Robert Mapplethorpe and the “Right” to Other People’s Money

Ever since President Roosevelt started talking about things like “the right of every family to a decent home,” and “the right to adequate medical care,” politicians on the left have been using the word “rights” to describe an entitlement to taxpayers’ money.

We saw a good example of this in 1988 and ’89, when conservatives in Congress complained about government subsidies for controversial art exhibits. Liberals loudly proclaimed that any restriction on the supply of taxpayer’s money to artists the liberals liked would be a violation of the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment. The question was not whether artists would be allowed to exhibit their art; it was whether the artists would get federal funding for art that was not popular enough to be economically viable on its own merit.

At the center of the controversy was Robert Mapplethorpe’s “The Perfect Moment” exhibit in Washington, DC. The exhibit include a handful of explicit photos of homosexual acts, and three that could only be described as child pornography. In a photo titled Rosie, for example, a three or four year old girl is not wearing underwear, and poses with her skirt lifted to reveal her private parts.

The adult and child porn photos led several Congressional Republicans to try to cancel the government subsidy the exhibit was getting through the National Endowment for the Arts. The DC exhibition was cancelled, and leftists decried the cancellation as unconstitutional “censorship.” In the twenty-four years since then, left-leaning pundits politicians have consistently maintained that any limit on taxpayer funding for the arts was a violation of the Constitutional principle of free speech.

Thanks to President Roosevelt, American liberals have no reluctance to describe money and the things it can buy as Constitutional rights. Hence, in the modern-day, liberals can frame any new expansion of the power and cost of government (ObamaCare, for example) as a matter of civil rights.

It would be fun to hear some Texas or Oklahoma congressman apply the same reasoning to the Second Amendment right we all have to keep and bear arms. If a Constitutional “right” is to be defined as an entitlement to financial benefits, wouldn’t the “right” to arms obligate the government to provide us all with guns?

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One thought on “Robert Mapplethorpe and the “Right” to Other People’s Money

  • Loved how you took the “rights” mindset and applied it to the Second Amendment. It is a sad state of affairs that we as a society feel so entitled to so much…

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