Thanks to The Des Moines Register for publishing the essay by Peter Funt about the misuse of the term “rights” by Democratic candidates for President. (See link to Register essay below.) The term “right”, without qualification, should be reserved for natural or fundamental rights that are also called “negative rights” – rights that place no burder or obligation on others. The most notable of these negative rights are those included in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. They include freedom of the press and of speech (You can print or say anything but I don’t have to read or listen it or pay for it.); and freedom of association (You can associate or not associate with whomever you please, but you can’t force me to associate with you.); among others.
On the other hand, we also have “civil rights” or “government granted rights”. These are called “positive rights” since they do impose a burden or obligation on others. These rights are granted by governments through our legislative processes, and may be taken away in the same manner. They are often granted based on the wealth of a society and its ability to pay the cost. Common examples of these government created rights include basic education, medical care, and food. In order for a person to receive these benefits, the force of government is used to make others pay the cost.
I would prefer that these government created positive rights be instead called “benefits” of a civil society. Positive rights can be granted by government only if and when society has the ability to pay, and society’s ability to pay is not unlimited. For example, I don’t think any reasonable person believes they have a right to unlimited health care paid for by taxpayers, So if our Democratic candidates for President want to be completely honest, they should talk about the benefits they believe should paid for by a civil society, not simply about rights that should be conferred without regard to cost or limits.