Our 'Most Important Right'?

by Don Boudreaux on October 5, 2005

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics

I learned today, listening to this NPR interview of David Rakoff, that the U.S. Department of Justice asks people seeking to become citizens of the United States "What is the most important right granted to United States citizens?" (See also here.) The answer is "The right to vote."

Not the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and to the writ of habeas corpus; not the right to acquire, use, transfer, and be secure in the possession of property; not freedom of speech; not the right to a trial by jury – no. The right to vote. The right to yank a lever in a booth on intermittent occasions, along with thousands or millions of other people, the collective outcome of which is the election of a handful of power-mad, glib dissemblers who specialize in picking each of our pockets, transferring the booty to special-interest groups, and persuading us that we are strengthened, enriched, and raised to glory by it all.

Some right.

Addendum: Three readers wrote to point out to me that most of the rights that are more important than the right to vote are already possessed by permanent-resident non-citizens of the United States — so that, when such non-citizens are then naturalized into U.S. citizenship, the most important right that they then get is the right to vote.  This reading of the government’s question is fair.  My initial reading — which took the claim to be that the right to vote is the most important right that each American possesses — missed this point.  Thanks to all who wrote to correct my hasty interpretation.

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