Everyone on the left needs to reevaluate the tactic of asking for or even demanding equal rights. There is an implicit element of that attitude that says that men, society, or the government has those rights and maintains the authority and discretion of bestowing them. Rather, rights exist on their own. Individuals have dignity and worth just by being alive. Instead of demanding equal rights, feminist, progressive, and everyone for that matter would do better to demand the government stop interfering with their activities and use of their rights.
By solving this semantic issue, more problems are solved. The progressives calling for rights now must bear the burden of proof. Whereas before, one could claim some unbestowed right, now one declares that she already has the right and must show where she is thwarted in the exercise thereof. Point to the statistical proof of a wage gap, or establish that the Voter ID law impacts you personally or impact others. Claims that racism holds a person back must be backed by evidence that the individual's right to [job, freedom, peace, speech, etc] was unjustly infringed. Whatever the right is, individuals already have it.
This bolsters the idea of individualism. Gone are the days when people could claim that as a group, they are denied rights at a systemic level. Now, individually, they must raise legitimate concerns about areas in their own lives that “the man” has kept them down. The chances are, most people have equal rights and don’t experience direct suppression.
This phrasing also provides an inherent upper bound on rights. If it does not exist naturally, then it does not need to exist. If it does not need to exist, the significant burden is on the activist to prove its necessity. Further, by creating a new right, one must demand it from the government. But a government that can give people rights can just as easily take them away. Instead, we should look at government only as a mechanism to preserve natural rights and protect individuals. When we look to government to provide rights in themselves, we acknowledge the authority and power the government has over us. Natural human rights to autonomy, expression, protection, self-preservation, and more just exist. They are the highest quality of rights because we own them and exercise them to our satisfaction. These rights just exist- they exist independent of a government or any other institution.
What quality can we expect from a right fabricated by an inefficient bureaucratic institution? We expect the freedom of expression because we control the quality- it is what we make of it. We expect the right to protect ourselves, because it is up to us to determine if we live or die.
Do we expect the right to [single payer] healthcare to be high quality? A right created by a government body, that can be taken away by a government body. A right that we cannot control the quality of. A right we cannot even experience absent someone else’s labor and finances. Would this right exist if the debt crashed the economy or if the country was diminished in war? Would it exist if there were no countries at all?
We should not demand this right because we should not view the government as a right-granting machine, but rather as a right-protecting machine. And we should try to get the gunk out of the machine every once in awhile so it functions correctly.
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