Do You Have an Inalienable Right to Your Neighbor's Labor?

This next presidential election presents a choice between two social contracts: the socialist-fascist contract of Mr. Obama and the Democrat Party1, and the limited government-free enterprise-capitalist contract of Mr. Romney2 and the Republican Party. 

To help you choose your contract, please answer the following question.  A simple Yes or No will do.

Do you have and inalienable right to your neighbor's labor?

I use the term inalienable in the same sense it was used in our Declaration of Independence: a right self-evidently granted by Nature's God and Creator.  It is a permission granted to you by no other merit than your existence.  It does not come from others or a government; you are born with it, and to diminish it is inherently evil and against the natural order.

If you believe that you have this right, than it is perfectly acceptable to demand that your neighbor labor for you, and you for him.  Practically extending this right, you have a right to the earnings of your neighbors' labor, such as wages and rents -- and they to yours.  It means that private property is a meaningless fiction.  This sort of social contract -- where one is not permitted private property -- is either indentured servitude or slavery. 

If you believe that you do not have this right, then by definition, you must receive permission to acquire your neighbor's labor or private property.  You must not steal.  You must exchange something of sufficient value in trade for your neighbor's labor.

If you believe that someone less well-off than another self-evidently justifies your forcing the better off to labor for the worse -- because it is the right thing to do -- then indeed, you obviously believe that your neighbor's labor is yours to claim.  You have the same worldview as America's antebellum slave owners and indentured servant contractors.   Our Constitution's 13th Amendment established that slavery is forbidden, so how is it that you now wish to philosophically bring slavery back?

If you believe that it is in the community's interest to provide a safety net for the less well-off in order to prevent more burdensome expenditures, such as a public education or childhood health care, then it might be best to create economic incentives that promote voluntary charitable support for less fortunate. 

Consider national health care.  If you believe that you have an inalienable right to another's labor, you might compel a hospital to provide emergency services (skilled medical labor and private medical supplies and lodging) to the indigent without compensation at market prices.  Such an arrangement requires the hospital to subsidize the emergency room by raising the costs of other hospital services offered to patients who have the means to pay...or else the hospital can operate at a loss and eventually shut its doors.

An alternative approach -- one that does not claim a right to skilled medical labor or property -- pursues tax incentives that make charitable contributions to hospitals compellingly reasonable.  If you want to provide a benevolent safety net to those who are willing but unable to work (the only population that merits assistance), then make such benevolent assistance to them more valuable than investing money elsewhere.  This might be accomplished by granting a 150% gross income tax reduction for all charitable contributions to health care facilities that serve the indigent.  For every $100 one gives to an inner-city health clinic, $150 is deducted from gross taxable income3.  Let's legislate a social contract that makes benevolent giving economically compelling, without placing a claim on our neighbors' labor.

Food for thought: we concluded our most deadly Civil War (1860-1865) with the affirmation that one did not have an inalienable right to another human being's labor.  How ironic it would be to elect a president of color who will return us to such plantation thinking?

Joseph Rosenberger is a previous contributor.


1A simple description of Socialism is a philosophy that disfavors individual property rights and autonomy and places them in service to centralized governing elite; a Fascist philosophy cedes industrial control over private-sector market forces to a central government.


2The Republican platform calls for limited government, lower taxes, and private-sector precedence in driving the national economy.

3Naturally, there might be limits that prevent paying no net taxes, as the government needs funds for constitutional obligations.

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