The right to wealth

By Steven Martinovich
web posted June 1996

I picked up my mail recently and found a package from a group purporting to be one that supports capitalism and privacy rights. Included in this package was a small book called A Man's Right to Wealth. Intrigued, I read it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a book-length pitch for me to join some gentlemen's investment club based in England. One thing did catch my eye...

Emblazoned on the back was the question, "In Canada's Charter of Rights, is there any mention of a man's right to wealth?" The answer, according to the blurb by the authors was "Of course not!" It got me to thinking about the relation of a person's right to their production to that of others who feel that they have a right to demand whatever they feel they need.

Do we indeed have a right to wealth? My answer would be immediately, "Yes, as long as you didn't take it from someone else." According to the critics of Ontario Premier Mike Harris and other fiscal conservatives, it apparently seems that the real answer is no, you do not have a right to wealth or to keep all the rewards of your production.

I've read essays and books that explain this as the effect of Judeo-Christian ethics or attitudes that social engineering that our left-leaning friends have pioneered, but I'm not going to try to explain how the attitude developed. I'm not a historian and I don't frankly care why people believe this evil. I just want to make a plea for you people to understand that you do not have a right to whatever pittance I earn, or whatever fortune a wealthy person earns. You only have a right to whatever you earn, or try to earn.

I was engaged in debate a few weeks ago with several people who did not hold my view on this matter. I was assaulted by arguments like "But what about the poor? Don't they have the right to live?" and "Don't you think that people have a duty to help others? Don't you feel it's an obligation?" It would be silly, and specious, to suggest that the poor have no right to exist, but with every inch of my being I do not believe that I am obligated to help someone. If I do it, and I have, I wish to do it out of choice.

By believing that we are obligated to help, we immediately cede our right to keep our production. I do not believe that society has a right to decide what an individual has to do with their freedom. What sort of freedom is it when your choice is none or none?

It's this belief that society has the right to take from you because it (whoever the it is, anyone who uses society never really explains what that concept means) deems it necessary. "What about my right? My needs?", you may ask yourself innocently enough. "You have enough, others need it more, even if they didn't earn it." If you're that thinking sort, your next question will be "Who decides?" That question will never be answered.

At this point you might think I'm arguing for the wealthy and you'd be half right. More accurately, I'm arguing for the individual and the individual alone. Everyone, be they wealthy or not, has the right to keep all the efforts of their labour, whether or not society deems it a right. Their work (and the benefits derived from it) is an extension of their political rights. Democracy and capitalism go hand in hand and we cannot promote one kind of freedom without understanding that economic freedoms are the same as political freedoms.

If you accept my premise that what you earn is yours, and no one has the right to take from you without your assent, then you must also believe that society is morally wrong for its attempt to create mediocrity all around be taking from you to give to those who say they need it. Just because you need something does not mean you have the right to it and just because society says something is a right does not make it so. No one has the right to take from another human being by force. With the weight of government and it's monopoly of force, don't tell me that anyone has the freedom of choice.

I suspect that I argue to few people. The beliefs I espouse here are seen as mean and cruel towards the poor, harsh and not fitting with society's belief of people being their brother's keeper. To that I will not answer. You have the right to put any emotional spin you wish on my words. I will not argue with those people because the words say what I mean them to say, and I will not debate those who place a higher premium on emotion over rationality. I only ask you to do the following:

Ask yourself what basic rights you really hold, ones that can be logically validated and consistent over a wide range of beliefs. Forget the tripe that you've heard in the media or by those who create new rights daily, or emotionally blackmail you into complying with their demands. Get down to the basics. It isn't easy, but I am convinced that you will agree that people basically have a few indivisible rights. We have the right to life. We have the right to try to find happiness. We have the right to be free, and that freedom involves all aspects of our lives, be they political or economic because the one cannot be examined without the other. Will you cede my right because you don't care about yours? That choice is not yours.

Current Issue

Archive Main | 1996

E-mail ESR



© 1996-2024, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.