What are Rights? Do Rights Even Exist?
By Joe Jarvis - December 14, 2017

What is a right? Do rights exist? They are intangible, yet philosophical constructs can be real.

A right defines a state of being; it describes a condition. “Right of way,” is how we describe who has first use of a road. People can certainly ignore the concept of a right of way. But that doesn’t void the concept. Right of way still serves as a tool to establish who is liable should a car accident occur.

In the same way, a right serves as a natural basis for who is wrong in a given dispute. It establishes who should be held accountable in a legal setting. And “legal” does not just refer to our current court system. Common law is a natural law system which solves disputes.

Saying someone has a “right” is a statement about an individual’s condition in nature. That is why rights are expressed in the negative. It is not something that must be provided or given (positive action). A right is a declaration of the natural state of a human. A right is the concept that another human should not disrupt (negative action) this natural state.

Therefore, there is only one natural right, from which all other rights stem: self-ownership.

Self-ownership means your body is your property. You can do whatever you want with it until your actions affect other individuals without their consent.

The legal basis of a right is the concept that only an individual gets to decide what happens to his or her body. The basic right of self-ownership condemns non-consensual interference with another person’s body. Therefore the initiator of aggression, the person who violates another’s self-ownership, is naturally, and legally, in the wrong. And therefore, the aggressor should be held liable for the violation.

In nature, an individual is at peace until acted upon by an outside force. Whoever wields that force is naturally in the wrong.

A “Right” is any action taken by an individual which does not measurably impact any other individuals without their consent.

Since non-aggressive action is, therefore “within our rights,” it should elicit no aggressive response. Any aggressive response to non-aggressive action is itself a violation of rights.

You are within your rights whenever you are not violating someone else’s. If you are respecting the self-ownership of others, every action you take is a right.

Therefore, speaking your mind is a right. Lying to defraud someone of her property is a violation of her rights.

Carrying a gun or other weapon to protect yourself is a right. Pointing that gun at an innocent person is a violation of his right to exist free of death threats.

Some would argue that since every action has some effect, it is impossible to live without violating others’ rights. That is why a violation of rights must be measurable.

Peeing in the woods does not violate anyone’s rights because there is no measurable impact. Dumping raw sewage in a river is a violation of rights because it infects water downstream.

It may sometimes be hard to decipher if a right has been violated. But this does not change the fact that rights do in fact exist as a concept to remedy disputes.

What Rights Are Not

Some people think rights are anything that they feel they should have, like education, food, and shelter. But if people are forced to provide a “right” for you, their right to self-ownership has been violated. They are being forced to do something with their body–provide something–against their will.

Things like food, shelter, healthcare, and education do not occur in nature, they must be created. This requires labor. People must work to extract and manipulate resources. People must study to learn skills. People must work to deliver products and services.

But forcing people to work against their will is called slavery. That is clearly a violation of self-ownership.

That is the concept of positive rights. It requires an individual to act.

Self-ownership means you have the right to not be forced to act against your will.

These concepts of rights are contradictory. Both cannot exist.

Someone may have good intentions in attempting to force people to chip in for others’ food, healthcare, and education. But if we want all human interactions to require consent, then we cannot also force people to provide things for others.

Otherwise, we devolve into right by force. Aggression becomes okay when used to force others to provide a right. And then, of course, the right to self-ownership goes out the window.

But positive rights are insidious. Sex is the most basic human desire. So why shouldn’t sex be considered a right, as important as education? But what if there is a man no one wants to have sex with? Someone would have to be forced to provide him with his right to sex. Of course, that would involve rape.

Less extreme examples are a variation of violating consent. Suppose no one is available to teach a man. Should a teacher be forced against her will to provide him an education?

Therefore a right cannot be something that must be provided. It is the absence of aggression, not the presence of a good or service.

You may not kill me, because I have the right to life. That concept stops aggressive action.

You must give me food, because I have the right to eat. That concept allows aggressive action.

When you say, “I have the right to speak my mind,” it is simply a way of saying, “It is wrong for someone to stop me from speaking my mind.”

It doesn’t mean these rights won’t be violated. It just means whoever violates you is naturally wrong.

The concept of rights is a legal basis to settle disputes. It gives victims a grounding, objective concept to assert that they are owed recompense for a wrong committed against them.

Self-ownership is a concept required in order to avoid the most atrocious human rights abuses, like slavery, murder, and rape. Without this view of rights, all manner of evil can be justified in the name of providing for others.

When you see someone suffering, it is tempting to force others to help them. But two wrongs do not make a right.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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  • NobodysaysBOO

    Magna Carta anyone?
    rights are and will be routinely abused and STOLEN with NO ENFORCEMENT of the rights, or the RULE of LAW. The Alabama election fraud is still ringing in our ears and the IN YOUR FACE thefts are going UNPUNISHED, same as 911 everyday.


