A discussion on Slashdot about the cost of broadband in rural areas contains an interesting explanation of the difference between USA and most European states (well, one of the important differences anyway): the meaning of “right”. Nothing new, but worded in a synthetic way that, in my opinion, shows well, apart from the USA Constitution, how many USA citizens see the issue. Here it is (the user names link to their comments in the original discussion, bold markup is mine):
user hjf: You have the right to bear arms, the civil rights, why can’t you have “the right to broadband access” too?
user es330td: You misunderstand the definition of “right.” In the US Constitution it means a person has the choice to do something free from government interference. You may own a gun, if you so desire. You may say, or write, whatever you wish without restriction. You may associate with whomever you choose. Nowhere in there does it say that the method to exercise that right will be provided, only that it is allowed without interference. I am free to publish a newspaper but I have to pay for it. A “right” to something that requires delivery of a service or product places everybody but the receiver in a position of slavery. If a person has a “right” to medical care, some doctor or medical profession MUST provide that service. If a person has a “right” to broadband, some company must string wire, another must provision access to their networking hardware and yet another must provide electricity to run it all.
(User PeanutButtherBreath noted, however, that there is an exception, because “Every “right” guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment is provided by the government to the citizen exercising them.”
I just discovered this other version of the same concept here:
“Of course health care is a right. So is freedom of the press, and the right to arms. That doesn’t mean the government provides them. If government provides one person health care at the involuntary expense of another, it is no longer a right, but a privilege.”