The Logic of Entitlement
Not long ago I woke up to the disturbing news from the Big Apple that some disgruntled ex-employee of the Empire State Building went on a shooting spree and killed someone, after which he was himself shot to death by police. No, I don't know the details but even the sketchy story points up something about the logic of entitlement.
Remember that according to the proposed "second bill of rights," one proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and championed by many very prominent people in the legal profession such as President and former law professor Barack Obama and his favorite legal theorist, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein (who wrote a book trying to justify the basic right to employment, among other things), everyone has the right to a job. The United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights states this, too, in Article 23: "everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment...."
This, according to its supporters, is a basic right, comparable to the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, such as the right to one's life and liberty.
One implication of having a basic right is that any time it is being threatened and no law enforcement officer is present to resist the threat, one is at least morally but often legally justified in resisting such a threat. So, for example, if one's right to life is threatened, one may defend oneself and such defense can involve killing the perpetrator of the threat. The right to self-defense arises from the right to one's life and liberty.
If, now, one has the right to work and to protection against unemployment, one may be understood to take it that one is justified in defending oneself against the threat to take from one one's job. If, then, one is fired from a job without proper cause, such as having committed a crime, one may be forgiven for taking it that one is justified in resisting this, in putting up self-defense when one's job has been taken from one.
Indeed, being entitled to something – having proper title to something – confers upon one the right to defend against anyone who would deprive one of what one is entitled to. Usually the legal authorities take care of this but in the case of the perpetrator of the shooting at the Empire State Building on August 24th, 2012, it can be argued that he was entitled to the job that was taken from him and, lacking police protection against having one's job taken from one, could reasonably understand that he could resist this, if need be violently.
Indeed, entitlements may be defended, logically speaking, with whatever force is needed to prevent being deprived of them. One may violently resist trespassers, burglars, robbers, kidnappers, etc. So in the understanding that follows the doctrine of basic entitlements, a doctrine widely preached by political theorists who hold that one is owed service from others – including being provided with employment – someone whose job is taken from him is justified to resisting this, including by means of force. QED
A more sensible and civilized understanding sees jobs as the result of employment agreements between two willing parties and no one is entitled to have another give one a job. Yes, jobs are important and valuable but can only be had once both parties, employer and employee, agree to work with each other.
Posted by mava on 11/06/12 06:55 AM
"If government suddenly ceased to be... "
That would be the day. Don't make mava salivate.
Posted by provolone on 11/05/12 09:40 PM
Even if the guy believed he was entitled to his job as a human right, this does not seem like an appropriate application for violence.
The TSA violates my rights and invades my privacy on a regular basis, according to this analysis, I should be able to legitimately respond with violence. It just does not add up.
Using force against someone attacking you or trying to violate your right to live, is a different scenario entirely. Obviously if you have no other recourse, violence has been necessitated.
If the man in the above story had some legal right which was violated and did not necessitate a violent reaction, he could have filed suit with any number of bureaucratic institutions. This is not to say that I subscribe to their concepts of justice, or that he would have received a favorable decision from any authority; but violence should always be a last resort.
I have heard plenty of stories about how hard and unfair the economic scenario is. Somehow this meme never dies, as if there is some objective concept of fairness that we can all agree to and apply to a set of economic circumstances. Regardless of how unfair and unjust the man may have perceived his scenario, if his only grievance was that he was entitled to a job; He could have easily applied for 10 jobs a day in a dense urban environment like NYC. Maybe he would go on like this for months or more, but somehow I find this less objectionable than violating some other's rights to life.
Just pointing towards the obvious here.
Posted by taxesbyanyothername on 11/05/12 05:57 PM
If government suddenly ceased to be, in many areas large corportations would be far more powerful than any other organizations. This would make them the enforcers of their own contracts, and thus the enforcers du jure. Defacto governments, however ineffective at anything other than protecting their own interests. The East India Company ring any bells? How about The Hudson's Bay Co.?
Posted by mava on 11/05/12 03:47 PM
I agree with you, except with respect to the constitution. I must note that the constitution does not address private property rights except in the fifth amendment, where it describes various ways that the private property can be taken with or without compensation. So, it is then evident that the purpose of the constitution with respect to the private property was only to find ways to undermine such rights.
