Saturday, October 10, 2009

Save Your Anger For Fictitious People


George Will presents something of an incoherent mumble on anger today, noting that people he assumes are liberal get angry over a shortage of parking at Whole Foods, and that other people get angry about speed bumps. This somehow relates to the perception that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, although Will doesn't do much to explain the connection.
If our vocabulary is composed exclusively of references to rights, a.k.a. entitlements, we are condemned to endless jostling among elbow-throwing individuals irritably determined to protect, or enlarge, the boundaries of their rights. Among such people, all political discourse tends to be distilled to what Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School calls "rights talk."

Witness the inability of people nowadays to recommend this or that health-care policy as merely wise or just. Each proposal must be invested with the dignity of a right. And since not all proposals are compatible, you have not merely differences of opinion but apocalyptic clashes of rights.
Consider, for example, George Will himself. Having decided that corporations, fictitious persons, are entitled to the full panoply of rights granted to real people by the Bill of Rights, he's been sputtering with anger for years over efforts to regulate corporate speech. That, of course, he sees as a perfectly sensible exercise of pique - of his (self-)righteous, conservative anger - whereas it's pure silliness to advocate that real, living, breathing human beings have rights.

Meanwhile, I have to wonder how he came to witness the parking lot anger at Whole Foods. Perhaps after stealing somebody's parking space, while on his way to buy an heirloom tomato on the maid's day off?

Update: Civil rights at work, George Will-style.

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