The U.S. Bishops and Their Critics
by Walter Block

A detailed critique of the Pastoral Letter, "Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy." It is excellent. It has humor, intelligence, logic, and polite irreverence.
"One basic problem with so-called positive "rights" is that they are not really rights at all. Rather, they are aspects of wealth, or power, or control over the environment." page 6
He makes excellent contrasts between positive and negative rights on pages 6 through 11. Positive rights depend on the particular time (when there is no famine), clime (the Arctic climate cannot support the right to food), and location (the Sahara can't support this right for many people). Positive rights cannot be guaranteed even by universal good will. Negative rights can be respected regardless of time, clime, and location. All that negative rights require is the will to respect them. Positive rights tend to change as the standard for the minimum acceptable quality of life rises with the productivity of the economy. Only humans can violate negative rights, but nature or society can violate positive rights. Negative rights are like a positive sum game. Positive rights are like a zero sum game. With positive rights, charity is impossible. Incumbency is clear with negative rights but not clear with positive rights. The implications for the role of the state is quite different depending on whether one believes in positive or negative rights. Positive rights can conflict, negative ones cannot. Positive rights lead to egalitarianism, and, if the technology were available beauty and health would have to be shared equally as well as wealth.

Year Read: 1987


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