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January 21, 2005

Bill of NON-Rights

This is my second entry. I'll cut straight to the chase. Here is the original agit-prop chain letter that was sent to me:

We The People Of The United States

This is probably the best e-mail I've seen in a long, long time.
Should be included in the platforms of both candidates!!!!!
The following has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell
Kaye from GA. This guy should run for President one day...

"We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help
everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more
riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the
blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren,
hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense
guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and
other liberal bed-wetters.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people
are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or
any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire
them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This
country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not
just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different
opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you
stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect
the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing.
Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help
anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation
after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more
than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would
be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested
in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people.
If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be
surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others.
If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other
citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you
away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV
or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want
you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we
expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and
vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American
means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way,
is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic
laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where
you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you
came from!


ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history
or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And
yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith,
or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE
TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable
with it, TOUGH!!!!

If you agree, share this with a friend. No, you don't have to, and
nothing tragic will befall you if you don't. I just think it's about time
common sense is allowed to flourish.
Sensible people of the United States speak out because if you do not,
who will?

Snopes clears up the issue of authorship. I give my own response, below the fold:

The Bill of Responsibilities - in response to the Bill of NON-Rights:

Today, I received an e-mail asking for sensible people to speak out on the issue of what rights other people don’t have (scroll to the bottom to see it, but if you are getting this from me, you probably already saw the one I’m talking about). Personally, I have more admiration for the approach taken by the founding fathers – to kind of stay focused on what rights people do have, and on being certain they remain inviolable under the law. But, I can certainly see the value in looking at rights from another perspective… just not the perspective of me telling you what rights you don’t have. See, rights do come with limitations, and those limitations are often responsibilities. If we want to build ourselves up, we would do well to focus a little bit on what responsibilities we have that come with our rights. So here is my proposed Bill of Responsibilities:

Article I: If you live in the United States, you, like me, are almost certainly one of the wealthiest people in the world. There are people wealthier than us, and people less wealthy than us. We should remember, as we try to make ourselves wealthier, that everyone else is trying to do the same. We shouldn’t try to interfere with their efforts, and we should forgive their frustration if they do not make the progress they hope for. We will probably have similar frustrations.

Article II: We have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. While we have a right to these freedoms, the government has a responsibility to abstain from certain kinds of expression, particularly religious expression. We should not try to use the government to promote our own religion. We should remember that in certain times and places, our expressions may be inappropriate and offensive to some. We still have the right to make them, but we should consider whether we have a responsibility to be respectful of others.

Article III: If we make a living by marketing products or services to the public, we have a responsibility to make them reasonably safe to use for their intended function, and to reduce and/or inform consumers of potential hazards from our product or service, if we are aware of them. There are such things as frivolous lawsuits, and even unjust judgments from juries and judges on these lawsuits. The system should be improved, but that doesn’t mean we should be immunized from all responsibility. Unfortunately, we hear a lot more about the relatively few cases of abuse of our judicial system, and very little about its successful use. We shouldn’t take for granted the system that protects us by enforcing those responsibilities.

Article IV: We have a responsibility in this, the most prosperous nation of the world, to be certain that everyone – especially the children - have access to adequate shelter and to adequate and nutritious meal. We should not pat ourselves on the back for our own generosity when we are barely meeting our responsibilities.

Article V: In this, the most prosperous nation of the world, we should take responsibility to be certain that everyone – especially the children – have access to basic health care. It works in Canada, Europe, and even tiny Costa Rica. We cannot call ourselves civilized while we consider a $300 a year tax cut more important than basic medical care for our society’s children.

Article VI: We have a responsibility to keep our justice system just. Revenge may feel good, but justice means making things right. That can mean restoring something that was lost, or preventing future harm, through reforming those who behave unjustly, quarantining from society, and/or deterring them. The death penalty may serve a just purpose, but too often we find ourselves executing innocent people, minors, and the mentally retarded. A humane society has a responsibility to do the deepest kind of soul searching before employing a death penalty.

Article VII: We have a responsibility to keep our incarceration system just. Our prisons may have robbers, cheaters, drug users, and many other people who have wronged themselves are others. We may have to lock them up as part of our effort to reform them and give them an opportunity to re-enter society as good citizens. While doing so, we do have to look after their welfare. We cannot call ourselves civilized while we fail to protect our prisoners from rape or beatings from other prisoners or prison guards. Providing a humane environment for our prisoners may only be the beginning to protecting our society from further violence, but it is a start.

