Another Phony Right from FDR
Tibor R. Machan
Let me take a bit of time once again to examine another one of Franklin
D. Roosevelt?s so called rights, on his list of ?The Second Bill of
Rights.? Each of these rights reflects a political outlook that?s totally
alien to what was sketched in the Declaration of Independence, although
admittedly there have always been some important figures on the American
political scene who championed FDR?s position.
Take this right all of us are supposed to have: ?The right to adequate
protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and
Once again, the issue isn?t whether having such protection is of value to
most of us?it clearly can be and often is. But just because something is
of value to one it doesn?t follow at all that one has a right to it.
Take a simple case but illustrative case. The love of a beloved person is
of immense value to the lover but, alas, it is not always forthcoming.
Unrequited love is very widespread indeed, and has been and probably will
always be. Yet, it is utterly ridiculous to hold that the lover has a
right to the love of the beloved. How could that be? How could one have
such a right without literally conscripting the beloved as one lover,
which is plum impossible? Oh, yes, there are those rare case when someone
who has been kidnapped by a deranged lover comes to love him (or her), but
these are so rare that they are very likely best construed as bizarre and
Of course many other examples can be listed. People value all sorts of
things to which they have no right unless they have managed to obtain them
free and clear?got them as a gift, purchased them, etc. Only thereafter do
they have a right to these valuable items and do with them as they choose.
Treating various valued items and services as something to which one has
a right has certain truly vile consequences. Having rights to such things
basically implies that those who own or would provide them may be coerced
to part with or provide them.
If I have a right to my life, it implies that anyone who would try to
deprive me of my life may be forcibly resisted. If such a person succeeds,
he or she may be severely punished. But if others have a right to valued
items, such as my resources, monetary or otherwise, or my skills, that
would also mean that those who do not respect such a ?right? may be
severely punished. So if I do not provide others with the resources needed
to obtain adequate protection of the kind FDR?s ?right? specifies, I may
be severely punished.
Now that is exactly what happens if I refused to cough up the funds the
government says I owe, funds from which these rights to adequate
protection are secured. Indeed, this is all current reality?government has
turned into an enforcement arm for the benefit of people who want to
obtain the protections listed as one of FDR?s rights. Instead being asked
to help these folks, here, in this supposedly free country, we are forced
to provide for them.
But, you may recall, government is instituted among us to secure the
rights listed in the Declaration, rights such as those to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. These are what political theorists now call
negative rights because to respect them one need but abstain from
intruding in people?s lives. They require no coerced provision of
resources to be handed to other people. The respect and protection of
these rights aren?t making involuntary servants out of all of us, serfs
who must work to support other people?not the king any longer but the ?the
people? (and all those who minister to them).
FDR?s phony rights are ?the road to serfdom,? just what F. A. Hayek
warned against in his book by that title back in 1948. He wrote that book
not long after FDR prepared his list. Unfortunately, even today there are
too many influential people who favor FDR?s road to serfdom, not the
position that rejects it, one that champions bona fide rights for us all,
namely rights that secure our individual liberty and leave us free to
decide whose protection against various adversities we will work to