Negative rights vs. Positive rights

E. Thomas McClanahan explains an important distinction in the context of the health care reform law and the economic turmoil in Europe:

During the health care debate, it was common to hear people piously assert that health care should be a right, perhaps unaware of the full implications. The ongoing strikes and riots in Europe, however, represent the long-term risks of the progressive vision, in which government-delivered social benefits are portrayed as personal rights.

No wonder they’re rioting in Europe. They believe their personal rights are being violated by budget cuts brought on by the sovereign debt crisis.

Government benefits expressed in this way are known to political scientists as positive rights, which differ from the negative rights with which we’re more familiar. Negative rights generally describe things the government cannot do — take your stuff without due process, stifle your right to express your point of view, lock you up without cause, etc.

Positive rights describe things the government says it will do for you. A good example was the Second Bill of Rights pushed by President Roosevelt. Everyone, he said, should have the right “to a useful and remunerative job … to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing … to adequate medical care … to a good education” and more. . . .

The problem is that elevating benefits to the level of rights confers an unlimited grant of power to the government. In the legislative process, laudable sentiments too often emerge as programs with unconstrained costs — or, in the case of the personal mandate in Obamacare, policies that rely on coercion. . . .
From government’s point of view, positive rights are marching orders. Heaven and earth must be moved to deliver the promises. The state grows rapidly and ultimately it outruns the capacity of the tax base to pay for it all, endangering the financial security of everyone.

Thirty years ago, Portugal’s government cost its taxpayers about 20 percent of GDP. Then a new constitution was written, chock full of positive rights — the right to housing, education, health, social security. The size of government doubled. Portugal’s borrowing costs, like that of Greece and Ireland, have ballooned.

It’s no coincidence that those who believe health care is a “right” were, like Pelosi, initially flummoxed by the notion that a serious constitutional challenge was even possible. Who could worry about legal niceties when the noble goal of universal health care is within reach?

Once upon a time, Barack Obama seemed to understand the kind of opposition a personal mandate would generate. That’s why when he ran for president, he was against it — and criticized Hillary Clinton for proposing such a thing.

via Obamacare and the risk of ‘positive rights’ – KansasCity.com.

Quarter of Army recruits can’t pass entrance exam

We apparently no longer have universal education in this country.  Even high school graduates cannot be assumed to have even the most basic educational skills.  That’s what the army is finding.  At least the army is maintaining its educational standards:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

“Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career – and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told The Associated Press. “I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America’s underperforming education system.”

The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now – the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals – but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett.

“If you can’t get the people that you need, there’s a potential for a decline in your readiness,” said Barnett, who is part of the group Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to bring awareness to the high ineligibility rates.

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don’t get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: “If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?”

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

“It’s surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don’t deserve to be and haven’t earned that right,” said Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators.

via Nearly 1 in 4 fails Army entrance exam | Tulsa World.

Suspects arrested in murder of our friend

Thanks to Tom Hering for this update to my post about the murder of our friend, a missionary in Israel:

Two men allegedly involved in the stabbing of two women, one fatally, near Beit Shemesh on Saturday have been apprehended.

Police are maintaining a media blackout on the investigation, though they said they believe the attack was nationalistically motivated and not a random act of violence.

Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night that no terrorist groups had taken responsibility for the attack.

The stabbing killed American Kristine Luken and seriously wounded her friend, Givat Ze’ev resident Kay Wilson.

via 2 suspects arrested for Beit Shemesh stabbing attack.

Social capital

We’re in Oklahoma for the Christmas holidays, traveling around visiting relatives and revisiting the places of our past.  Part of it has me feeling melancholy, as I see beloved locations rich with memory falling into neglect, disrepair, and decay.

My wife, who has been studying the social sciences, introduced me to a term that helps me understand what I am seeing:  Social capital.  This refers to what builds up a sense of community, relationships with neighbors, and social networks.   The small towns whose residents have stopped painting their houses, with rusty junkyards on mainstreet, with empty storefronts with broken windows–these have lost their social capital.  Yes, it’s a problem of economic capital too, the loss of jobs and the deprivations of poverty, but the loss of social capital too inhibits the rebuilding of economic capital.

This happens in big cities too.  I notice a decline of social capital in Tulsa and Norman, with things looking and  feeling run-down.  (I could be wrong, since we weren’t there for long.)  And yet, Oklahoma City seems to be growing in social capital.  The new NBA team, the Thunder, which is having lots of success, has created civic pride.  Then there is Bricktown, a re-development of an old warehouse district that is now an entertainment hot spot, with music clubs, restaurants, night spots, and even a river walk.  But what seemed most telling to me is that the overpasses and sound screens along the highways are being decorated with Native American-style buffalo and shields and abstract designs.

And even some of the small towns, equally poor as the others, are building social capital.  For example, Vinita, where I grew up, has a remarkable number of houses and stores with Christmas decorations.   Even the most humble abodes and neighborhoods are adorned with lights and yard art and nativity scenes.   This is a sign, my wife observed, of social capital.

How else might this concept be applied?  For example, in churches?

HT:  Jackie

Reapportionment Favors Republicans

The constitutionally-mandated reappportionment of congressional delegates (and thus electoral votes) according to the latest census is looking good for Republicans.

States gaining Congressional seats: Arizona (1), Florida (2), Georgia (1), Nevada (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1).

States losing Congressional seats: Illinois (1), Iowa (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1).

via Pajamas Media » Reapportionment Favors the Red States.

Of those gaining representatives, only Nevada and Washington voted Democratic in the 2008 presidential election.  Of those losing representatives, only Louisiana and Missouri went for the Republican.

Why do you think the population shift and demographic changes favors Republicans?  Aren’t the progressives supposed to be the wave of the future?

Someone I know has been martyred!

That American tourist who was murdered in Israel–I knew her!  Kristine Luken.  She worked for Patrick Henry College for awhile, helping us with accreditation issues.  (She had previously worked for the Department of Education as a liason with colleges.)  She became friends with my wife.  A Jewish convert to Christianity, Kristine began to feel a strong calling to go to England to work with a ministry there involved with evangelizing Jews.  That was surely a calling to her martyrdom.

Kristine was gentle, sensitive, and extremely devout.  One account I read said that police were investigating if she had any sinister dealings of any kind, and I can assure them that she most certainly did not.  I’d stake my life on that.

The first assumption was that she was killed by Muslim terrorists, but I’m not so sure.  Judging from the detail about the Star of David necklace, recounted by another woman who survived the attack, I’m thinking it sounds like the two assailants might have been Jewish radicals who attacked her for evangelizing Jews.  At any rate, I have no doubt that she was murdered for her Christian faith.

And I have no doubt she has joined this number:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

American Tourist Kristine Luken Killed in Israel, No Arrests Made, Say Police – Crimesider – CBS News.


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