This article will discuss a little bit the theory of rights and what a right is.
In the US, our Founding Fathers declared certain unalienable rights and noted that their list was not exhaustive. I agree with several of their rights, but for perhaps different or perhaps similar reasons.
I believe that there are two kinds of sustainable, justified rights; God-given rights and human rights. There are also civil rights, but these are garbage as they are not sustainable (as countries fail eventually) nor justified (at least when the granting State is unjustified, which is often). God-given rights and human rights are similar to what the founders would have called natural rights, but I think my delineation is a bit clearer, as the theory of natural rights has always been in my view a bit murky.
- Human Rights are those abilities which are inalienable from any human. They are alienable, but at the cost of making the human no longer human. The right to life is an example. We may deprive a human of the right to life, but when dead they are no longer human.
- God-given rights are those abilities which God has given to a person. God given rights may be alienable. In fact, most example of these rights I can come up with are alienable, but for theoretical certainty’s sake I am not willing to say that all of them are alienable. An example would be freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not a human right because not all humans can speak. If you are a mute, you are still a human. However, if you are born a mute then God has not given you the ability to speak. Furthermore, if God does give you the ability to speak and you lose that ability it does not always follow that you are no longer human.
Again, when I speak of whether or not a right is alienable, I am speaking of without depriving a person of humanity. Rights may be alienated in gradients, but humanity is gained or lost at a sufficient point, usually death. Humanity is not a characteristic which exists along a spectrum, it is a status which either exists or does not exist.
In short, anything a person does is either enabled by virtue of being human in the first place, or enabled by an opportunity presented by God. Not everything which God allows us to do should be done. For example, God allows us to sin but does not desire us to sin. If we define morality as both that which should be done and also that which God wants us to do, which is how I define morality, then we will find that not everything which God allows us to do should be done. However, everything which God allows us to do can be done. That is where my definition of “a right” comes from and there is actually an economic justification for this.
A right is a thing which a person can do. A right is an ability. These rights should not be violated based on the fact that in the long run, due to economic law, they will not be violated. We can dramatically reduce the time between the long run and the short run if we simply go ahead and stop violating rights now. Furthermore, the long run economic situation is a moral thing as I prove elsewhere. So, as a mere time-saving device, not to mention a dramatic utility increasing device, rights should be respected.
I also like to think that when God gives us rights, his purpose is not for us to be deprived of those rights, but I can’t prove that so consider it an interesting possibility rather than a proof of rights.