Ever since Paine's Rights of Man was published, the notion of inalienable natural rights has been embraced by the mass of men in a vague and belligerent form, ordinarily confounding "rights" with desires. This confusion in definition plagues society today, notably in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," drawn up by the United Nations Organization: thirty articles, and a somewhat greater number of "rights" defined therein, including the right to free education, the right to "enjoy the arts," the right of copyright, the right to international order, the right to "the full development of personality," the right to equal pay, the right to marry and a great many more which actually are not rights at all, but merely aspirations. The conservative adage that all radical "natural rights" are simply, in substance, a declaration of the Right to be Idle is suggested in Article 24: "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure days with pay." This lengthy catalogue of "rights" ignores the two essential conditions which are attached to all true rights; first, the capacity of individuals to claim and exercise the alleged right; second, the correspondent duty that is married to every right. If a man has a right to marry, some woman must have the duty of marrying him; if a man has a right to rest, some other person must have the duty of supporting him. If rights are confused thus with desires, the mass of men must feel always that some vast, intangible conspiracy thwarts their attainment of what they are told is their inalienable birthright.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
From Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind" (7th ed. 1985) at 47-48: