Social Question

incendiary_dan's avatar

Is it still a "right" if you have to pay for it?

Asked by incendiary_dan (13268 points ) October 1st, 2011

Say you have rights guaranteed by the Constitution or some other overarching document, but local government imposes fees in order to take part in the right supposedly protected by that document or law. (Ignore that in a country with such income disparity, the level at which we can actively take part in these rights is determined by access to capital.) If you have to pay just to take part, is it really a protect right any more? Or is it a privilege at that point? Is the fee akin to polling taxes used historically to keep certain groups from voting?

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53 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

This is a great Q, Dan, but it’s Saturday. You should go outside and play. I’ll be following it, BTW

cynema's avatar

You raise some good questions, but I imagine that the trouble with answering them, is more akin to it being equal parts or just as difficult/challenging, to find any “rights” that aren’t just as colorfully questionable, once it becomes time to execute them, within some governing body.
For example, ‘Freedom of the Press.’

HungryGuy's avatar

Yes, it is an excellent question. But I don’t think the answer is so cut-and-dry. I believe it’s everyone’s right to earn an honest living. But on the other hand, we all expect certain safeguards provided by government to guarantee (maybe “guarantee” isn’t the right word) that people who drive know the laws and have reasonably good eyesight, that electricians and doctors are properly trained, etc., etc.

Kardamom's avatar

I’ve thought about that myself from time to time. For example, people have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harrassment. But even if there is a clear case of sexual harrassment against a particular employee, unless that employee has the money to hire a good lawyer and bring a case against the company, a rich company with good lawyers and an HR staff that is complicit and willing to protect the company at all costs can easily walk away scott free.

Great question!

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Anything humans participate in together is messy as you get deeper into specifics.

I think of the second amendment to the US Constitution. It states:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The framers understood “rights” as being well regulated.

It may be that we have recently come to understand rights in our culture as things that cannot be regulated. That perhaps, when we say “rights”, and speak of them as things which you cannot tax or control, we are speaking of a platonic ideal that does not exist and was never understood to.

filmfann's avatar

Certainly with gun ownership, you can have a right taken away if you have broken a law, but that isn’t exactly what you are asking.
Voting rights (specifically, the 24th Amendment) has removed Poll Taxes. That would certainly be a right you had to pay for, before it was found to be unconstitutional.

marinelife's avatar

I can’t think of any rights you have that you have to pay for. Unless of course you mean the oft-misinterpreted 2nd amendment. What, now you want us to pay for your guns, too?

TexasDude's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought “regulated” in 18th Century English basically meant “trained and ready to go,” not “restricted” as it does today. Words change meanings over time.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Point taken, Fiddle, I should have picked a less controversial one:

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Ratified 12/15/1791.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

It still seems to me that the Framers are speaking in generalities when speaking of rights, and trusting us to know that they are Platonic Ideals.

DrBill's avatar

it is a conditional right. i.e. you have the right to bear arms, UNLESS your a felon, or in jail, or mentally disabled, etc. Although it is a right, not everyone has the right.

augustlan's avatar

I just can’t put aside the income disparity issue. If a person can’t afford it, then they don’t have access to it. That doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ to me.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@marinelife In my state, I have to pay to have a piece of paper that says I can legally have firearms, on top of paying for them (and therefore paying the inflated taxes on guns and ammo that should pay for any government agencies responsible for firearms safety). This was actually what got me thinking about this at first. And this needs to be done at least every six years. The cost is that of an inexpensive firearm. And then the police might decide you can only have certain firearms, even going so far as to bar many legal types of weapons, while others get to have a wider range.

And despite having been a responsible firearm owner for years, and I’m probably the sort of person you want firearms in the hands of, I’ve had to store them at my parents house one state over, because working shmucks like me can’t afford to continually pay to keep something.

woodcutter's avatar

The idea that gun owners bear the burden of paying money that non gun owners do is telling in that in the beginning it was designed to make ownership costly if not impossible for blacks. Today it’s less racial but still has the same intended effect: People who have low incomes don’t get to exercise their right although there is no law specifically forbidding them. It’s class warfare: don’t have enough money…tough titty. Even today in Chicago the Hi point pistols are not allowed because they are deemed “too cheap”. The excuse is that they are unsafe (unproven) but the real reason is they are affordable. With 2A its political ,maybe unconstitutional, for some of the regs or fees, except maybe some of that fee is used for fish and game management that all the public can utilize whether they own guns or not.