  • james chappell

    The Declaration of Independence clearly states what are real Rights are and where they come from. Our Sovereign Creator has granted We the People UNALIENABLE Rights as to Life, Liberty (freedom) and the pursuit of Happiness (property). Unalienable means they can NEVER be revoked, repealed or replaced. They can be waived by informed consent. The can also be unlawfully usurped as they are by government on a daily basis. We the People have therefore inherited sovereignty from our Creator. Under Life, Liberty (freedom) and the pursuit of Happiness (property) we have a Right to protect those Rights; have and use a weapon. As long as we do NOT infringe on someone else’s Rights to the same, we are in good standing.
    As sovereigns, We the People created government, a fiction, to serve us. That’s why it is made of Public SERVANTS. This fiction can NEVER be sovereign. Unfortunately, government thinks they are sovereign and hence treats us as if we are serfs, slaves and servants. It is time we take back our country and rightful status.

    • Carl McWilliams

      Well said, James Chappell, you nailed it!

      • Another good and valid question beside rights is simply what are real laws ?

        Are the DOJ and FBI abiding by real laws today ? And they are the supposed highest agencies in the land for such events.

        Not only are our rights a valid question or who has any, but our laws as well are a valid question. A very serious valid question as it exists today .

        • Nobody

          That’s why I keep stating the fact that the Constitution(s) and Statutes do not apply to the people nor do they even claim to. Careful reading of the DOI, Constitutions and Statutes reveals clearly that “man” does not equal “person”. Man is one of the people, person is one on the clock of the government capacity. When one figures this fact out then the answer to “what is law” becomes perfectly clear. Early americans knew this clearly and the thirst by tyrants to subjegate their fellow men into personhood came from treason of the civil war and the never ratified 14th ‘amendment’. The whole thing is so damn OBVIOUS once one clearly delineates man from person. All crony capitalism, drug war, any license, permits comes from a ‘law’ that was never ratified and wouldn’t apply to men/people even if it was. The whole thing is self consented slavery from confusion of the intellectually bankrupt.

          To all the ladies, don’t get your panties in a twist over “man” because law is written in the masculine form and man always means man or woman unless stated in context as otherwise.

    • Argree on every point.Today most people do not realize that we now work for an out of control government, they do NOT work for us.That beast has grown far too large and encompasses every aspect of our lives to the point that they can simply create new fraudulent laws to usurp the only real laws that are defined in the constitution and other original documents of declaration as our basis.

      The ongoing shams of the many DOJ and FBI employees we see before us today are the perfect example of how they can simply make it all up as they please and force it all down your throat as if any of it is actually legal ? If you do not comply they simply make up a charge like lying to the FBI as if that is a real charge. It is not , it is also pure fiction and a way to use these aqencies as a tool against the public for political reasons as a control mechanism.. Until the people demand accountability nothing will change and that is the problem, the people are weak and the agencies have far too much ill gotten power !~ The FBI and DOJ are more akin to the Stasi or the secret police than any legal entity as it stands today.

      We do not have a legitimate government any longer, it is now the deep sate apparatus or shadow government outside the correct boundaries of any real laws. That is why we see so many double standards. They do not think they have to go by what we might considered actual laws. Only for you to abide by and only very selectively of course at their discretion for political reasons. Our government has become a criminal enterprise and nothing less.

    • Don Duncan

      The concept of a “waived right” is a legal fiction invented by the SCOTUS to justify violation of rights. If I waive my right to life I still have a right to life, even if I or anyone else takes it, it would be murder. What the hell to you think “inalienable” or “inherent” mean, if not that?

  • Donald

    One factor I consider in this question is whether or not you need to ask government’s permission to do something. If you do, then either that former right has been revoked, or you never had it in the first place. So, if you need to ask permission to get married, and if permission is granted once you pay a tax and get the permit, you don’t have the right to get married. Americans once had this right, but it was revoked in Jim Crow times to prevent interracial marriages. For example, George & Martha Washington didn’t need no stinking permit to get married. They had the right.

  • The right to life exists for all living things. Plants, animals, and humans all have a right to life. If someone harvests plants or animals they do not take their right to life away, they took their life, but not their “right to life”. The same way with murder. The deceased have the “right” to live even if they are not alive.

