Friday, September 08, 2006

Children's Bill of Entitlements

This is my BrainstormNW column this month, just hit the streets:

You may have read the glowing newspaper accounts: “Portland children write own bill of rights.” On the cutting edge again, Portland is “the first major U.S. city to have a children's bill of rights written by the very people it affects.”

But if you look into what this so-called Bill of Rights says, and the way in which it came about, you’d be as disturbed as me.

The effort was led by Portland Mayor Tom Potter’s office. The idea was to assemble a convention of hundreds of school age kids, and lead them through a process in which they would decide what their “rights” were, produce a resolution that spells them out, and have the city council vote to adopt them.

We are apparently supposed to believe that the end product these several hundred kids produced - a manifesto which would make Karl Marx proud – was all their own work, and not influenced by the ideology of the adults who ran the convention.

So, what did the kids decide they had a “right” to? You’ll be shocked to learn that they staked a petulant claim to every nanny-state benefit ever devised:

- “We have the right to access adequate nutrition, and the community should provide for this right.”
- “We have the right to any medical care, nutrition, and fitness deemed necessary for our health.”
- “We have the inherent right to shelter.”

And on and on it goes. Nowhere is the word “parent” mentioned in the document, and the word “family” appears only in passing. In sum, it is simply a demand for cradle-to-grave socialism.

To be expected from children, I suppose. After all, kids want to be taken care of. But there were adults in the room too. Apparently, whatever adults were present didn’t understand the first thing about the definition of “rights.” Most liberals don’t.

The original Bill of Rights were limitations on government power. Each and every one spelled out things the government could not do to an individual. Our founders properly understood the meaning of the word “rights” – those inherent freedoms that government cannot take from you.

But Mayor Tom Potter and his staff, and the entire Portland city council (since they voted unanimously to support the document) turn the meaning of the word “rights” on its head. In their world view, rights are not something the government can’t take from you, but rather are things the government must do for you.

But anything government gives to one person must first be taken from another. If rights are benefits that must be granted, it requires someone else’s rights to be taken away. It’s contradictory. Properly understood, rights cannot be government benefits.

The French enlightenment philosopher De Montesquieu wrote that "The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded."

The concept of individual rights is the central organizing principle of our society and our system of government. It is the foundation of our freedoms. It should be the job of every government entity to protect the meaning of “rights” and be vigilant to defend the decay of that meaning.

But now we have government officials actively involved in promoting that decay, taking hundreds of children by hand and leading them down a path to a conclusion based on a flawed understanding of the most important founding principle of our nation.

Imagine the teachable moment that was missed in this childrens’ “convention.” Imagine had they spent the first few sessions teaching the kids the true meaning of the word “rights.” Imagine had they explained to these impressionable minds that everything they want the government to give them had to be first taken from someone else. Well, then the “Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of the City of Portland and Multnomah County” might not have looked as if it were written by Karl Marx himself.
Of course, that would assume there were real adults in the room.


Anonymous said...

You couldn't be more right (correct).

Great article - thanks.

Dave Lister said...

Great analysis, Rob, and another great example of the Portland politicos pontificating and blathering about something that has absolutely nothing to do with running the city.

Don Smith said...


Apparently, you should have been campaigning against Sten by taking such positions as:

Oil companies need to provide free oil to all seniors for heating their homes in the winter.

Homeless should be allowed to dorm in any basement they choose in the City Limits, so long as it's on the east side, past 60th.

Nuclear weapons should be dismantled, but the waste not stored anywhere.

Bush should be hanged.

All kitties are pretty.

Israel should leave the Middle East and take up residence in Texas.

and, um,

No one should be allowed to own cars. Unless it's a Prius. Pink.

If you had, I'm guessing landslide...