King_Pariah's avatar

I think they’re mostly all civil liberties rather than rights. Thus you must pay to keep that liberty.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Thanks for making that point @woodcutter, so I don’t have to and sound like a one-trick pony. :P

And yea, Hi-points are just cheap as shit and jam a lot (at least mine does). Not dangerous.

incendiary_dan's avatar

P.S. to @JilltheTooth: I had to work today, not at the fun job. Might as well stir the pot a bit.

laureth's avatar

@incendiary_dan – You have the right to own them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be provided for you, just that certain of the objects will not be taken away from you.

woodcutter's avatar

@incendiary_dan Your HP pistol jams alot? Mine runs ok so far although I would not want to trust it with my life. Polish the feed ramp and try different ammo, Or send it back for repair.

bea2345's avatar

I am suddenly reminded of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago a couple of years ago: your President attended. I think there were more armed men and more weaponry in my country during that week than at any time previous. What is it with men and guns?

King_Pariah's avatar

@bea2345 they’re compensating. Or at least attempting to.

TexasDude's avatar

@King_Pariah seriously? I wouldn’t expect a silly comment like that from you. If that’s true, then explain women with guns (like my best friend) or people who like to shoot small guns. I am dissapoint.

King_Pariah's avatar

The girls have penis envy. Dude, I was being sarcastic. *sigh I hate joking over the internet, have to put lol or jk at the end of the statement, bleh

TexasDude's avatar

@King_Pariah, my mistake. The reason I jumped your case is because I have seen people on fluther actually seriously use that argument before with a straight face, and I can’t help but rage whenever I see it because of how absurd other is.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@laureth I may be continually misreading it, but I can’t understand your comment. Can you clarify?

@King_Pariah That’s what we have the ~ for. :P

laureth's avatar

@incendiary_dan – I can try to clarify. If you’re talking about the second amendment, most people interpret that by skipping over the “because we need a militia” part and go straight to the “you have a right to own guns” part. That’s it. You have a right to own guns. If you want, you can buy them, keep them, practice with them, and have them in your home. This does not mean that you must be provided with a gun at no cost to you, just that you are free to own them if you choose.

If it helps, you may wish to take a look at the Militia Act of 1792. This is back from when it was obligatory for men of fighting age to buy their own weapons and keep them properly maintained. It reads in part, “That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder…”

These are not items that were provided at taxpayer expense. You had to buy them yourself. Just like you have the right to choose to do now.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@laureth Alright, now I’m just confused about why you’re making that point.

Edit: What I mean is that I established in the main question that I’m talking about specifically being charged money just to have the “right” to spend one’s own money on something that is a supposedly protected right. It would be the same if one were charged to simply be able to use your right to free speech on top of having to pay for the resources to do so (computers, printing presses, etc.).

bobbinhood's avatar

@laureth Did you miss the part where some states require you to pay fees regularly in order to be permitted to keep your guns? That’s what @incendiary_dan was talking about. Nobody said the government should provide the guns, simply that they shouldn’t charge us to keep them.

HungryGuy's avatar

@laureth – I might be mistaken, but I’d once read somewhere that there are countries today that not only have the right to own guns, but citizens are required to own a gun. I’ll try to find references…

incendiary_dan's avatar

@HungryGuy Switzerland is one of those. Their national guard works by adults getting a small amount of training and a rifle, and told to keep it in working order in case they’re invaded. Not surprisingly, violent crime is quite low there.

HungryGuy's avatar

@incendiary_dan – Thanks for backing me up! :-)

I thought it might be Switzerland, but I wasn’t 100% certain.

augustlan's avatar

I understand the need for licensing (and wish it went further, actually… to the point of having to take some kind of training before you get a gun license) and registration. I do think, though, that in the interest of fairness, the charge for such should only cover the actual cost for such. No profit should be made on issuing licenses of any kind, to my mind.

laureth's avatar

Okay, I see what you’re saying, @incendiary_dan, but I still stand by the concept. Guns are a little different from free speech or voting, though, in that they can hurt people directly, unlike the others which only hurt indirectly. Are you saying that just like any crazy, murderous person can speak their mind in public for free, that any crazy murderous person ought to be able to have a gun in public, for free?

incendiary_dan's avatar

Really? That’s the kind of logic we use here? A friend of mine suspected sunspots. I’m starting to think there’s something to it.

