Rights and Privileges
The recent wave of articles discussing bureaucratic lunacy in different countries around the world criticised my outlook on new Czech regulations concerning foreigners seeking permanent residency. Most of the writers are missing a basic point, however: there is a great difference between a right and a privilege.
Most people would think that a person has a right to walk around in public spaces without harassment by the state. A person has a right to life and a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. A person has a right to speak his or her mind and worship the god of his or her choice.
What many of the authors yesterday were talking about, however, was privileges. A person does not have a right to operate a motor vehicle on public roads, so a driver's license is a privilege, something a citizen requests from society (through the state), and society can place certain conditions on obtaining that privilege. Conditions cannot be placed on rights as they are considered "natural" or "God-given."
Jiri Jirovec claims I sound like some hick who's just travelled by plane for the first time and am upset that I must undergo a security check before the flight. But flying is not a right, it is a privilege. This is made clear by the "terms and conditions" written on the tickets and which every passenger agrees to when buying a ticket.
Similarly, Jirovec tells with indignation how his background was investigated when applying for a job at a semi-governmental organisation. But again, having a job with a certain organisation is not a right but a privilege: the employer can apply a whole range of conditions for the potential employee.
Of course, living in a foreign country is no one's right, it is also a privilege: the Czech authorities are under no obligation to grant me or any other foreigner residency, and they may set up whatever hoops they want for foreigners to jump through. I never said the Czech authorities overstepped their remit in establishing these new regulations. I only said that the new regulations were absurd and wholly inappropriate, and they will be ineffective in fighting crime.