Jacob Sullum // Free Birth Control and Unfree Photographers – Reason.com

Jacob Sullum checks in with a helpful summary (Free Birth Control and Unfree Photographers – Reason.com) of “real rights and fake rights” in regards to “negative liberty” and “positive liberty.” I’ve heard lots of folks describe these concepts without the philosophical jargon and think that these concepts are worth adding to our vocabulary in framing the debate about human rights, property rights, and “fake rights.” Here are the pertinent excerpts from the post:

Both of these debates are more accurately described as clashes between real rights and fake rights. To put it more politely, they pit negative liberty, which requires freedom from external restraint, against positive liberty, which imposes demands on other people’s resources. Under the latter vision, giving freedom to one person requires taking it away from another.


But does the government have a compelling interest in forcing people to accept behavior that violates their deeply held beliefs? There is an important difference between requiring the government to treat gay and straight couples the same and requiring private citizens to do so. One is a matter of equal treatment under the law, while the other is intolerance disguised as its opposite: intolerance of intolerance, to put it charitably.

Similarly, there is an important difference between demanding that the government refrain from interfering with people’s reproductive choices and demanding that business owners subsidize them. Just as no one has a right to pictures taken by an unwilling photographer, no one has a right to an IUD or a Plan B pill purchased with the money of people who do not want to pay for it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagrees. “We don’t allow religious beliefs to be used to discriminate against others,” says Brigitte Amiri, a senior attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, explaining why the Supreme Court should uphold the contraceptive mandate. ”Religious freedom is a fundamental right,” says Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, “but it’s not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors.”

That is why, according to Mach, photographers, bakers, and florists must be conscripted for gay weddings. Exactly who is imposing on whom in that situation? By choosing positive liberty over negative liberty, the ACLU is forsaking the freedoms it claims to defend.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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