>The Rights Spin


As campaigns boil over with promises in this political gift-promising season, it is well to keep in mind that the word “rights” is one of the great examples of current portmanteautalk much favored by pols and spindocs.

In the 18th Century, “the rights of Man” and the God-given “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were considered basic areas of freedom to be defended to the death against the power of absolute governments.

Today this core Age of Reason definition of “rights” has become the brightly colored gift-wrapping for a process of political aggrandizement.

As Economist Thomas Sowell points out in a recent column (“The left’s vocabulary”):

“’rights’…have become an all-purpose term used for evading both facts and logic by saying that people have a ‘right” to whatever the left wants to give them by taking from others.

“…the left has redefined rights as things that can be demanded from taxpayers or from private employers or others on behalf of people who accept no mutual obligations even for common decency.”

The continuing usage of this vastly expanded and corrupted definition has resulted in its general acceptance by the unwary in mainstream vocabularies. Rational human beings opposed to the latest political giveaway of their property or liberties to others find themselves denounced as deniers of “rights” and worse. Who would want to be so labeled? Who would want to be so churlish?

Rationality erodes. Spinspeak triumphs.

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