Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, Ol’ Robbo is once again playing semi-bachelor, as Mrs. R and the Youngest Gel departed Port Swiller Manor for Noo Yawk City this morning, along with the rest of the gel’s class at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, to participate in the annual Model U.N. session held at their H.Q. This sounds fun and exciting and all that, but as a matter of fact it is an extreme pain in the backside in terms of covering logistics (not to mention costs) and the Missus and I are both heartily glad that this will be the last year we have to deal with it.
Teh gel is representing Australia this time around. I’ve been trying to teach her the proper inflection while saying, “G’day, mate” but she still comes out sounding Cockney. Oh, well.
Her issue this year seems to have something to do with banning child labor in the Third World. In connection with this, we were discussing recently some proposal or other floating about in the real U.N. that had to do with amending its declaration of “universal rights”. She couldn’t understand why so much of the World seemed to be in favor of this proposal while the United States, Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth nations oppose it.
“Ah,” I said, “Well, you see, that’s because our understanding of the relationship between the governing and the governed is (or at least used to be) based primarily on what are called Negative Rights. That means rights that are not given by the government but endowed in us by God and with which the government is not allowed to interfere. Our right to free speech and assembly, for instance. Our right to practice our religion. Our right to defend ourselves. Our right to be secure in our property. Our right to due process at law. And so on. The message there is that these are ours and the government cannot take them away from us or unduly limit them. Most of the time, we ask nothing more of Uncle Sam than that he just bug off.”
“On the other hand, the sort of rights bandied about at the U.N. – like a right to education or housing or water or a job at a decent wage – are called Positive Rights. That means they require somebody, usually a government, to do something positive on its citizens’ behalf. Now, the Third World likes this sort of thing in part because a Positive Rights philosophy makes a people that much more beholden to its government’s largesse and thus much more subject to its power and control. If Dear Leader “gives” you a house, Dear Leader is going to tell you exactly what you can and can’t do with it. (And who to “vote” for if you know what’s good for you.) Also, since you can’t just “get” tangible things like water, education, houses, wireless networks or wage-paying jobs from the Magical Land of the Rainbow Skittles-Shyting Unicorn, but have to, you know, actually buy them, they can hit up countries like the United States and the Commonwealth Nations for mucho moolah. Of course, most of this is pocketed by the governments themselves and very, very rarely actually produces any benefit for their people.”
Thus ended the lesson.
I’m fairly sure only a little of it sank in, but I believe mustard seeds are very small, too.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention a semantic problem baked into this debate. “Negative” Rights sounds, well, negative. On the other hand, “Positive” rights sounds, well, you know. How do you suppose the average LIV-type is going to respond? Somehow or other, we need to get back to the rhetoric of Magna Carta and Wicked King John if we, that is the Negative Rights side, hope to sway the general publick.