The 30-Second Manifesto

RIGHT: An abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature.

I found this definition on the Internet, and, as such, it is already suspect. Then I tried to parse it. Whoops! Oh, well, the flawed version can serve as an armature to hang corrections on. The stricken-out portions are incorrect, in my estimation, and that Google would point to this in return of a request for a definition is symptomatic of the difficulty the body politic faces with regard to the notion of rights.

Rights cannot inhere to a governmental body. Period. End of discussion.

Rights cannot be granted by law or tradition. They can only be protected or infringed by either. Rights descend from God and exist free-standing in a state of nature. This is the self-evident part. The just and proper purpose — the primary fiduciary responsibility — of government is the defense of these rights from infringement.

Rights cannot require another person to provide to you the good or service to which you are asserting a right.

You do not have a right to a job. You have a right to seek employment, or to offer yourself up as a prospective employee, but you do not have a right to a job.

You do not have a right to any good or service that would require that some thing be provided to you at no cost — not even by the state. That would infringe upon the reciprocal rights of property, or life, or liberty of the owners or providers of goods or services. That would be slavery.

I have yet to see a coherent exposition of a conflict between rights of individuals where there was not at bottom a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of rights. When someone asks you, “What about when rights conflict?” be very suspicious of motives.

With the acceptance of true rights also comes the moral responsibility to reciprocate — to accept that others have rights and that they should be respected.

Cross-posted at Eternity Road

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