On Rights

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Too often people conflate the concept of Rights with the concept of Privilege. These are very distinct things and we should do our best to make certain that when we are talking about them, those in the conversation understand which concept we are discussing.

Rights, properly defined, are those things which one can accomplish without a willful or negligent imposition on another individual. So — the right to think as one wishes; the right to voice one’s opinion; the right to pursue sustenance; the right to defend oneself from aggression; the right to justly procure one’s means of defense against aggression; the right to property justly attained; the right to associate or disassociate with whomever one wishes; the right to pursue happiness in one’s own context, are all actions which do not require willful imposition on another, and are therefore objectively one’s right to undertake. These are all things that hold philosophically sound no matter the scenario presented, and one can extend this concept to any actions that fit under such a definition.

Privilege, on the other hand, is something entirely different. Privilege is something granted to one by another. I own a bicycle, and I allow you to ride it. That is me granting you the privilege of using my bicycle. While in most of them I agree with the approach, many things enumerated as Rights in the Constitution are really just privilege, granted by the authority of the government. One does not have the Right to a speedy trial. While I agree with the concept, this is a privilege, granted to citizens of the United States by its government. One does not have the Right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…,” as security is not a Right at all. But one does have the Right to secure those things themselves, and to provide security for themselves and their loved ones. So one has the Right to defend those things from those who come looking to infringe upon those things. Healthcare is another thing that is commonly touted as a “Right.” But healthcare is a commodity (a service, actually), and as such, one has the Right to pursue healthcare, but not the innate Right to have healthcare provided to them. Having healthcare provided to one is a privilege, open to the discretion of the one providing the service. This concept of privilege also applies consistently across all scenarios, and is therefore logically and philosophically sound.

The implications of this reality are unpalatable to many people. What this means is that paraplegics don’t have the Right to walk up stairs, even if they own said stairs. Quadriplegics don’t even have the Right to eat, since they cannot accomplish this on their own volition. Many things that the government presents as a Right, and that Progressives and Conservatives espouse as Rights, are objectively violations thereof. There are many things that people believe that “Society” has the responsibility to provide, that objectively infringe on the Rights innate to the individual. I believe that as individuals, we should take it upon ourselves to assist those that life has dealt a rotten hand, but it is by no means in a society’s charter to infringe upon the Rights innate to the individual, in order to assist those who can’t, and particularly those who won’t assist themselves.

A society, predicated on a quantifiable definition of Rights, that apply consistently across all possible scenarios, will be the most egalitarian, just, and prosperous society that has ever existed. The further a society drifts from a quantifiable definition of Rights, the more subjective such a definition is, the less peace and justice such a society will attain, and the more oppression and tyranny its citizens will be subject to.

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