Just before I start I need to make it clear that I don’t sit on the right, I am a Social Democrat (not a Socialist, they’re two distinct terms – keeping in mind that given the state of the economy that long term the mixed model we current employ will be replaced as issues such a automation, 3D printing, the increasing prevalence of fast telecommunications etc. will take the human value element out of mass production thus leading to a large class of unemployed where jobs cannot be created in sufficient numbers due to the nature of the economy) who believes that there is a role for government within society but it is important to understand a proper relationship between the government and its citizens rather than the adversarial view which is held on the right or this benevolent entity that just throws around money and gives ‘free shit’ to anyone and everyone with no concept of how the government gets the money in the first place.
One of the thing that grinds my gear more than it should is the tendency by those on the left to throw around “but it’s my right!” and “xyz should be a human right!”when ever it comes to a particular service they believe that we as a society should collectively come together and pay for an distribute to citizens based on some criteria such as need, age etc. Before jumping into this lets get some ground rules in terms of defining the term ‘government’ I’ll be using:
Government: An entity that balances the representation of the will of the people (aka majority) with the rights of the individual, the long term benefit to society in general vs. the shorttermism that comes about because of the election cycle and the mistaken belief by many that there is a direct line from the citizen to the policy enacted by the government whilst individual citizens ignore what they want in the immediate isn’t good for the long term benefit of society in general. As a society, through government, we decide to ‘ear mark’ a certain percentage of the productive capacity of the economy by way of taxation with the debate occurring how big or small that ‘ear mark’ is and what the acquired money should be spent on.
Rights: I still very much subscribe to the notion of ‘natural rights’ that come out of ‘natural law’ with John Locke succinctly noting it in his ‘three natural rights’: Life, Liberty and estate with those rights protected through a legitimate government via the consent of the governed.
As you observe with the definition of rights you can see how I can take exception to when I start hearing people throw around the notion of “healthcare is a human right” and “education is a human right” but these aren’t rights in any more sense than a set of demands made to wider society under the guise of rights in expectation that you as a member of said society demand that someone provide you a service free of charge by virtue of merely being a member or some how a benevolent entity coming down out of the heavens to magically make things so like a God of some sort. When those on the libertarian right within the United States throw around the term ‘slavery’ (a hyperbole of a term being used by politicians for the sake of getting attention rather than a genuine moral comparison) in respects to healthcare and the transaction between a doctor and a patient within the broader context of a single payer healthcare system the critique is noting the lefts definition of healthcare being a ‘human right’ whilst ignoring where the means to pay for said service come from as well as the nature of government as a entity of force as to coerce an individual into doing something (hence the United States has a set of negative and positive rights relating to the role of the federal government in terms of the limitations as to what the federal government can and cannot do).
The reason why I focus on semantics regarding language and its use is because it pollutes the way in which one understands the issue from a citizen/government relationship in that when people say “it is my human right to have X” then it elevates the government as if it were external to the human experience and instead this ‘other worldly’ entity that floats above humanity akin to praying to God then expecting something in return. The result, rather than seeing the government as the collective will of the people, individuals divorce themselves from the responsibility of being part of the political process because the government has become so ‘other worldly’ rather than something that is actually under their control hence we have the low participation in elections. When people say that we as a society should collectively have a single payer healthcare system (which I support by the way) then the argument should be a reflection of acknowledgement that this is only made possible not by some imaginary force called ‘government’ (“it’s a human right so therefore this magical entity called ‘government’ should deliver it” to put in a crude way) making it all possible but we as humans coming together to decide that a certain percentage of the ‘ear marked’ part of the economy that has been put aside will be spent on healthcare for all citizens.
Hence when ever I hear the tired old “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal” phrase that is thrown around by cynical sorts who get dismayed at the status quo but never offer anything productive (as Nick Cohen noted, being cynical is easy because it doesn’t require you to take a position and risk being unpopular – unity through collective cynicism). If you’re on the centre left and are unhappy with a party that is supposed to represent you and your values then get involved – join up, make a noise and get involved in the cut and thrust of debates regarding policies – don’t just stand on the side line whinging about the fact that “the politicians are all the same” when your only attempt to participate in the political process is to get out of bed once every 2, 3 or 5 years to vote then become completely disinterested after casting the vote.
The United States is the same situation – if the Republican Party were so overwhelmingly unpopular then it should matter how you slice and dice up the map when it comes to the electorates the result should be more or less the same – a land slide victory for the centre left. The problem is that once again is that only a small faction of those who vote Democrat actually are part of the Democratic Party and people are surprised that politicians act the way they do – surprise, surprise, when you’re not even involved in the selection process or at least involved politically so then the political leadership have to take into account the base then you’ll get people who either don’t represent you or you end up with a fringe nominating kooks like the tea party folk on the Republican side resulting in a cycle of self destruction and failing to represent the average person.
Apologies if it is a little disjointed but I’ll throw this out there and I’d love to hear what you think.