I’ve noted before that President Barack Obama and much of the left–especially the legal and academic left–envy the new South African Constitution, particularly its Bill of Rights, which includes broad guarantees of equality and socioeconomic rights including “health care, and to education, and to decent housing, and to quality food at all times.”
That quote is not from the South African Constitution–it’s from MSNBC host Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry, who argued for such rights in a recent promo for the left-wing propaganda channel. Harris-Perry, like others who support such broad rights, appears ignorant of the effect of such rights: they often impede progress toward the very goals they profess.
That was certainly the case in South Africa, where for years the government allowed millions of people to die by refusing them life-saving AIDS medicines, all while proclaiming proudly that it had provided its citizens with the right to health care. The same failure has haunted other such rights, and other countries that have followed South Africa’s example.
Enshrining socioeconomic goals as constitutional rights removes them from policy debates and enshrines big government. Meanwhile, because none of these socioeconomic rights is enforceable or justiciable, government cannot actually be forced to deliver them. But big government can and often does undermine other, “first-order” rights in their name.
We have started to see the same with Obamacare, where the new system of supposed guarantees is already limiting access to care and raising the cost of insurance premiums. Meanwhile, the government has intruded on prior rights–such as freedom of speech, warning insurance companies against telling the truth about new costs to their existing customers.
The clueless Harris-Perry, who also wants to collectivize children, isn’t satisfied with a state that provides the basics: it must provide “decent” housing and “quality” food. So although she says that she accepts some inequality as a sop to America’s meritocratic self-image, there really is no limit to her leveling ambitions. “Lean forward” to the luxury state!