about exactly why mankind has discarded collectivism so many times.  We would be doing our countrymen and ourselves a favor.  Let's keep humanity from rummaging any longer in the trash.