Where do I pick up my government-funded gun?

The latest news from the train-wreck-in-progress that is the Rudy ’08 campaign proves yet again (if more proof were necessary) that what our former mayor understands about the Constitution could fit inside a gnat’s sphincter:

“Ultimately, [abortion is] a constitutional right, and therefore if it’s a constitutional right, ultimately, even if you do it on a state by state basis, you have to make sure people are protected [through public funding],” Giuliani said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash in Florida’s capital city.

A video clip of the then-mayoral candidate issuing a similar declaration in 1989 in a speech to the “Women’s Coalition” appeared recently on the Internet.

“There must be public funding for abortions for poor women,” Giuliani says in the speech that is posted on the video sharing site YouTube. “We cannot deny any woman the right to make her own decisions about abortion.”

Now, even assuming that Roe v. Wade was decided correctly — a dubious assumption (I say that as an enthusiastic abortion proponent who thinks we got good policy from a flawed court decision) — it simply does not follow that the government is obliged to fund the exercise of our constitutional rights. The right to free speech is a right to speak freely, not a right to a government-issued megaphone. The right to bear arms means a right to buy and own all the guns you want — any guns you want — provided you can afford them. It does not give you the right to hand your neighbors the bill. And, of course, the right to privacy does not imply a right to have the rest of us pay for your elective surgeries.

Part of the confusion, of course, arises from the misconception that the Constitution gives us rights. If the government gives us free speech, after all, then it should pay for that speech. But the Constitution give us nothing; it merely prohibits the government from infringing on the rights we’re born with. The government’s obligation begins and ends with leaving us alone.