President Bush's speech at the United Nations on Tuesday betrayed a deep misunderstanding of the nature of rights and the proper role of the U.S. government [See, "U.N. Role Reversal for Bush, Sarkozy," September 26,2007].
According to Mr. Bush, everyone "has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care." Also, according to Mr. Bush, the American government has a duty to provide for those needs, whether in America or anywhere else on the planet.
But Mr. Bush's vision of an American paternalistic state with duties towards the world's needy is in direct opposition to the vision and ideals of America's founders.
Contrary to the president and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is no such thing as a "right" to a given standard of living, to food, clothing, housing, medical care, or any other value. In other words, there is no such thing as a right to the values created by others. What individuals do have is a right to work to produce those values free of coercion by their neighbors or by the state.
Contrary to Mr. Bush, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not "a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty"--it is a perversion of the true meaning and purpose of individual rights.