Friday, June 5, 2009

What Are Rights?

"Functional Rights: The Elephant in the Parlor, Part II

June 4, 2009

Part II: Rights are…

So what are rights? If there are none of these things, functionally, despite what anyone might claim, then what are they? How do they function in daily life? How are they exercised inalienably by every person everywhere that has ever existed, regardless of the government that claimed authority over them?

George Potter wrote:

Rights: Not granted or protected by any state, God or magical hoodoo monster. What we call rights are reciprocal agreements negotiated on the fly between individuals. They are not granted, but claimed and defended. Otherwise they do not exist.”

It’s that middle sentence that is the key. Rights are reciprocal agreements negotiated on the fly between individuals.” Reciprocal means that the agreement is equal both ways. On-the-fly means they are adjusted to compensate for individual priorities and needs at any given moment. And they must be between individuals.

How does this definition work in the real world?


We each have the choice, every day, to decide if we will expand rights and freedoms in our community by reciprocating other people’s claims or if we will deny rights and create conflicts. Neither way is a silver bullet to a good community or social harmony. There will always be rough patches, people who are trouble, and the potential for violence. Those never change because they are endemic to humanity. So each of us chooses to weather those threats and keep and maximize rights and liberties, or to destroy them in search of safety and control. Above all, rights are an individual endeavor. Each person claims, exercises, reciprocates, and defends the rights they hold dear. It is the foundation of civilized society to recognize the intrinsic value of each individual, and by extension the value of the rights they claim....