For years, there has been a debate over whether rights are more important than privileges. The difference between these two concepts is that while all people (at least in first world, democratic countries) have rights, not everyone enjoys the same privileges. Some people might be aware of this distinction but many are not. A common example of this debate is between the right to free speech and the privilege to vote.
There is a key difference between rights and privileges. Rights are natural and inherent in human beings. They are given by God or intrinsic to our nature. Rights guarantee us the ability to act in the world without interference from others, whereas privileges are granted by society usually when we participate in some type of exchange or as vested or decreed by government policy.
In social societies, where a benefit is provided courtesy of government policy and working class taxpayers, it's understandable that beneficiaries inherently believe their benefits are more of a right than a privilege. However, as the benefit is a matter of government policy and it's conditional i.e. not available to all people - it's definitely a privilege to the recipient, not a right.
What are the basic rights of an American citizen? One may be tempted to answer "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But what are some of the other rights? How about access to public education, voting, fair housing practices, or equal pay for equal work? These are not just privileges granted by society or employers. In America, they are documented rights legally guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution and its amendments. Citizens of other countries are less lucky.
America is the land of the free, thanks to First Amendment rights, but many Americans' seem to forget that these freedoms are not without limitations. As people's views and beliefs change over time, their opinions about what should be considered free speech also change; this can lead to conflicts between people who want to exercise their right to free speech and those who feel that their rights are being violated by the exercise of another's free speech.
No one is safe from the government. It doesn't matter what your socio-economic background is, or your race, gender, or religion - if you are a U.S. citizen, the administration of the law has the power to strip you of your rights without due process. The Patriot Act was passed in 2001 by President George W. Bush after 9/11. It was intended to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States. However, that opened the gate to a loose definition of the word "terrorist".
In countries where gun laws have been introduced and enforced in an effort to curb illegal gun ownership, use and senseless loss of life, the result in most cases has been an increase in violence, crime and death by firearm. In New Zealand, following the Christchurch Mosque shooting in 2019, the Prime Minister, national government and police force rallied a buy-back scheme in an attempt to remove certain classes of firearm otherwise rendering the owner in possession of an illegal firearm. Decisions made by leaders affect their citizens and impact global opinion.
Globalization is a term that has been increasingly popularized since the early 2000’s, and it can be seen in many facets of life. With an increasing social media uptake all over the planet, news from all over the world, albeit most prominently American, often spreads rapidly as people share content and the world watches. Global agendas are no longer quietly carried out, instead they are openly promoted, as tragedies are blamed on arguably inflated negative statistics that typically stimulate fear in society. The most currently notable is "the great reset" - google it.
Oftentimes other countries will take America's lead and you may notice that a political polarisation occurs - for example, when President Biden took office as a Democrat, he took America left of centre towards socialism and that created a separatist movement that highlighted differences in race, culture, creed, colour and a claim to disparant rights (or privileges) therein. A conservative (right of centre politically) may argue that we should only ever award privileges for achievement. Common sense dictates that no nation may borrow its way to prosperity.
Whilst America and New Zealand may have featured above, there are many societies that haven't had "freedoms" in years, decades or within living memory. Those nations are typically communist + dictatorships. Such societies are not free, they are subject to larger government, more government intervention in their lives, stricter rules and regulations. However, the free may have taken a little too much for granted - one thing is for sure, now is not a time for complacency.
Therefore, rights should be inalienable and privileges are granted by society or via government policy. However, consider for a moment... when rights are eroded, even if based on a valid argument, even it's only a little to start with, is society actually better off? because prior to an erosion of rights or privileges there was a choice that may now not exist.
Consider how power may move from the people towards a government as a centralised power when the people's rights are eroded, and accepted as such. How that impact may be continued and abused over time. There is an old adage "give an inch and they will take a mile" that means that even when making small concessions, there is often a desire to take a greater advantage - sooner or later.
A great example is to note how governments around the world have responded to the Covid-19 situation. How promises have been broken after experiencing fame and an unprecedented level of attention. How Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, Governors and health spokespeople have backtracked, ignored their own orders, made money, make book deals and even won accolades. Is that how public representatives in government positions should act?
At what stage does the oppressed become the oppressor? And at what level of rights erosion is acceptable? Will the oppressed have become the entire populous of one or more countries enmass with a government instated and regulated parent-for-all mandate? Is that what it would take to unite an entire people' irrespective of their physical, religious and/or cultural differences? And who's fault will it have been, should such a detrimental over-reach become a reality?
Just how deep, challenging, and important is the recognition of rights versus privileges? This author would argue that it's intrinsically vital.