On regarding government as the answer to all our needs

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Let me accord the respect due to two letter-writers in this issue and their defense of every American’s “right” to receive healthcare.

One says that right is inherent in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, contained within the phrase, “pursuit of happiness.” His argument is that one cannot very well pursue happiness if one can’t receive healthcare. Since there are so many things I think I “need” for my happiness, in addition to healthcare, I think I’ll defer any rebuttal beyond calling that notion a stretch that the national budget cannot accommodate.

The other is an outraged screed accusing “American Evangelicals” and their conservative co-conspirators of inhumanity and pious hypocrisy for opposing “government-sponsored healthcare.” After “about five minutes” of research, he drafts “our creator,” Jesus and selected Bible texts into the service of his “J’Accuse!” agenda.

If our outraged writer could have sacrificed another five minutes to do further research, he might have discovered in that same Bible that the call to follow Jesus is an essentially individual call — “But who do YOU say that I am?” Each individual must respond to the commands of Jesus, giving assent as a single individual.

Jesus never employed force or government police to make an individual do anything. He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. It was then incumbent upon the individual to assent to that command, including being merciful and generous.

Jesus did NOT turn to a Roman soldier and say, “If this guy doesn’t obey me, empty his pockets, give everything he has to those poor people over there and then put him in jail until his attitude improves.”

Therein lies the rot at the heart of all liberal arguments for “compassion.” Many liberals — who love government, run by liberals, of course, with all their hearts, all their minds, all their souls, etc. — want to draft everybody into their compulsory compassion dispensary, whether everybody wants to be so enlisted or not.

Liberals — for whom government has become, if not their god, then at least their notion of what god ought to be and do — demand that each individual submit to their notions of justice and compassion, under penalty of law.

Most liberals, including our outraged letter-writer, likely would howl at my suggestion that charity by its very nature must be voluntary, must be individual to individual, must be without compulsion, cannot be group-targeted.

If it is otherwise, it is simply another form of slavery, involuntary servitude, whereby one group, backed up by a government gun, forces another group to pay up, one way or another.

I continue to assert that governments don’t create individual rights; all they can do is create group entitlements, which are limited to certain defined classes of people, not to all without limits.

And almost always, those entitlements involve the involuntary payment of personal labor or wealth by some people to benefit other people as chosen by those folks we call politicians and bureaucrats and which some designate as “elites.”

Is it the liberal notion of rights such that I must be compelled against my will or choice to give away my labor at the demand of another? How is that different from slavery?

I respect the underlying compassion that I believe motivates these two letter-writers. However, the ends (healthcare for all) cannot justify the means (compulsory compassion).

Any kind of “right” — human or otherwise — that compels one person to labor, pay or give for my benefit at their expense is not a right under any definition I’m aware of. Certainly, under any definition of “human rights,” the right not to be compelled to be a slave to another is right up there in the first rank.

Letter-writers, I have no inherent right to your money or labor or time, no matter my health or wealth status. If I’m hungry and homeless with the sleet pelting my face, I have no right to pound on your front door and compel you under force of law to take poor me into your home to be clothed, fed and housed, at your expense, for as long as I choose.

If, however, you open your individual door to me and make the individual, uncompelled choice to donate those things to me, that would be your right, not mine.

I suspect that Jesus, standing at your side as you open your door to poor, needy me, would ask you, “What will you do now?”

If you open your door and take me in, Jesus would smile, with approval.

But if you shut the door in my face, the Biblical record strongly suggests this: Jesus would NOT call the cops to come arrest you and then turn over your house and your assets to poor, needy me. At least, not in this life.

What happens to the unmerciful individual after this life is a whole other story.

Here’s what this extended argument is about:

1. A right belongs to the individual. A group right does not exist.

2. Governments cannot create rights. What government is too good at is creating group entitlements, which by definition are available only to specific groups. Generally, through enforced taxation, those entitlements benefit groups, not all individuals. In fact, government generally takes from one set of individuals to bestow its bounty on another set of individuals. It’s a law, but it’s not a created “right.”

3. Any kind of “right” that compels other persons to labor, pay or give for my benefit at their expense is not an individual right under any definition I’m aware of.

4. Compassion cannot be compelled. Compulsion negates compassion.

5. Governments are instituted by individuals and exist primarily for the purpose of securing rights for those individuals, not to choose one group over another for entitlements that necessarily abridge those individual rights.

6. The end — healthcare for all — can never justify the means — involuntary servitude for some for the supposed benefit of others.

Assemble your arguments, not your prejudices. And remember that name-calling is evidence of two things: A losing argument and a bullying spirit. Let’s see where this goes.

[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]