Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rights vs. Abilities...


Stinky Wilmont was the biggest kid in the 5th grade at Millville Grade School. I suppose his size could have been attributed to genetics. As I remember, his mother was a woman of rather large proportions, and his father, though not as rotund, was still a mountain of a man. At least they seemed pretty big to me at the time.

So that could have had something to do with Stinky’s size. Or it could have been that he was 14 years old. Regardless of the reason, he was a looming figure in the classroom, the lunchroom and on the playground at recess. And if Stinky took a notion to lay claim to your new pencil or eraser, or if he decided he was going to take your cornbread and leave you with just the beans, that’s pretty well the way things worked out.
For the most part I stayed on good terms with Stinky, so most of the time my school supplies and my lunch were safe. Still, I couldn’t figure out why he had the right to do some of the things he did. When I got a little older, I figured out that he didn’t have the right to do them. He only had the ability.

A couple of years ago, before the Indiana General Assembly adjourned for the year, they passed a few new laws that Hoosiers are going to have to deal with. One thing they did was reduce the number of drivers that are exempt from the seatbelt laws. The drivers of pick-up trucks are no longer exempt, unless you’re farming or making certain deliveries. They also created another entitlement program, providing health insurance to families that make up to $40,000.00, and funded with an increase in cigarette taxes. Apparently with smokers in the minority, the assembly felt safe on this one. But, as the number of smokers decreases, or turn to black market cigarettes, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be chosen to fund the program as revenues decrease and costs increase. Property owners certainly seem a likely target under the current crop of lawmakers.

The thing is, the government doesn’t have the right to make any private citizen wear a seatbelt, anymore than it has the right to make an uninvolved citizen pay for that citizen’s medical expenses if he is hurt in an accident. And it doesn’t have the right to force one group of citizens to pay for another group’s health insurance. Or entertainment. Or retirement.

As citizens, we can’t give our government the right to do these things. We can only give them the ability. We can also take that ability away. And that’s something we had better start thinking about before things get totally out of hand.


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