What are rights?

Rights are inherent in a person. They are not bestowed by any other person or by the government, they cannot be taken away by any other person or by the government. (They can, of course, be infringed through the application of force.)

They inhere in individuals, not in groups.

The government does not have rights, nor do your family, your church, or your Little League team. Obviously this does not say that groups of people cannot agree to exercise their rights in concert for the good of the group.

Vitally important, and mostly ignored these days, is that a right of one person cannot impose an obligation on another. Keeping this principle in mind makes answering questions such as this node poses very easy.

There is no problem saying that each person has a right to work. Equally,each person has a right not to work — but that right does not andcannot create an obligation for any other person to support him.

If we say that a person has a right to a job,what else are we saying?That some other person has the obligation to employ him, whether he wantsto or not. That is unacceptable.

When you hear these people talk about rights, as you particularly do duringelection season, ask yourself: are we really talking about rights?The fact is, at the same time the politicians and the talking heads aretalking about the “rights” we all have, you don’t hear them talking aboutthe real rights that they’re infringing.

Right to health care? No, you have no right to “health care”. What you do have is a right to protect your own health as you wish, but many such avenues have been made illegal.

Right to education? No, you have no right to be educated. What you do have is a right to learn, and to contract with others to help you. Except that opting out of government schooling is tricky and expensive.

Right to a job? No, you have no right to a job. What you do have is a right to contract with another to do work for him in return for remuneration, and a right to contract with another to do work for you. But those rights are infringed on all sides by minimum wage laws, labor union laws, and laws such as affirmative action and the ADA.

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