Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Our current understanding of rights, responsibilities and abilities is mired in a cesspool of idiocy and ignorance. This leads to the sort of confusion power-seeking opportunists hope for in their quest to oppress others through forms of tyranny. A proper understanding of rights, responsibilities, and abilities will create the clarity needed to promote freedoms of all men and repel those viscous forces bent on our destruction.
I have formulated what a right is by a careful consideration of definitions as well an examination of common characteristics displayed among the most obvious of rights. As I find it, a right is an entitlement, or just claim that can be exercised even with dissenting opposition. Rights, as far as I can tell, have certain characteristics. For instance, a source of power grants a subject a right by virtue of the subject’s status. Additionally, while rights are powerful, they are not unlimited. Rights are often limited by another right. Lastly, rights can be forfeited.
In practice, this can be said of almost all rights. Take the human right to life. The Declaration of Independence along with John Locke, state that this right is a human right. Further, the Declaration of Independence teaches that this right is given by the Creator. The source of power (Creator, or God) grants this right to the subject (a person) by virtue of their status (as a human.) Human rights are the same as natural rights. The right to life is a natural right. Nature (the source of power) grants the right to life by virtue of being a human. Human rights come from God and natural rights come from nature. When speaking with a theist you can use “human rights” and when speaking with an atheist you can use the term “natural rights,” it depends on what your view of creation is. For this purpose, natural rights and human rights are completely interchangeable.
The right to life is not unlimited. It cannot be invoked so far to as to nullify self-defense. For example, if an aggressor attempts to take the life of another, the non-aggressor can use adequate force to preserve his own right to life, which may result in the loss of the life of the aggressor. The non-aggressor does not need to feel that he is infringing on the aggressors right to life during self-defense. The right to life may also be forfeited. There are certain grave crimes against humanity which are so grotesque in nature, that the human who once enjoyed his right to life has forfeited it because of his actions. While this punishment should not be used trivially, there are such cases where humanity agrees that the right to life has been forfeited. As an example, is the above cited scenario of an aggressor attempting to kill a non-aggressor, and the non-aggressor acting in self-defense, sometimes lethally.
As it stands for an American, there are three main powers which grant us our rights. God grants us our human rights (or nature our natural rights) by virtue of being human, the Constitution grants us our constitutional rights by virtue of being American, and laws grant us our legal, or civil, rights, by virtue of being a citizen. We will examine a few constitutional rights and a legal right to fortify our understanding of rights.
The constitution grants us the right to bear arms and remain silent during questioning. The right to bear arms is granted to Americans from the constitution (the right to self-defense is a human right and where the second amendment draws its power, however, firearms do not exist in nature and are a creation; therefore, the right to bear arms is a constitutional right and not a human right). A non-American does not have the same claim to bear arms in America. However, this right may be forfeited. If a citizen becomes a felon through the breakage of laws, that felon-citizen forfeits his right to arms (which often is interpreted to mean firearms). A suspect need not answer any question in court; however, upon answering either the prosecution or the defense, he must answer the other. His right to remain silent is forfeited once he chooses to speak, he can not select to answer only one side of the case.
The legal right of voting serves as a fine example for other local, legal rights. As a citizen of a local community, one is granted the right to vote. This right to vote exists within certain limits. For example, if the city of Las Vegas, Nevada grants one the right to vote, one does not have the right to vote in another local election, such as Carson City elections, or Denver, Colorado elections. The right to vote works because of one’s status as a citizen in a local community. Leaving that community for a different community forfeits the voting right in the previous community. Once one moves from Las Vegas to Carson City they can no longer vote in Las Vegas, that right has been forfeited.
It is important to ask ourselves questions when we throw around the term ‘rights.’ Where is the source of power? What is the status that gains the right? How can it be forfeited? What are its limits? By reflecting on these questions, we can begin to decipher between rights and ability, which will be discussed later.
However, it is important to remember, that legal rights are not the same as human rights. Voting is not a human right; it is a citizen’s right. Liberty is not a legal right; it is a human right. We must be ever vigilant to guard ourselves from those who seek to use sophistry to maliciously conflate human rights, legal rights, and abilities.
Simply put, those with rights must exercise them responsibly. Those with rights must first understand their rights, and then be willing to defend them from all sorts of tyranny over the mind, body, or soul. By acting responsibly, those who bear rights will not forfeit them through foolish actions. Responsible holders of rights exercise them appropriately. Sadly, there are those who believe that abusing a right is equivalent to exercising a right. This is simply not the case. The abuses of rights are dangerous to individuals and societies. Rights, when exercised responsibly, are to benefit society and those individuals who reside within it. The abuse of rights brings the downfall of society and individuals.
