What are Rights?

It has dawned on me that many people nowadays throw the words “rights” without actually understanding what they are, their limits, or even their origins. Often I hear it as an attempt to morally justify their proposed solution or actions. Whether it makes logical, empirical, or even moral sense is not on the agenda.

So what are rights? Rights are contractual obligations by a third party to perform actions or refrain from taking actions. Third party insurers have generally been the government, polity, or State when they institute law to protect or enforce those rights. For these rights to come into existence, people must exchange with their government for protection of those rights to create a society free of predation in favor of cooperation. Take property rights for example. When you protect your things and no one else insures it, your things are just possessions. Possession becomes “property” when people in your society normatively agree not to impose costs upon each other’s things or consume/use from one another. This norm can only come about when we refrain from taking criminal actions against innocent people in society, and we all possess the ability to refrain from such actions. Based on this norm, you then only have property rights when your people form a government or contract a third party to insure those rights against those who wish to impose costs upon you. We can express all rights in terms of property rights, and from this we can infer what possible rights can come into existence and decide what is moral.

What are the limits of these rights? It depends on the negative externalities/side effects produced by those who exercised those rights. Take the right to free speech for example. You cannot falsely report a danger that doesn’t exist like yelling out fire in a crowded theater if there is no fire. Another example is falsely reporting hate crimes when in fact there is no victim or crime. This happened during President Trump’s victory in the election when a group of people started pushing out news of supposed waves of hate crimes. Some of these people never went to the cops about these hate crimes because they could be charged for false reporting.

So what I have pointed out is that rights must be constructed by way of contracting a third party insurer to bring these rights into existence. Rights are not natural, nor do you get it because you’re born with some characteristic. The only rights that we can grant each other are ones that we can refrain from taking actions because we all possess the ability to not interfere in each other’s lives from pursuing productive and cooperative actions (unless you’re a career criminal).

However, this means that things like free provisions of healthcare and education are not and can never become rights in a productive and moral society. We cannot insure one another’s well-being or health because we do not all equally possess the ability, talent, intelligence, etc. to perform such actions (you can verify this empirically as well). It is the opposite of a meritocratic society. Furthermore, it destroys cooperation, which is one of the main moral options in obtaining resources (after homesteading). Instead of people exchanging with one another, they impose costs upon everyone in the society by voting for the government to take resources away from those with wealth to subsidize those who want it, which is involuntarily transferring the wealth of those who earned it to those who vote to get it. This is not amoral, but immoral. Those “rights” cannot step over actual rights, and that is what people are advocating for these days. To justify their stance, they virtue signal their moral superiority over those who do not agree with them. To sum it up, they are deceiving people by calling free provisions of such services a human right when it is not. This post should help all of you in separating what is true and moral from what is false and immoral in regards to rights.

Photo credit goes to https://geopolicraticus.wordpress.com

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