Article VIII: We have a responsibility, as a society, to provide the opportunity to work to every adult who is willing to work. The creation of a large unemployed class in our nation will lead to deterioration of the fabric of society. Only while everyone is working can our society keep itself safe, growing, and happy. Furthermore, every person, no matter what neighborhood they are born in, no matter what their sex, skin color, religion, or sexual orientation should have the same opportunities. Our society is founded on the equality of all individuals. This equality must include educational opportunity as well as later employment opportunity.

Article IX: We have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. If we allow ourselves to believe that the laws and the court decisions that were meant to protect those rights are “stupid and idiotic”, then someone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is probably going to get trampled.

Article X: We are grown-ups. We have a responsibility to act like it. When we were kids on the playground, and the new kid hadn’t learned our baseball rules yet, we made him leave. As grown-ups, when the new family hasn’t learned our language yet, we may not be able to learn their language or help them learn ours, but there is no need for us to try to scream them off of the playground or out of our neighborhood. If we cannot reach out to them ourselves, we can stand aside like grownups, and allow the many others who are willing and able to reach out to them.


Article XI: We have a responsibility to understand our nation’s history and heritage. That includes the good: the bill of rights, the emancipation proclamation, and every triumph over tyranny and every advance in the quality of our society, but it also includes the bad: the extermination of Native Americans, the trail of tears, slavery, child labor, Vietnam, and many other regrettables. We have a responsibility to leave a history and heritage for our children that include more of the good, and no more of the bad. Part of that history and heritage was our nation’s founding by people of various faiths, including various denominations of Christianity, Deism and some who would today be considered “atheistic”. Part of that heritage is a separation of church and state embodied in numerous ways by our Constitution. And part of that heritage is the later addition of religious slogans to our currency, and (in the days of McCarthyism, to our Pledge of Allegiance). There will continue to be a debate about the wisdom and constitutionality of those changes. That debate is also a part of our history and heritage. Our responsibility is to carry out that debate honestly, rationally, with wisdom, and at least for me, with a large eye toward the Golden Rule.

If you received a copy of the “Bill of Non-Rights”, please consider forwarding this to others who received that e-mail. We build ourselves up by considering our own responsibilities, not by trying to restrict the rights of others.

Posted by smijer at January 21, 2005 11:32 AM

when i received that email...i got really mad. because in their article 10 it says

QUOTE:ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from!

my parents both came from singapore, and so i speak two languages, mandarin and english. so many people at my school were always telling me that i shouldn't speak mandarin because they couldn't understand, these people are so ignorant. they're so stupid. this just made me really mad and i had to spout it out somewhere.

Posted by: iliv4him04 at April 30, 2005 02:00 AM

That is sooo awesome. I've received the Bill of Non-Rights several times and am disgusted each time I see it in my inbox. Now I have a great response to send back.

Posted by: Sarah at August 11, 2005 03:25 PM

It is simply impossible to believe Article IX in the Bill of Responsibilities if you hold the simultaneous belief in articles V and VIII, or that we should blur the lines between a purely moral responsibility based in a person's conscience - a belief that we should help the poor, ensure everybody else's kids are smart and plump, etc - with an actual LEGAL responsibility when the creation of which (when none exist) and the imposition of such will trample the whole "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" gig and amount to a triumph of tyranny of a larger degree than most of the bad stuff that you list in Article XI (of course making the exception of Indian genocide and slavery).

Until we realize that the thought that "our society is founded on the equality of all individuals" is true only so long as we are talking about an equality of LIBERTY, we will always violate one responsibility in the heavy-handed enforcement of another - we will never, ever be able to live up to any of them.

Posted by: Chase at September 11, 2005 11:01 AM


I disagree with you that an attitude of responsibility to our own people (that doesn't mean "everybody else's kids" - because kids are not property and we all owe a measure of responsibility to each of them - that's what societies do) - is tantamount to tyranny. I certainly see no threat to liberty that comes from responsible behavior on the part of our society. If "liberty" means only freedom to shirk one's duties to one's community, I don't think it is the same kind of "liberty" that many of us believe is an inaliable right.

Until we realize that the thought that "our society is founded on the equality of all individuals" is true only so long as we are talking about an equality of LIBERTY,

Even if that were true, the fact is that equality of liberty depends on equality of opportunity. One is only at liberty to do that which one has an opportunity to do, after all. Consider a child who starves to death while there are people mere blocks away, feasting on haute cuisine paid for with inflated salaries which they earned through profiting by the labor of others and using the infrastructure built by others. Has that child's right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness been protected?

On the other hand, if those diners are part of a society that requires back from them a portion of what it has helped them earn in order to be sure that child is fed, how has their liberty been violated?

Posted by: smijer at September 12, 2005 01:34 PM