, , , ,

Howard L. Rosenthal, David J. Rothman, Editors

Conservatives and Liberals alike would agree that every citizen should be afforded the right to pursue their own dreams and go as far as their desire and talents can take them. What we don’t agree upon is how to secure that vision.

Conservatives think it is accomplished by keeping regulations and taxes at a minimum so that entrepreneurs are unhampered in their pursuit of growing their business. Presumably they believe that low taxes at least allow the non-business individual to put his or her money in appropriate educational or training endeavors to secure their vision of happiness. For Conservatives, government needs to get out of the way, allowing the free market to determine who succeeds and who fails.

It’s unclear how this benefits all the non-business world, but they seem to assume that such business people, so happy at their ability to operate unfettered, will gladly pay their workers a good wage, and maintain good working conditions, and of course all this supports a superior product.

As we have seen, this has not been the our history when such practices have been allowed to govern. Business has become a game of the very rich and open warfare for control of the industry has been the norm, with little or no thought to the worker or his well-being being given.

Both sides would theoretically believe in a level playing field. Conservatives look to existing laws and would make all evenly available to all. Liberals see the field as uneven by historical behaviors and that the field must be made level by offering those who have been inhibited a leg up for some period of time.

If the playing field can be level, then Liberals would argue that these things must be true:

  1. All citizens must have sufficient nutritious food each day. Children who arrive at school hungry don’t learn as well as those who do. Workers who are ill-fed don’t perform as well on the job. Inner city groceries are often replete with soda, snacks, and prepackaged foods and bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables. Obesity is an epidemic. We cannot achieve our best when we eat only high-fat, highly processed foods.
  2. All citizens are entitled to decent housing. Nothing is truer than the statement, a person’s home is their castle. It is the place where we are safe and our haven of relaxation. It is where we can be ourselves, dropping the facades that we carry about in our public lives. It is where we rejuvenate our bodies and spirits. Everyone should have some place to call home and feel at ease.
  3. All citizens are entitled to a good education. Not “an” education, but a good one. To the degree that our cities cannot support such places, then government must step in and fill the void. Children arrive at school in very different conditions. Those from wealthy homes come with vastly more assets than those who do not. Those who come from financially secure homes have less things to inhibit their learning than those who are constantly aware that their very existence is under threat. Universities cannot be the place where remedial work is done. And of course no child should be unable to pursue their dreams because they cannot afford the education and training required. The government must assure this. No one can pursue happiness who cannot afford tuition.
  4. All citizens are entitled to medical care. No one should die because they cannot afford the treatment required to maintain or cure their health concern. The toll of the individual who is unable to secure insurance is devastating. It devastates their savings, and their families emotionally. No one who is threatened by disease can be the best parent, spouse or worker when their minds are locked in a fight for survival. Care must include that which helps people to learn how to maintain their health–this lowers the cost for everyone in the end.
  5. All citizens are entitled to jobs at decent wages. Workers have no incentive to do their jobs well when they are basically being paid slave wages. They cannot get ahead, cannot dream of a better life for themselves or their families. People need to feel useful and valued. Decent wages provide this. No entrepreneur has anything without the work force to actually build her product. They must be paid accordingly.
  6. All citizens are entitled to have sufficient leisure time during the work week. Our bodies, minds and souls need replenishing. We need the time to have real hobbies that engage the mind and the spirit. We need time to play with our children, teaching them how to bake pies and change the oil, and fly fish, and prune the apple tree. Vital family relationships are nourished in this time and children learn how to be adults.
  7. All citizens have the right to experience clean air and clean water, untainted foods and safe products. Government must ensure that business and all citizens protect and promote our environment for future generations. Global warming is a fact. We need to address it now.
  8. All citizens have the right to engage in whatever faith practices they desire, or none. Our government is based on protection of minorities in some real aspects and this is one of them. Those who do not agree with faith or with yours have a right to be free from your public-government sponsored displays. Government should be out of the business of religion in any respect. Our laws should reflect  “provision for the common welfare” not some false and gimmicky “Judeo-Christian” standard that was NEVER intended.
  9. All citizens are entitled to equal protection of the laws. Race, sex, orientation, religion have no place in determinations of who gets what. We must have a serious and dispassionate discussion of when  a life is a “person” for purposes of rights.

These seem to me to be basic.

Why do we owe them?

Because we are human, and we can contemplate the question. The question answers itself. If we can conceive the discussion, we have already explained why we must do these things. If we do not, then we are simply not the species we think we are.

Will there be those who abuse this? Of course. In the same way that Earls and Counts abuse the system of monarchy, and countless party officials abuse the system of Communism. There are always those who seek the shortcut to unwarranted riches. This will be no different, but I hazard in the long run, the human desire to create, to be recognized, to feel worthwhile and valuable will tame that tendency. In any case, I feel it worth it.

What do you think?