Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein argues that Barack Obama, like Franklin Roosevelt, supports “free enterprise, while also insisting on . . . fair opportunity and security for all.”
Leave aside for now the obvious fact that programs such as FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act—which imposed nationwide controls on wages, prices, and business practices—and, today, Obama’s bailouts and corporate welfare schemes, are the opposite of free enterprise.
Sunstein’s central contradiction is holding that government can protect people’s rights while also forcing people to surrender their wealth and to run their lives and businesses contrary to their own judgment.
Let us first nail down some of Sunstein’s slippery terms.
Obviously by “free enterprise,” Sunstein does not mean actual free enterprise; he means a mixed economy in which government confiscates wealth and regulates business.
By “fair opportunity” and “security for all,” Sunstein does not mean that government equally protects everyone’s rights to their own lives, liberty, and property; he means that government forcibly transfers wealth from some people to others.
And by “rights”—Sunstein’s piece is titled “Obama, FDR, and the Second Bill of Rights”—he does not mean freedom of action with respect to one’s life, liberty, and property; he means that some people have a “right” to the wealth and actions of others.
The sort of “rights” that Sunstein advocates obliterate actual rights. Consider the meaning of his major examples. If one person has a “right” to a job or a particular wage, that means someone else must be forced to provide that job or wage. If one person has a “right” to health care, that means someone else must be forced to provide that health care. The same applies to every other “right” Sunstein mentions, whether to unemployment insurance or to an education.
In short, in the name of upholding people’s “rights” to receive goods and services, Sunstein advocates the obliteration of people’s actual rights to act on their own judgment, to control their own property and wealth, and to engage in voluntary trade with others.
Those who care about our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should reject the so-called “Second Bill of Rights”—and unwaveringly defend the First.
- Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society
- Review: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Image: Wikimedia Commons