Last night’s debate offered further proof—if any was necessary—that neither Senator McCain nor Senator Obama is a champion of the basic principle of America: the principle of individual rights.

Obama, when asked if he believes health care is a “privilege, right or responsibility,” replied: “Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills ... there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.” If health care is declared a “right,” then insurance companies, doctors, and taxpayers in general will have to be forced to provide “the poor” and the uninsured with goods and services. There is a name for such an arrangement: involuntary servitude. In declaring health care a “right,” Obama demonstrates that either he has no idea what a right is—or he knows what a right is yet will evade that knowledge for his socialist purposes.

McCain is no better. Not only did he eagerly support the disastrous bailout; now, he adds: “’s not enough. That’s why we’re going to have to go out into the housing market and we’re going to have to buy up these bad loans and we’re going to have to stabilize home values, and that way, Americans … can realize the American dream and stay in their home [sic].” Government violations of property rights (such as mandates that mortgage companies loan money to unworthy borrowers) are responsible for the current economic catastrophe, yet McCain’s “solution” is to compound the problem by nationalizing large segments of the real estate market and banking industry—thereby further violating the rights of sellers, buyers, and lenders—and further blocking the logical consequences, positive or negative, of their choices and actions.

These attacks on individual rights are attacks on the individual’s life and happiness as such. Barack “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” Obama and John “Country First” McCain believe that an individual pursuing his own individual happiness is evil or, at best, morally suspect. The individual’s right to the pursuit of his own happiness is at the heart of America’s founding principles, but our presidential candidates ignore it—when they aren’t attacking it—and spend their time arguing over who can best defend the “right” to health care or the “right” to a manageable mortgage or other so-called “rights.”

It is time for Americans to demand that our politicians recognize and uphold the basic principle of America: the individual’s right to act on his own judgment for his own sake. But in order for Americans to do so, they must first understand that principle themselves. Toward that end, a good place to start is with Ayn Rand’s essay “Man’s Rights.”

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