Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What are Rights?


Rights are a popular topic. It seems like everyone justifies what they want to do by calling it a right.

The major issue in this discussion about rights is that few of us have a good understanding of what a right truly is. We want to claim certain behaviors as rights, but few people could give a working definition for rights.

Think about it.

If someone asked you the question, What is a right?, how would you respond?

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson named life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as God-given and unalienable (which means they are not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied) rights.

What makes those three ideas rights?

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. They were written to protect the rights of citizens that the Founding Generation feared the new general government might violate.

What makes the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and all the rest rights?

Are rights anything that would make life easier? Are they anything that supports the life we want to live?

I believe it is crucial for us to spend time thinking about what makes something a right and what disqualifies something as being one.

 In this article, Rights and Non-Rights: A Simple Way to Distinguish the Two, Lawerence Reed provides a brief summary for identifying rights.

Ultimately a right requires nothing from anyone else, except that you are left alone.

We have the right to our lives. That means no one can take our life away from us. It means I have the right to defend myself against people who want to do me harm. Because everyone has the right to life it means the only justification for killing is in defense of life. Abortion is wrong because it takes the life of another human being.

We have the right to liberty. This means we are able to choose the course of our lives. It is a violation of our rights to have another person force us to do things we do not want to do. This is what makes slavery evil. Slavery robs people of their liberty.

Admittedly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the conversation about rights.

My hope is that this will provide you with a starting point when it comes to thinking through whether something is truly a right or not.

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