"Rights": I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

I wish I had the book in front of me, but in one of the collections of Ayn Rand's essays (either the Virtue of Selfishness or Capitalism:  The Unknown Ideal) she quoted a bit of the 1968 Democratic Party platform, which called for all kinds of fake rights, the most hilarious being the right to vacation or leisure.

Well it turns out that absurd corruptions of the concept of individual liberty are never unthinkable, just ahead of their time:

Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer

"Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life," [European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry Antonio Tajani], said

Tajani's programme will be piloted until 2013 and then put into full operation it is expected the EU will subsidise about 30% of the cost.


  1. Mike Ford:

    I suppose the next "right" will be for a little throwing around cash. Maybe after that, we can have a "right" to have our meal expenses reimbursed. And let's not forget that money we all lost in Monte Carlo!


  2. DMS:

    Oh God! Here in Australia our clueless know-nothing government routinely copies the worst of the playbooks of the leftard lunacies of other world governments so we can't be far behind considering this.

  3. anon:

    Well, there is a misunderstanding about motivation here. Many of Europe's states see their idealized function in raising the overall quality of life for everyone of their citizens. This started out with right to not, essentially, die, and expanded to include food subsidies and healthcare. It is logical to extend rights to include access to information, entertainment and - yes - travel, if the economical situation permits.

    Now, under the current circumstances, such a proposal is, of course, nonsensical.

    That said, this is a fundamental difference to the American approach (essentially a version of if you can't fight for it, you deserve to die).

  4. Not Sure:

    "That said, this is a fundamental difference to the American approach (essentially a version of if you can’t fight for it, you deserve to die)."

    You mean as opposed to the European approach (essentially a version of if you can't get it yourself, you are allowed to kill some else so you can have it)?

  5. DOuglas2:

    But if the workers are granted a sufficient vacation experience, they will return reinvigorated to their jobs and productivity will increase.
    It will also boost the tourism industry.
    Call it Kraft durch Freude

  6. Roy:

    anon and not sure: rofl

  7. epobirs:

    Anon, such a proposal is nonsensical under all circumstance, not just the current situation. There is always a downturn lurking in the future. The more goodies you obligate your government to provide, the worse the shock will when the funds go dry in a downturn.

    More silliness is the supposed 'right to not die.' No government can grant that because it is beyond human power to deliver. Mortality for us humans is 99.999%, if you allow for someone alive now to beat the trend. Perhaps you meant, as the old song goes, a right not to be killed. That is a very different thing. It might be argued that a state that stands by and allows someone to starve to death has murdered that person if the resources exist to change the situation. But that is a faulty rationale. It fosters dependency, which in turn is a route to slow suicide for a nation.

    It is one thing to extend charity to the helpless. It is another to give riches to those whose sole achievement is a heartbeat. We should seek to better enable the pursuit of happiness, not claim to deliver happiness itself. It isn't ours to give or even define for others.

  8. Rob Leather:

    I wonder if Tajani will finance me and my family to move OUT of Europe. That would be helpful.

  9. Paul F. Treder:

    The reference you are thinking of is most likely from Ayn Rand's "The virtue of Selfishness", Chapter 12. The essay is titled "Man's Rights". She was speaking of the the Democrat Platform from 1960, but those concepts actually came from FDR's State of the Union address to Congress on January 11, 1944:

  10. Greg:

    To think of these "rights" as natural is just as strange as thinking any right is natural (cue a screeching Ayn Rand). Of course, some rights, like those enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, are far more important to the happiness of humans than others. But as society develops, it is to be expected that new rights will be enumerated, especially in democratic societies. Whether or not these rights are constructed with the same wisdom as Jefferson is another question. And to be clear, vacations don't qualify, in my mind, as a right.

    I'll gladly argue that basic healthcare is a right, but not in a natural rights tradition. I think a lot of people get incensed when the left says healthcare is a right because they're coming at the notion of a right from two different traditions.

  11. Pat Moffitt:

    One problem of these new "rights" are they evolve- there is no ability to define the right into the future. Are Medical rights according to 1950 practices or 2010. Does the right cover only the technology and procedures we have now or does it demand we also have the right to claim any new evolving technology? If the economy goes in the tank and we have less money to spend does this mean our medical rights decline as well? I'm a bit uncomfortable with rights that ebb and flow and requires government to define.

