The Bill of Rights and the Limitation of Federal Power
Regarding the editorial "Negative Rights," May 20: What Americans can do politically and legally is, in fact, highly circumscribed and "retracted" by government. A truly "inalienable" or "natural" basis for social freedom in the political (the conducting of social affairs) and the legal (the structural rules of society) would surely allow for a politically self-sufficient community around shared values freely chosen. Contrast this with the current situation where some "rights-freedoms" are left with onl y minor encroachment.
The point is that social freedom, the mother of all freedoms, remains illegal even under our government's "thou-shalt-nots" (restrictions on interference with people's political and legal "rights") so vaunted in the editorial.
Wendell G. Bradley, Edgewood, Iowa
Your editorial is most disturbing to me, for it shows either a misunderstanding of liberty and property rights or a definitive predisposition to "socialistic" and "communitarian" thinking and ideals, ideals that in the face of events in Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Cuba have proven unworkable and inhumane.
Negative rights, or the limiting of governmental power, is what the Bill of Rights is all about. Federal power was defined and limited to a very few functions by the Bill of Rights of 1791. The power that the federal government now claims to have over education, health, redistribution of wealth (read welfare, food stamps, housing, subsidies to business and industry), and finance is unconstitutional.
"Positive" rights are a great danger to liberty and property, and therefore to life, because they try to create an objective standard of material "good." But economics has taught us that there is no objective standard by which material "good" can be measured. Objects are only evaluated by ever-changing individual preferences and opinions. This is called a market - the only true democracy because every penny votes.
Whenever a government goes beyond rights as a negative concept, it destroys the liberty and property of its citizens and, really, the concept of rights. Any positive right is automatically an attack against an individual or group who must give up liberty or property to supply someone outside the marketplace. "Affordable" housing destroys a landlord's property rights and his freedom of action. A "fair wage" destroys employers' right of contract. Is it justice to deprive one set of citizens their rights t o
property in order to give to people who have not worked for them?
Edward H. Tonkin, Bridgeport, Conn.
The editorial touches a sensitive nerve in this American, whose heritage includes earliest New England. Only the Scriptures are more sacred, so talk of amending the Bill of Rights in any fashion is appalling. Once our rights are on the table, so to speak, what might be lost?
This republic has flourished with our present "negative rights."
Henry L. Alsmeyer, Tyler, Texas
Regarding the article "Abortion Issue Moves to Congress," May 28: I am appalled at the decision of the Supreme Court to restrict federally funded clinics from informing women of all of their legal options when they face an unwanted pregnancy. This decision attacks the doctor-patient relationship, as well as women's rights, for surely these women should be informed of all their legal options!
I trust that the US Senate will pass the Pregnancy Counseling Act, which will nullify the effects of this truly tragic decision of our Supreme Court.
Grace Lubin Finesinger, Chicago