Yesterday, the Monterey County Herald, my local paper, ran my letter as the lead letter. I was commenting on this story. Here it is:
A 'phony right'
Your article Saturday on CSU Monterey Bay students who are unhappy with a private company's inspections of the student housing they live in contains a telling quote. Student spokesman Michael Frederiksen states, "We all deserve safe and secure housing." But to say that someone deserves something is to say that others have a duty to provide it. Who has that duty? Frederiksen thinks that taxpayers owe it to him and his fellow students. But why do students' decisions to attend a heavily subsidized Cal State University automatically impose a duty on taxpayers who do not attend?
Frederiksen is advocating a "phony right." What's the difference between a phony right and a real right? A real right is, say, my right not to be murdered. The only responsibility that imposes on you and others is not to murder me. In other words, it's a responsibility not to do something. The "right" to good housing, though, is a phony right because it implies that someone else has a positive duty to provide it. And let's not hide behind government. The only way government can provide things is by forcibly taking from others.