All Commentary
Friday, June 1, 1990

Perspective: Individual Rights

The term “human rights” is the semantic monstrosity of the day. There are no human rights, only individual rights. Clearly, humanity has no rights. The ultimate reality of existence imposes on everyone obligations to one’s self and to those with whom one shares the existence. Individual members of the human species therefore enjoy rights in relation to other individuals, in both the collective and individual sense. But to suggest that one enjoys certain rights over and above these interrela-tional rights just by being born into the human race is to promote the kind of fuzzy semantic thinking that leads to indolence and the belief that “the world owes me a living.” It just may be that it is this semantic confusion that has brought about the recent tendency away from holding each individual accountable for his behavior.

—Miller Upton

Delavan, Wisconsin

The Lure of Socialism

Socialism has always proved attractive, and it has been with us in one form or another since the dawn of civilization. When one notes the promise of socialism, it can be readily understood how it is so easily sold to the masses. For socialism promises a utopia, a sharing of goods produced, a “secure” existence, equality for all, full employment and adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and old-age benefits. It should be noted that slaves were afforded the same sustenance. Humankind continues to overlook the fact that as we are provided “security” by the government, so also are we losing our freedom ever so gradually, and we become wards of the government.

—Raynold J. Thibodeaux

Nederland, Texas

Violating the Commandments

The laws of Judeo-Christian ethics still underlie most of our direct man-to-man relations. Acting individually, we practice, or at least seek to practice, the Commandments. In our social contacts we endeavor to live by the strictures of the Commandments. But most individuals act differently as soon as they take part in the body politic. Acting in political concert, they behave in a way they would not dare to act in direct inter-human relations. They live by the motto: Thou shalt not steal—except by majority vote. Thou shalt not kill or coerce—except by majority decision. Thou shalt not bear false witness—except in politics.

—Hans F. Sennholz,

speaking at a February 6, 1990,

chapel lecture, Grove City College

Soviet “Prices”

The idea that the Soviet Union has stable wholesale prices is a myth. At great pain to the economy, we maintain low prices for fuel and raw materials, while having long since lost control of prices in processing industries. Resentments among miners and other producers of raw materials have boiled to the surface, and our country has been hit by a wave of damaging strikes. The only way to move away from economic ruin is to rationalize our price structure, which means creating the first real prices in this country’s history. And real prices mean that we finally admit that an item doesn’t cost what a bureaucrat says it does but what a customer is willing to pay for it.

—Vasily Selyunin,

a Soviet economist, writing in the

January-March 1990 issue of Glasnost

The Benefits of Foreign Investment

Historically, foreign investment played an important role in helping to build the United States, and it is providing investment capital today. Foreign direct investment (FDI) builds plants, employs U.S. workers, and promotes the transfer of foreign technology and management practices to the United States. U.S. affiliates of foreign firms provide over 3 million jobs and have an annual payroll over $90 billion; they account for about 8 percent of U.S. spending on plant and equipment and 21 percent of U.S. exports; and they spend $6 billion a year on research and development andpay $9 billion in Federal income taxes annually.

Foreign direct investment increases the benefits from trade by facilitating trade in goods, services, and technology. FDI encourages the specialization of production, permitting firms to achieve a larger and more efficient scale of production. FDI also tends to increase competition to the benefit of the consumer.

Foreign direct investment is an important source of capital to the United States. If FDI were restricted, much of this capital would be lost, at least to the extent it is not redirected into portfolio investment. The loss of these funds would result in a fall in the value of the dollar and increases in U.S. interest rates. The former would make the United States poorer by increasing the price of imported goods and services. And increasing U.S. interest rates would harm U.S. competitiveness by restricting the funds necessary for expanding economic growth.

—Susan W. Liebeler,

testifying before the House Ways and

Means Committee, January 25, 1990

The Civic Genius

The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes: they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and prefer-ting them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them. Their accounts with righteousness are always even; and God% judgments do not have to overtake them fitfully in bloody spasms and convulsions of the race.

—William James,

from a lecture commemorating

Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th Regiment

of black soldiers, May 31,1897