Part #3 of the continuing series of principles offered around which the Republican Party can forge a new governing majority. The whole list is here, and in the days since then, parts #1 and #2 have been expounded upon.
The American people enjoy many rights. With those rights come obligations.
The American people enjoy many rights; some come from having been “…endowed by their creator…” with certain inalienable rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness), and some from the Constitution that provides us with much of the rest (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, jury trial, etc).
Each right we enjoy, irrespective of the source, carries with it an obligation imposed on someone else or all of society. My right to life means that you are obligated not to take it from me. My right to a jury trial means that I cannot be denied one. My right to assemble means that you are obligated not to frustrate my right to gather with the like-minded.
There is no such thing as a right that does not carry with it an obligation. Republicans believe that there are any number of laudable and important social goals that are not rights; were they to be, then there would be an obligation placed on others. Should we work together to ensure our health care system remains the best in the world, that everyone has access to it, and that our most needy citizens never fall below a basic civil level of care? Yes. Is health care a right? No—because then an obligation is placed on someone else to provide or protect it—in this case, government (fellow citizens through tax dollars) or employers. Note the use of the word “obligation”. A right drives a required action. As soon as health care, or a college education, or school lunches become “rights”, they then become obligations for the rest of society to carry out. Another term for the accumulation of societal obligation is the loss of freedom.
The language of rights can never be separated from the language of obligation.