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    Chapter 13  – The Rights Cost

     Can our Rights ever cost too much?

    For imperatives like the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no cost is too high. Constitutions and laws of most democratic societies spare no expense to ensure that its citizens have sufficient rights to live a full and prosperous life, raise families, and build a life and future as best can. These best intentions for everyone is a very high strength of the Democratic system of government.

    There are also laws enacted to correct the problems created when a citizen’s rights represent an overly expensive burden or adverse impact on society’s health and well-being. For example, does a person have the right to kill themselves through lethal injection of a narcotic? One could argue that a rational person has the right to risk their life as they please, but then what sane person would? Do legally insane people have the right to take their lives through drugs or other means? No – we stop them – and this line that society pencils between Right and Wrong are often a difficult one to draw.

    Absolute black or white decisions in life are rare and most things require solutions that are a shade of grey. If we use the analogy of a pendulum, the lines we draw often have a similar cyclic nature as well. Initially, there may be no law against smoking; then there may be a law to ban teens and children. Next the pendulum goes too far perhaps and imprisons people who smoke – before relaxing that rule to ban smoking altogether. Like a Pendulum.

    What is the acceptable cost or death rate of our Rights and “Wants”? “I want to own a gun; I want to smoke; I want a divorce”. It’s your right – until when? Slippery-Slope arguments suggest that any law that prevents people from 100% liberty is a bad thing, but we also restrict liberty in many places in the interest of public safety too.

    Here are three discussions that are, or are not examples, of our need to place limits on rights in society.

    Gun Ownership

    12,000 gun deaths in the U.S. annually is the equivalent of four 9/11 attacks. The highest mortality rate by terrorism in any country last year was 9,920. In 2010, 25 Americans were killed by Terrorists worldwide. Japan had just two gun deaths last year in a country of 127 million.
    When you look at the numbers, there is a lot more harm done my guns than by terror in the United States for one example. If the public does not benefit, then who does benefit from having a gun in every home? The Weapons Industry, Media – sell more product when fear is the headlines, Sociopaths in business and politics who care far less about your security and well-being – have also benefited.

    You could argue that there are worst things. Smoking kills one in five after all – so yes, those businesses are worse, but then why do we even have these businesses? We know there is more productive work that could be happening after all.

    The Right to Smoke Cigarettes

    Cigarette smoking is a right that a large percentage of our society enjoyed for 50 years. Cigarettes featured prominently in movies, television, and advertising in the 1940s and 50s and were seen by some as the first thing that a cool, youthful man or elegant women should reach be doing.

    James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and many other iconic film legends were all portrayed as avid smokers. The very expensive Hollywood marketing strategy and campaign, sponsored by the cigarette industry, was wildly successful until soon most of the young people in America and Europe had tried smoking.

    Like many addictive substances, governments did tax tobacco at a higher rate but only started regulating it at a point when marketers began to aim ads at very young audiences. Understanding of the long-term costs of smoking would be fully understood by the public only much later.

    Within 20 or 30 years, a significant percentage of smokers turned into cancer cases – with an associated medical care cost of between $200,000 and $1,000,000 per patient. With a smoking-related death rate of one in five, medical infrastructures were overwhelmed by the caseload volumes of smokers, and so new hospital infrastructure and staff had to be ramped up.  Healthcare and insurance budget shortfalls forced these industries to petition governments for assistance, and finally many countries put federally legislated new controls and much higher taxes on tobacco products.

    Today, cigarette packages feature large, full-color images of the horrific mouth, throat and lung cancer cases caused by smoking. It is still our right to smoke cigarettes – as they have not been banned completely, but new taxes added to cigarettes are prohibitively high and designated to pay for the new hospitals and treatment resources that cigarette-related cancer treatments require.

    Smokers who have succeeded in quitting smoking, report that it took 40 tries on average to finally stop once and for all. Considering how difficult that it appears to be to quit smoking tobacco:

    Does it make good sense to remove cigarettes from shelves altogether?   Yes or No?

    Is it ethically wrong for the government to profit from addiction?  Yes or No?

    The Right to Divorce

    Another example of an expensive right that we all have today is the right to Divorce. You may not realize that until Perestroika in 1990, Russians were largely denied the right to Divorce except in extreme exceptions. Reasons for this rule had to do with the pragmatic consideration of the impact of divorce on housing in a Socialist society where all accommodations were assigned, managed, and paid for entirely by the state. In Russia, a 70% divorce rate would have meant roughly a 50% to 70% increase in the need for housing, clothing, welfare, childcare, utilities, and many other resources. The economic costs made having the smallest divorce rate possible, something of a communist ideal.

    In keeping, Russian men could not advance in Business nor Government if they were not also committed family men. Young Russian women married at age 20 and started families right away – even while they continued their University studies in many cases.

    New families did not have to pay for their education nor accommodations, good students received higher salaries too, so there were no barriers to launching their lives. By the age of 40 or 45, the couple’s kids left home to start their own lives and the couple continued to work until the age of 55 or 60 when they retired. Most Russians often spent summers at their state-assigned cottages. This launching of families at age 20 very closely resembled the norm for US families until around 1980 as well.

    Alternatively, young men and women in today’s democratic European and North American countries, are having their first children in their mid to late 20s and 30s, often renting until they can afford to buy their first home well into their 30s. Their 25-year mortgages will be paid off by age 55 unless they divorce, in which case they may never own a home free and clear. Retirement savings are now spent instead, on much higher-cost accommodation costs until their children reach University age, and those expenses hit them at age 50 or so, at which point they may never be able to begin saving for retirement as companies are no longer hiring workers over 50 years of age.

    Similar to the tobacco example above, the cost of Divorce now includes exponential increases in social assistance housing, welfare and retirement allowances for perhaps two entire generations of citizens. Those costs promise to be staggering as these people near retirement age – beginning within just the next ten years.

    The chart above indicates that Divorce costs the U.S. economy $12 trillion dollars annually.

    In the same way that we restrict smoking because of its staggering health-care cost and 1 in 5 death rate, we may find that our society has to control divorce rates to curb runaway social pensions as our citizens are unable to pay for their own retirements.

    For discussion on our Forum, what parameters must be discussed, and perhaps even enacted into law, to restrict our Rights?

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