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The Purple Muse

Rights vs Privileges

One of the aspects of United States culture that has bothered me for many years is the entitlement mentality that is readily apparent in a large number of people in our country.  There have been periods of time when all we heard in the media was people shouting into television cameras "I have a right to this or that" or " I want this from the government or that from the government."  There is an expectation by some of our citizens that the US government will take care of everyone's needs or eradicate everyone's problems.  We are not a socialist or communist nation.  Our nation is built on a foundation of self reliance as one of its underlying principles.  We have the opportunity to pursue happiness in our lives.  It is not guaranteed.

Very few people would argue against using government resources to establish a minimal safety net to help people in immediate need or to help those that simply cannot help themselves.  However, we have taken a concern for basic humanitarian needs to a level that is inconsistent with the founding principles of our nation.  Various elements of our society are attempting to obtain "rights" for things that are only a privilege in our society.  Our rights as citizens are specific.  They are outlined in our Constitution.

There are government programs that may be established in law at any given time.  These laws are not rights.  They are a temporary privilege.  Our federal government can change those laws at will, a very different circumstance than changing our constitutional rights.  I think it would be constructive if all of us reviewed our constitutional rights starting with the underlying principles included in the Declaration of Independence.


WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness....

From the United States Constitution

Section 2
Clause 1:
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

Amendments to the Constitution

Article I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article IX         
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Article XIII

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Article XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Article XV

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Article XIX

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Amendment XXIV
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

Amendment XXVI
Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

We need to hold our elected leaders accountable for protecting our constitutional rights.  We need to make sure that the US government encourages its citizens to pursue their dreams and to pursue happiness but that pursuit must come from their own initiative.  We cannot allow our nation to denigrate the core principles that have led us to become the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Copyright 2006 by TPM