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Modern “Rights” and the Loss of Freedoms


Our political rhetoric is no longer formed in terms of virtue and vice but in terms of “rights”. A virtue requires that we take a careful look at ourselves. We intuitively see that we need to have some insight into our actual tendencies and where they lead. We need to control and guide our desires. Other people will often frankly tell us of the dire effects of our skewered actions which we are not willing to see. We thus need to develop a habit of controlling feelings and passions so that we deal in a just, courageous, moderate, or prudent way in our relations with one another. We can be helped (or hindered) by laws and customs that indicate to us what is good or evil in our actions. We are praised or blamed for how we act. A vice is simply forming a habit of doing what is disordered to the degree that we no longer see it as evil. Habits, both good and bad, indicate what we conceive as our good, the principle of our important activities.

A “right” can be defined, presumably, as what is due to something because of what it is. This view assumes that different things exist in an order. Existing things ought to be what they are. The differences found among things contribute to a common good that enables the differing realities to come to their best functioning. Nothing exists in complete isolation. Our thoughts have generally expected results, but only when we choose to put them in the world. We thus have “human rights”. We have “rights” to life, to defend ourselves, to liberty, property, religious freedom, and freedom of expression. Our law books have hundreds, even thousands of “rights”. A human being can be defined as a “bearer” of rights.

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