Crazy murderous people already do walk around with guns in public (and I don’t just mean cops). “Allowing” them or not doesn’t change that, and as others have already pointed out, there are already laws banning felons and mentally-impaired people from owning firearms. We’re not talking about crazies. And we’re not talking about walking around in public with a combat rifle strapped to you. We’re talking about being allowed to even take part in supposedly protected rights, on any level, only if you pay in.

And if crazies are walking around with guns, how the hell can you support anything that prevents sane people from doing protecting themselves? It keeps coming back to the fact that all this does is prevent the poor from being able to defend themselves.

@augustlan Firearms and hunters safety courses are more than paid for by the taxes on ammmunition and weapons I spoke of. Much of it, unfortunately, is spent on general bureaucratic waste, and the safety courses could be much expanded.

laureth's avatar

There’s also an argument for letting a well-regulated militia keep their guns, and not anyone else. (Since the Founders eschewed having a standing army, they saw the militia as the national defense. However, times have changed and we now have that standing army in place of the militia.) As such, having a gun is sort of a disputed right, if you’re not in the military.

TexasDude's avatar

@laureth in the time of the Founders, every able-bodied male of a certain age was considered a part of the “militia” whether they liked it or not. Basically, everyone was the militia.

woodcutter's avatar

I am a militia, one of 3%

TexasDude's avatar

@woodcutter hey, I know what you are referring to…

augustlan's avatar

@incendiary_dan I realize that such courses exist, but as far as I know, they are not required. I’d prefer that they were.

woodcutter's avatar

I don’t think the idea of taxpayers having to chip in to make sure all who wanted kit, was ever expected. To involve a governing body would have been invasive, and a defacto gun registry right on the front end. For 2A to continue it was assumed it was bad for the govt to know who had arms and to what extent. What then would have been the point? To make gun owners ie; militia, to have to pay fees in order to keep a right is reprehensible, and also serves as a back door registry. What other reason would the “state” need to know all this? The “state” would have its subscribers believe it is to control crime, I mean who doesn’t want to control crime? The criminally inclined, who by their very nature do not register their firearms is who. It baffles me how this fact is lost on most people.

laureth's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – True, then. But not true now.

dabbler's avatar

Here’s one I think is clear: voting rights.
In some states the recently imposed ID requirements will cost more than some should be made to afford. I think this compromises the rights of some to vote.
The excuse for these new regulations is avoidance of “voter fraud”, a very rare crime.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@augustlan True enough. In my state, it’s required, and in my homes state safety courses were only required for handguns. Anyway, this is a bit secondary to the issue of paying for the right.

In terms of the militia thing, with armed criminals about isn’t the right to protect oneself with effective means even more of an issue? It doesn’t matter if the threat to your community is from a nearby one or if it’s the British coming back to take “their” land. And like @woodcutter said, criminals don’t register or go through legal channels if they really want to cause harm. Making people pay or register, or outright ban, always makes an underground. We need militias, and we need them to not be quite so much like the ones we have around today (like the Minutemen and Hutaree and such). I tossed out the idea of forming an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic militia to a bunch of my friends, to counter the racist, sexist, homophobic ones out there. Typically, I heard chirping crickets. Fuck, leftists are so spineless.

I’ve had a lot of coffee. I’ll stop before I get too ranty.

@dabbler Yea, that’s one of the most classic examples of fees being used to edge the poor out of any semblance of democratic society. And sadly, a common one in this country’s history.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard & @woodcutter Want to let me in on the reference?

augustlan's avatar

@incendiary_dan Yeah, we lefties tend to be pacifists. :p

incendiary_dan's avatar

@augustlan It wouldn’t be so infuriating if they were pacifists. But these friends are the same people who praise the Black Panthers and Robert F. Williams. We can talk at length about the need for repressed groups to defend themselves, but when it comes to doing something about it, nothing.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m reminded of a quote:

“Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don’t.”

incendiary_dan's avatar

Tangent: given my anti-civilization leanings and the historical connections between monocrop agriculture and empire, I always find the “swords to plowshares” thing interesting.

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan perhaps in your case you should keep a quantity of both swords and plowshares. And by swords, I mean AMD-65s and by plowshares, I mean…

…plowshares?

woodcutter's avatar

A John Deere tractor?

TexasDude's avatar

@woodcutter not Dan’s style.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I do like to brag about my sweet find of a $5 hoe. No idea why everyone finds that so funny. ~

woodcutter's avatar

How many hoes can you get out of an AK these days,anyway?

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