Earlier Monday evening, I posted a short article about how activists are pushing to create “broadband Internet Access as a civil right.” To a strict constitutional constructionist and ardent advocate of natural law like me, who realizes what a right is and a right isn’t, it seems preposterous to suggest that such a thing could be a right. I say “seemed” because while I knew that there exist people in whose minds such obnoxious notions flourish, I’d never suspected that one would find his way into my email. Not very many people come to my blog without some understanding of what I believe or to which principles I generally subscribe. As if to prove the rule by the exception, despite my preconceived notions about my readers, I nevertheless found the following in my email inbox not more than an hour after publishing the earlier article:
Subject: who made U God?
From: [Name Withheld]
You dont run sh*%! I gotta right to whatever I can get. it’s my world, bro. You just some old dude in a fu$%@!-up hat. I’ll take YOUR internet, you whinin b*%(&! Deal with THAT. everybody deserves fast web access. its our world now, and your gen has to get out of the way cause were gonna get ours!!!
Yes, I’ve edited out some expletives, but minus a little clean-up, this is the actual text. I’ve kept his name out of this because I don’t want anybody sending him e-mails in response, and I don’t have his permission to release his email address. Nevertheless, I think he deserves an answer, much of which he will either fail to grasp or simply dismiss as the complaint of an “old dude in a fu$%@!-up hat.” Apart from the fact that I’m 45, and I like my fedora, I am going to answer him here, and send him a link when I’m finished. I thought I should share it with you because he seems to represent the precise sort of people we must now confront if we are to restore our nation: Violently ignorant, and seemingly beyond our reach, this man-child is exemplar of why the welfare state must be demolished.
[Man-Child]: I’ll do my best to answer you without over-complicating the matter, knowing that you’ll likely surf out of here before reading my full answer. After all, you’re born of the drive-thru and drive-by generation, and the accumulation of knowledge among your peers, apparently increasing in number, is frequently left to random chance and what you talk about amongst yourselves. On the small chance that you wound up on my site wanting actual information, I’m prepared to offer it to you in a way I hope you’ll understand.
I’m betting you own a cell phone. It’s probably one of those nifty smart-phones with all the latest apps and features. Your generation seems addicted to the things, but I’d like to ask you some questions about it: Did you buy it? Do you pay for a monthly plan? Do you know how it works? Do you know how your signal finds its way to your friend, either across the street or on the other end of the country? Do you know how that signal is formatted? Do you know what a packet is? Do you understand subnets? Left to you, could you replicate any part of the technology? Who does know, if you don’t? What do you suppose would happen to your precious phone if not for the people from whom you now threaten to steal a so-called “right?”
Do you know what a right is? A right is a natural entitlement of liberty that requires the consent of no others for its exercise, and imposes no positive obligation upon any other. If what you propose requires the actions or consent of others, it cannot be a “right.”
You have a right to free speech. You may not require me to purchase a printing press or a television station on which to express it. You can’t force me to do anything. You can’t even force me to listen. Your right extends solely to the limits of your own person, and in no way to the persons or properties of others.
You have a right to worship as you please, or not worship at all. You may not demand that I build for you a church in which to practice your religion, nor may you burn mine down if it offends you. Neither may you compel me to believe as you do, just as I have no right to compel you to my beliefs. There can be no right to violate the rights of others.
Our system of laws is predicated on the notion that these natural rights, codified among many others in our Bill of Rights, must be guaranteed to all people, equally. You propose to take my highspeed Internet access. How will you do that? For what period do you think I or others would willingly pay your bill?
If you want the proof that there can be no such thing as a right to free Internet service, ask yourself this: What will happen if the people who you would compel to provide it simply refused? Would you beat them all up? Would you kill them? Would you threaten all their families? Even if you wiped all of them out, could you make it work in their absence, or repair it when it inevitably breaks, or otherwise repair the equipment when it simply wears out? Will you build new equipment? How? In the factories you’ll seize because you believe you have a right to them too?
All it takes to deny your alleged “right” is that the people who you would coerce to provide it answer you with a single word, and mean it. That word is: No!
Now consider your right to free speech: Without doing violence to you, or threatening it, how can anybody deny your speech? They cannot. All they can do is ignore it, or answer it, or urge others to use those same alternatives. This is how you know it’s a right.
In much the same way, we each have a natural right to self-defense as the first personal guarantee of all our rights. It is true that if your mob is large enough, you will eventually subdue even that right, but in fairness, I must tell you that you may wish to cower at the rear, because the front ranks of your mob will catch literal hell for at least a little while.
Most of the other people from whom you’ll seek to claim your imagined “right to Internet access” will probably feel approximately the same as me, but the simple fact is that in the end, you can only have such a “right” temporarily at best. Prepare yourself for the day that your bullying attitude no longer holds sway in the public discourse. Many Americans now stand ready to repel you, if need be, although most, myself included, still have some hope that you will amend your ways, and perhaps participate with the rest of us in paying for the things you desire by your own efforts and labors, as we have done.
The choice is ultimately yours, but you have no right to that which is not your own by right, and coercion, theft and extortion don’t make a thing yours by right. Earning it does. Give it a try. Generations of Americans have done so, and I think you’ll find it infinitely more pleasing in the long run than the approach you now suggest.