In the comments to my previous article on the Rights of Man, this was posted by Locamama:
So you think that healthcare is a priviledge? I'm not talking about fake boobies and viagara, I mean basic healthcare? I'm one of those leftist wannabe socialists who thinks that basic healthcare is a right.
Healthcare is indeed a privilege; it is not a right possessed by the "lonely man". It is a privilege because in the end you must force another person to work for you, therefore it cannot be a right. Likewise I do not believe in the "right" to work (forces someone to employ you), much less the "right" to a minimum or living wage (forces someone to potentially pay you more than your labor is worth).
If it requires that anyone else take a positive action for you to receive the benefits, it is not a right, it is a privilege. That having been said, a functioning society must grant certain privileges to its members, and should grant others to them. Likewise, an individual member of a functionaing society should expect to exercise his rights with discretion.
A functioning society can and should restrict the unlimited exercise of rights, if these restrictions meet the requirements of Strict Scrutiny: the restrictions serve a compelling societal interest, they are narrowly tailored to meet that interest, and are least restrictive means for achieving that interest.
With that in mind, lets take a look at the USA concept of Miranda Rights. We've all heard them on TV - but just in case, they are typically read off a card with the following verbiage: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you."
- You have the right to remain silent. This is a right afforded the "lonely man". He cannot be forced to speak, as this would be a violation of his freedom of thought and expression. This is also a right that he will be forced to forego later, in the courtroom, as he will be forced to swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". Thus, a right that has been abrogated by social contract, as it meets all three prongs of the Strict Scrutiny test, especially as, per the 5th amendment, he does not have to incriminate himself, so he can still remain silent in certain circumstances, and there are certain other common-law rights to not speak under questioning. It is more important to society that the truth come out (compelling interest), the requirement is narrowly tailored (only the truth, and there are exceptions to what can be compelled), and it is the least restrictive means avialable (we aren't reading minds or forcing questions outside the subject at hand). IMHO a forced polygraph is a violation of the "lonely man's" right to freedom of thought (without consent), even if it were 100% accurate (it is decidedly not). The "lonely man" can abrogate this right and speak freely if he prefers. If he lies, this is a violation of society's privilege to "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" that the social contract has granted society, and may lead to restrictions on the "lonely man's" rights.
- You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. This is also a right afforded the "lonely man". He has a right to be secure in his person and possessions, and may therefore employ another to defend himself. Now, as with all other rights, it can be freely abrogated by the "lonely man" (he is not required to have an attorney present), but unlike the previous right, he will not be forced to forgoe this right later in the courtroom.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. This is a privilege the US society has determined will be extended to any member of the society. It derives from the right to an attorney, but it is not itself a right; as it requires another to take a positive action in your favor. As a society, we have determined (through our representatives on the Supreme Court) that the right to hire an attorney is not enough, we must be guaranteed representation as a privilege of living in our society.
My wife just challenged me to define why driving is a privilege and not a right - the best I can do is that you are operating a potentially deadly piece of heavy machinery with only limited required training in a public venue. If it is a right, it is a right that may be limited by society to a certain extent. Please note that driving in the US is very loosely regulated (minor proficiency test, no proficiency retest, nominal fee for the privilege); and that only for driving on public property.
There is certainly room to argue what privileges should be extended to members of our scoiety, but starting with the premise that anything other than the basics is a right is not the way to do it.