Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The "privilege" of being born American

By Donald Sensing

Former Federal Reserve Governor Lawrence Lindsay rightly takes Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to task for saying that,

the "most fortunate Americans" should pay more in taxes for the "privilege of being an American." One can debate different ways of balancing the budget. But Mr. Geithner's argument highlights an unfortunate and very destructive instinct that seems to permeate the Obama administration about the respective roles of citizens and their government. ...

Philosophically, the concept that being an American is a "privilege" upends the whole basis on which America was founded. Privileges are things granted to one individual by another, higher-ranking, individual. ...

This is an age-old view that our Founding Fathers rejected. First, they argued that the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., economic liberty) were natural rights, endowed by our Creator, not by government.
But Geithner's statement absolutely accurately reflects the Left's basic view of government and the people, namely that the government rules supreme and the people are order takers from their government overlords. And "Turbo Tax Time," as the SecTreas is sometimes known, is far from the first Leftist to betray this world view.

In 2009, Ramesh Ponnuru wrote of an "insane" analogy used by Robert Frank in the NY Times. It's this:
"Anti-tax zealots denounce all taxation as theft, as depriving citizens of their right to spend their hard-earned incomes as they see fit. Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed. Nor does it grant us the right to harm others with impunity. No one is permitted to steal our cars or vandalize our homes. Why should opponents of taxation be allowed to harm us in less direct ways?" Um, maybe because the analogy is insane?
Yes, but that's not the fundamental error Frank makes here. The real boneheaded, but typical liberal thinking Frank displays is that the Constitution grants rights.

It does not.

In America, the state apparatus grants no rights at all to the people because the government has no rights to grant. All rights reside in the people to begin with. The American founders understood that human rights are simply a fact of human existence; human beings are "endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights," as the Declaration of Independence puts it.

Therefore, in the American system, the people grant powers to the government, but no rights. Yet we still have to endure and rebut idiocy from people such as Geithner and Franks, who believe that the government is the fount of all things good in America, including our very rights. In fact, the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution as a whole give or grant no rights at all: all rights automatically are always held by the people in the first place. The Bill of Rights was intended to restrict the power of the government -- to make sure that government apparatchiks didn't step on the rights of the people. The Constitution secures our rights against encroachment. It does not found them to begin with.

So in Geithner land, being born an American is a privilege. (Of course, to most of the Left, being born at all is a prvilege.)

Exhibit C: The government also claims that owning a passport is a "privilege," too.

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