The first thing that shocked me about Stanford was the amount and variety of food. I’d go into the dining hall and struggle to make a reasonable dinner because I had never had so many choices before and then listen to my classmates complain that the salad bar and copious amounts of fruit was not healthy enough. I grew up poor enough, a fifth generation American, that I was impressed by food. I was also impressed by health care, I had whooping cough when I was a kid and when the doctors at Vaden found that out, they said: “wow, you might as well be from a third world country.” I grew up 3 hours away from Stanford.
There is an enormous gap in wealth in this country, it is so enormous that we have an enormous group of people we don’t feed and then another group of people that thinks they are entitled to Whole Foods. There is a group that thinks they are entitled to dermatology and cosmetic procedures and a group that dies early because of substandard care. We have places with no internet and places where 14 year olds feel entitled to iPhones. Our system is insane and it’s bred an unusual problem with entitlement. In fact, isn’t that pretty much the biggest issue in our government right now? The debate about entitlement? So, since we seem so confused I’d like to clear this up.
Our Declaration of Independence, the thing we told the world we were defining ourselves under, says that man has the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All you need to know is that part and I can extrapolate all sorts of information about entitlements.
You have a right to live. You have the right, as a member of the social contract, to the protection of your life. This includes, medical care, food, shelter, safe neighborhoods and a just legal system. The only time you lose your right to this is when you violate the social contract. You are not entitled to the right to steal from others so you can more than them of any of these things. You are not entitled to a higher level of any of these things. In a capitalist nation you have to work for that, but you do not have the right to refuse the basic necessities to others because you want luxuries.
You have the right to freedom. This includes the right to practice a faith of your choosing, so long as it impedes on no one else’s right to practice their faith. You have the right to say want you want, so long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others, you do not have the right to avoid social consequences for your speech (in other words, yes, Ann Coulter you do get to say what you want, but you don’t get to act like your rights were violated by people in a capitalist market who refuse to support you with their money). You have the right to freedom of movement and to the freedom to work. You have the right to a just legal system. You have the right to a fair and equitable education, you have the right to live your life how you please so long as it infringes on no one else’s rights. This means that you do not have the right to have your particular world-view represented in society and to ban particular world views. There is a market-place of ideas that should stand on the principals of freedom. You don’t have the right to be heard or for your views to be adopted, you only have the right to speak. Other people have the right to choose to listen to you.
Pursuit of Happiness
You have the right to work. You have the right to an education. You have the right to work under conditions that are humane and reflect the responsibility of the privileged to fulfill their end of the bargain of the social contract. You do not have the right to be famous. You do not have the right to be rich. You have the right to equality of opportunity. Which in this day and age should also include all the infrastructure that makes that possible, including access to the internet, education, public transportation, shelter, health care, and food. No one can be truly free if they have to slave away to provide the basic necessities of life. You should also be free from violence. This includes between domestic partners, between neighborhoods, between authorities and their people, between the oppressed and the privileged.
As the elites of society, if we want to maintain that position, we have acknowledge that we are responsible for creating those conditions. We are responsible because we enjoy more privilege than the other members of our community, and we enjoy those privileges because they trust us to maintain and protect the social contract. If we can’t do our jobs it is time for someone to replace us with people who can.