Which is, of course, true. But not everything that calls itself a “right” is a right, and the opportunity for rights freeloading—for policy decisions to masquerade as rights—offers many benefits while abetting intellectual sloppiness and dishonesty. I say that because, once upon a time, a first-year logic student would have recognized the logical errors of begging the question and proof by assertion.
That’s why “rights freeloading” has grown in recent decades, and why those prone to spin new “rights” out of whole cloth usually pursue their artifice in the judiciary rather than the legislature. The latter suggests there are two legitimate views to a question; the courts give us winners and losers.
The problem with such tactics, besides demonizing the loser, is that it also tends to fossilize the discussion: a legislative choice, once adopted, can be undone at the next election. A judicial decision, once enshrined, is practically permanent and accountable to no one.
Finally, ersatz “rights” tend to displace real ones. Glendon shows us the problems of “rights creep,” i.e., the elevation of policy choices to the status of rights. If Gresham’s famous law reminds us that “bad money drives out good,” so—applying Glendon’s insights—I offer Grondelski’s Corollary: “‘rights’ tend to drive out rights.” Consider the track record on abortion: fathers have no right (no “interest,” as the courts put it) in the survival of their unborn children; parents have no rights to prevent their minor daughter from obtaining an abortion without their consent or even in some cases knowledge. Now, on “transgender rights,” other users of a public shower, locker room, and/or bathroom are told they have no rights to a truly single sex environment. On homosexual “marriage,” others have no right to decline to apply their professional talents or services to solemnize what they find ethically or morally wrong; conscience rights are subordinated to state power. Catholic social services are increasingly being driven out of the adoption arena because they have the silly, intolerant notion that a child to be adopted (i.e., a child who has already been objectively hurt by deprivation of a father and mother) has no inherent right to be adopted by a father and a mother.