Big business or small, it doesn't matter. You don't have any rights to enter in to the contract unless the desire is mutual. Adhesion can not be applied here, because you can always "leave it" and seek solution to your problems through other means. You don't need electric services for survival - people survived thousands of years without such, and you also can see the same service from other providers in other areas.
The adhesion would be applicable if one corporation had purchased the whole earth, and now it wants you off of it (such as it would be the case with the world government). Then you would not really have the "leave it" choice.
However, you are correct in stating that as it is, many corporations are using powers not vested in them by nature, nor powers they would have acquired in the free market. For instance, utility companies often if not always have a legal monopolies on their service areas, which were granted to them by THE SOCIALIST GOVERNMENTS. This is because without that government having socialist powers, they would have nothing to grant to the utilities.
With this in mind, it is amusing to have a member of "the left" to cry out about the abuses of the government power, which they have struggled so long to bring into existence in the first place.
But, you weren't at the beginning of the leftist movement, and you really didn't intend for things to develop in this way. So, then, I will tell you, that the best way to fix this is NOT by applying layers and layers of bandages (creating artificial rights), but simply by removing the powers from the governments, that they should not possess, and therefore wouldn't be able to grant to others.
For instance, if we remove the power of the government to grant the monopoly to the utility, then there would be many utilities competing in every area, and as a result, you would be in harmony with the law of contract, because you'd simply switch to competing company and therefore deny the offending company your business.
Posted by Libertarian Jerry on 11/05/12 08:44 AM
The fact of the matter is that in the 2nd decade of the 21st Century the Constitution of the United States of America is a dead letter and is meaningless. The Constitution has been so twisted,misinterpreted and misapplied,over time,by corrupt judges and politicians that it has totaly lost the original intent of it's writers. With that said,we do not live in a nation of law but a nation of men. The conjuring up of psuedo rights,in order to crush the most important of all rights ie. the right to property,is obvious to any observer of the current status quo. If an individual doesn't have the Right to the fruits of his or her labor or to the use and disposal of those fruits then there can be no justification for the concept of liberty or justice in the objective sense.
Posted by elray on 11/05/12 06:17 AM
A person who was being forced to find a job or lose his unemployment benifits put the "Right to Work" to the test in Australia in the 80's and the High court outcome was:
1] If you have a "Right to work" then you have the "Right" Not to work.
2] The Govt has an "Obligation" to support you.
I would think he is still collecting his weekly cheque to this day.
Posted by Joe on 11/05/12 04:27 AM
Click to view link
In legal terminology, a contract of adhesion is any contract drafted entirely by one party in an unequal power relationship, which the other party is 'free' to take or leave - but in practice really can't afford to leave. Pretty much any 'standard contract' or boilerplate used by an entire industry is a contract of adhesion.
'[I]f you try inventing new obligations for [your employer] as she does for you, I predict you will be, shall we say, disappointed.' And your utility providers can much more easily dock you for late payment than you can claim a refund for service interruption. This principle permeates every part of our lives governed by large institutions. 'They're cases in which some people are systematically empowered to dictate the terms on which other people live, work, and trade.'
The right wing of the free market movement sees nothing problematic in this. It takes such contracts at face value, treating them as genuine examples of the free, uncoerced contracts between equals so dear to libertarianism. That every aspect of our lives is dominated by giant, powerful, hierarchical institutions is just how things turned out in the 'free market;' such institutions are more efficient, see?
Those of us on the left who advocate freed markets beg to differ. The power of these giant authoritarian institutions, whether nominally 'private' or not, didn't 'just happen.' It results from a rigged game, an unholy corporatist alliance between big business and the state dating back 150 years or more. Our society and economy came to be dominated by an interlocking directorate of government and corporate oligarchies through the deliberate use of power.
Posted by Danny B on 11/05/12 01:27 AM
Tibor, Americans are guaranteed the right to the PURSUIT of happiness. This one little qualifying detail seems to be a casualty of universal suffrage. Funny word.
First comes suffrage,, then comes socialism,,, then comes suffering.