Negative vs. positive rights

Walter Williams on negative versus positive freedom:

Negative freedom or rights refers to the absence of constraint or coercion when people engage in peaceable, voluntary exchange. Some of these negative freedoms are enumerated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. More generally, at least in its standard historical usage, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Likewise, my right to travel imposes no obligation upon another.

Positive rights is a view that people should have certain material things — such as medical care, decent housing and food — whether they can pay for them or not. Seeing as there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy, those “rights” do impose obligations upon others. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something he did earn.

What the positive rights tyrants want but won’t articulate is the power to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another. After all, if one person does not have the money to purchase food, housing or medicine and if Congress provides the money, where does it get the money? It takes it from some other American, forcibly using that person to serve the purposes of another. Such a practice differs only in degree, but not kind, from slavery.

More Fourth Amendment Outrage

On January 2, 2013, in Deming, NM, David Eckert was stopped by police for allegedly rolling through a stop sign. When Eckert refused a search for drugs, a police dog was brought in. Of course the dog alerted, on the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Officers stated that they observed Eckert “standing with his buttocks clenched,” and obtained a warrant for an anal examination for contraband. The physician at the local hospital refused to do the examination, so Eckert was taken to a hospital in Silver City, NM (in another county, where the warrant was not valid). There Eckert underwent a digital rectal examination, an xray, then three enemas, and another xray. No drugs were found, so doctors performed a freaking colonoscopy, under anesthesia! 

And then Eckert got a bill for $6,000 from the hospital.

A lawsuit has been filed, of course, and the publicity has encouraged a second person to come forward with a similar story. Eckert’s attorney has filed suit against six police officers, and malpractice claims against the physicians who performed the colonoscopy.

Enough is enough. There have to be adequate consequences to deter this kind of abuse. The Fourth Amendment abuses are egregious, of course, but as a physician I am appalled that doctors participated in this event.

UPDATE: According to the affidavit for the search warrant, police were told that Eckert was “known to insert drugs into his anal cavity and had been caught in Hidalgo County with drugs in his anal cavity.” That may explain the reasoning for the search, does not explain the lengths to which the search was conducted.


Another victory for liberty

This is a story I have been following for a couple of years. Benedictine monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Covington, LA have been making simple cypress caskets for many years. They were used primarily for burial of the Brothers themselves, with a few sold to other individuals. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the order began selling them more widely to support the abbey. The caskets sold for $1,500-2,000, much less than most casket sold by funeral homes.

About five years ago, the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors told the monks that they could not sell the caskets, which were restricted by state regulation for sale by licensed funeral homes only. The order took the board to court, and last year won a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week the Supreme Court refused to hear the board’s appeal.

The purpose of regulatory boards like the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral directors is to protect the public from fraud and unsafe business practices. It has become a way to protect established businesses from competition. This is a victory for the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey, and for liberty for all of us.