  12. ADiff:

    "Rights" are those things one possesses alone, by virtue of simply being. They cannot be given. They cannot be granted. They can only be protected, by preventing others from infringing on them (i.e. by force or fraud). They are truly "inalienable" in the sense that while their practice can be abstained (voluntarily or otherwise) their possession is inherent and inseparable from being existence itself. Anything that does not meet this definition isn't really a "Right", but a "Privilege" obtained artificially by one means or another, and entirely dependent on that mechanism by which they are. When that ends, they end. As far as travel and leisure are concerned, these are clearly privileges, the means for which may result from the exercise of other true "rights" (by action to produce those means). What the authors of this false "right" mean is simply the justification of seizure of the products of the exercise of the rights of others, to satisfy their own "needs" and "wants", which are all that are theirs "by right".

  13. Bill McDonald:

    DOuglas2: "Call it Kraft durch Freude"
    Full points for this comment, although it seems to be a subtle example of Godwin's law.

    For the people who are left behind while out Neu European Worker drives off to Greece in their Volkswagen (once know as the KDF car (Strength thru Joy, Kraft durch Freude)) will other people who still have to work ?
    How long before their slogan is Arbeit mach Frei ?

  14. ZZMike:

    Everybody talks about rights, but nobody seems to wonder about the duties that come with being a citizen. Ancient Athenians would have thought us quite mad. And they'd probably be right.

    Bill McDonald: "How long before their slogan is "Arbeit mach Frei ?" The current interpretation is "Dein Arbeit macht mich Frei".

    Or maybe "Kraft durch Schwäche".

    That early American rabble-rouser, Thomas Paine, wrote "Rights of Man". Early on, he says that government cannot give rights, it can only take them away. Another early rabble-rouser said that everybody has certain inalienable rights, and government shall not infringe them.

    I have a feeling, though, that Mr Tajani's "programme" will continue until they run out of other people's money.

  15. IgotBupkis:

    > I suppose the next “right” will be for a little throwing around cash. Maybe after that, we can have a “right” to have our meal expenses reimbursed. And let’s not forget that money we all lost in Monte Carlo!

    At what point do I get my right to f*** a supermodel?

    At that point, I confess, I will cave.


  16. IgotBupkis:

    > Mortality for us humans is 99.999%

    I believe you underestimate that by a factor of not less than several million orders of magnitude.

    There might've been one man who didn't "really" die, but he wasn't exactly a man, was he?


  17. IgotBupkis:

    > I’ll gladly argue that basic healthcare is a right

    By all means, make your case.

    Why does someone else's needs in this manner trump my own needs in other goals? Why do they get to justify enslaving me for something that they won't -- not "can't" -- for the most part, pay for themselves?

  18. IgotBupkis:

    > Ancient Athenians would have thought us quite mad. And they’d probably be right.

    You don't need to go back that far -- not just the FFs but pretty much any vaguely self-responsible person from ca. 1800 would ask wtf was wrong with everyone.

  19. Gil:

    "Why does someone else’s needs in this manner trump my own needs in other goals?"

    Well Igot, it could be said you want others to protect you and your belongings from deemed thieves. If so, then you're trying to enslave others and putting your needs ahead of others. If, on the other hand, you believe you should provide your own protection at your own expense (anarcho-capitalism) yet can't seem to do so (the thieves are well-organised and the anarcho-capitalists aren't) then isn't that tough luck in the same vein that poor people think it's unfair they can't get welfare or can't be productive enough to escape poverty?

  20. Ed Darrell:

    Go look up the civil rights case usually called Heart of Atlanta Motel vs. U.S.

  21. anon:

    Nice comment threat. Anyone want to tackle wether or not the right to bear arms is a right in the above sense or a privilege? What about the right to express one's opinion - in these uncertain times of terrorists at every street corner?

  22. ZZMike:

    "What about the right to express one’s opinion...."

    Rights are absolute. I have the right to do any damn thing I want. However, since I've read a bit by Plato and Locke and a few other guys who have thought about this thing long and hard, I realize that other people have rights, too - the same unlimited rights - and so I stop acting like a 4-year-old and realize that I not only can, but have to, temper my wish to do any damn thing I want with a reasonable fear of the consequences if I go too far.

  23. ZZMike:

    Greg: "I’ll gladly argue that basic healthcare is a right, but not in a natural rights tradition. I think a lot of people get incensed when the left says healthcare is a right because they’re coming at the notion of a right from two different traditions."

    That may be true ("two traditions"). But I think the real thing is that a "right" is a "right to do", not a "right to receive".

    A privilege is "A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste."

    Governments can give privileges, and take them away, but it can only take away rights. State governments hold that being able to drive a car is a privilege - it's something they can take away - for example, if you drive soused and run over people.