To be specific, using the first amendment to shield pornography is a destructive abuse of a powerful right. Voting to empower spineless worms to places of prestige in society is an abuse of voting rights. The list could go on but suffice it to say that those who abuse rights are a threat to humanity and society. It makes it all the more dangerous because unless individuals forfeit their rights, we cannot do much more than look on in horror at their abusive actions. Rather than seek to curtail the abuse of rights, the best remedy is to engage in debate and use persuasion to bring them to responsibility.
Those who possess rights must act responsibly. Humanity and society can neither thrive nor survive if the pool of abusers expands too great. We must be responsible for our education and decisions when it comes to the exercising of rights. We cannot shirk responsibility for our decisions, nor can we be fooled into believing that rights are anything other than what they actually are. Rights are powerful concepts, and we must seek to understand how great and terrible the affect they can have on society.
Unfortunately, it must be clarified that not everything is a right. There are those who confuse the ability to do something with the right to something. Just because one can do something, does not mean that it is a right. I can kill someone; I do not have the right to kill someone. I can punch someone; I do not have the right to punch someone. I can bully someone; I do not have the right to bully someone. I can go see a movie; I do not have the right to see a movie unless I purchase it or purchase a theater ticket. I can attend higher education; I do not have the right to higher education. I can purchase a healthcare plan; I do not have a right to a healthcare plan. I can purchase any commodity; I do not have a right to purchase that commodity. I can benefit from someone else’s talents, labor, and products; I do not have a right to another’s talents, labor, and products. Because I can do something, it does not follow that I have a right to do it. Many of the above-mentioned examples are not rights because they would infringe on another’s right to their property (their talents, skills, creations. Ex. Someone made a sandwich, they can sell it to me if they want, but I cannot force them to sell or give it to me, it is their property because they made it with their talent).
Confusion over the nature of rights and how to handle them has slid from its place of clarity. With this clear understanding it becomes easier to identify rights and to distinguish them from abilities. For these reasons, I cannot agree that there is a right to abortion, nor can I agree that marriage is a right, nor healthcare. In the case of abortion, it would be foolish to believe that God, or nature, granted mothers the right to kill their babies for any reason at any time during pregnancy. Such thinking is contradictory. For one, it goes against all the morals of a God who is the granter and taker of life. In terms of being a natural right, it is absurd to think that nature and evolution granted mothers the right to take life, especially because it looks that nature instead granted mothers with the right, or responsibility, of giving life to others. If abortion is a legal right, then there must be some law which declares that mothers are allowed to kill their babies. No such law exists (it must be from the legislature, the creator of laws, not from the judicial branch). Not only does it destroy the baby’s right to life (which God or nature granted), but it is completely absent in legislation.
In the case of marriage, I ask us to submit the idea of marriage to my definition. Where is the source of power to marry? Historically, this has always been attributed to God. If one does not believe in God, then there is no more source of power for marriage. The state, for all of time, simply recognized marriage, it did not create it. What is the status necessary to be married? The only plausible answer is human. But marriage does not exist in the state of nature, or nature, and if we remove God from instituting it, then we have no source and no status. Is there a way to forfeit marriage? It does not appear so, ending a marriage is not a forfeiture of the ‘right to marry.’ A divorced person may remarry, thus ending the marriage does not prohibit a future possible marriage. Marriage does not fit the definition of a right; however, it fits well as a giver of rights. The power source is marriage, the status is to be married, it grants rights such as legal ownership of assets, hospital visitation rights, taxes filings, things of that nature. These rights can be forfeited once the marriage is ended. Marriage does not appear to be a right, it simply does not fit the definition or characterization and therefore must be rejected as a right; however, it appears that it may grant a few rights to married persons.
Lastly, healthcare is not a right, and it certainly is not a human right. Neither God, nor nature granted humans the right to medical care. Neither is it something that can be forfeited. Rather, it is the use of someone else’s talents and inventions; a commodity. As shown above, one does not have the right to take the property, talents, inventions, time, etc. of another, even if that other person is a nurse or doctor. Healthcare may become a right, if it is written into law in some community as a legal right, but the notion of healthcare as a human right makes no sense after brief contemplation.
Sadly, the inappropriate conflation between rights and abilities creates rifts in today’s political climate. These differing fundamental understandings of rights create impassible chasms between opposing ideologies during political discussion. Until the fog surrounding rights is lifted and clarity returns, we will never experience healthy debate about our rights, responsibilities, and our abilities. The continual conflation and confusion only aides those opportunists who thrive and grab power during such chaos.