  • There are two inherent problems with the oft-parroted claim to God-given constitutional rights: 1) Except *perhaps* as the document’s timekeeper in Article 7, the Constitution knows nothing of God, Christ, or His law, and 2) God and His Word knows nothing of optional rights. Instead, the Bible is replete with non-optional responsibilities:

    “…In ‘Understanding the Constitution: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Supreme Law of the Land,’ David Gibbs, Jr., and David Gibbs III argue for unalienable rights:

    ‘Our rights come from God, not from the state. Therefore, the state cannot take them away. What Uncle Sam gives, Uncle Sam can take away. But our nation’s birth
    certificate, the Declaration of Independence makes clear that our rights are unalienable because they come from God.’6

    “This sounds wonderful, but is it true? The State has certainly taken away an unwanted infant’s right to life. The State has incrementally taken away gun owners’ Second Amendment rights. The State has taken away the right to happiness, in particular the right to own property. Because rights come from the State, the State
    can take them away at its pleasure. On the other hand, as pointed out in Chapter 11, Yahweh’s law does not recognize rights, God-given or otherwise, but only God-required responsibilities….

    “The theory of unalienable or natural rights can be traced back to the Age of Enlightenment. The term “natural rights,” as employed by 18th-century men, is not compatible with the Bible. Deuteronomy 28 does not say we have a natural, human, or civil right to anything. Rather, we must serve Yahweh as God in order
    to receive His blessings….

    “Instead of endowing us with rights, Yahweh expects righteousness from us. People who demand their rights are like children, focused only on themselves. People who pursue righteousness are focused on Yahweh and their fellow man. The former person promotes a government of, by, and for the people; the latter person promotes a government of, by, and for Yahweh….”

    For more, see Chapter 18 “Amendment 9: Rights vs. Righteousness” of free online book “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 18.

    .Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

    • Don Duncan

      Constitutional and God-given rights both deny the view that rights are inherent (inalienable) with being human. Both would sacrifice the individual right to life to the will of God (God’s commands) or the rulers who claim to represent the majority.

      Children who focus only on themselves, their wants and needs exclusively, fail to recognize that respect must be given to be recieved. Learning that social lesson is part of growing up, maturing. All religions recognized this by stating the Golden Rule in one form or another. This could be termed “enlightened selfishness” or non-contradictory self-interest or the Objectivist moral code.

      To focus on my fellow man or a superstition at my expense is to sacrifice myself, my mind, my reason, my will. Under Hitler’s rule German Nazis did that, even the self-sacricfing German Jews. Righteous Christians sacrifice to their superstition. The commonality is SACRIFICE.

      • Don, thank you for demonstrating the inspiration and veracity of the Bible, especially 1 Corinthians 1:18-28 and 2:12-14.

        • Nobody

          I would greatly appreciate your interpretation of what “natural man” means in those passages.

          • Any man unsaved by the blood-atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Christ and thus without the advantage and aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:8-9) to correctly interpret the Scriptures.

          • Don Duncan

            Everyone is responsible for themselves, their actions, and theirs alone. How can I be held responsible for the actions of others? No one can give me permission to be irresponsible with regard for my actions, or responsible for the actions of others. Why? I can only control my actions and only by my choice. Another cannot chose for me. Another cannot think for me. My mind is mine, no one elses. But to renounce my mind and let others think for me is my choice. It still does not exempt me from the consequencs, as 30 million German Nazis found out. Their illusions of superiority and national security were exposed when the bombs fell on their homeland and millions of their Christian soldiers died. Their faith in “God & Country” did not save these “saved”. It may be claimed they were saved in spirit by the “Holy Spirit”. That was certainly part of the superstition. As was their belief in their leader and leadership in general. How many lost faith in the horror of their final suffering on the battlefront? How many lost faith when they were still victorious and brutally slaughtered? We will never know. But the inhumanity inspired by their superstitions is still not recognized as inhuman by the majority of humanity. It is still the world superstition as seen by the faith in institutionalized violence as the political paradigm. Self-sacrifice to it is taken for granted as moral. It is still seen as honorable to die/murder in the name of religion or country, if it’s your religion or your country. Other religions, other countries are seen as evil or in need of being “saved” from themselves, e.g., “liberated by democracy”. And the slaughter goes on.

            And if it turns out following our superstition led us to commit inhuman acts, we are exempt from immorality because 2000 years ago a guy died on a cross and that saved us from our sins forever. Sweet.

      • Nobody

        “fail to recognize that respect must be given to be received”

        Yes it seems at least someone here sees that the Golden Rule has two sides – the initiator and receiver.

        “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. Those who “Do” are the initiators. The reciever is who has done unto himself by the Doer. When the Doer, the initiator, does unto another, the reciever, the Doer is revealing what he wishes to be done unto him ie, how he wishes to treated. From my understanding of this it is God’s command to return in kind to the Doer.

        The wicked can be easily revealed under this understanding for example- a cop initiates contact demanding id that is linked to a file that reveals where you live etc. This reveals that this Doer expects you to ask for the same information from him but when you ask for the same ID from him he has no expectation to give the same information he expects from you. This reveals the man is wicked because he does not live by the Golden rule.

        On the flip side of this scenario if I were to initiate contact with that cop I would not ask for such ID because I would not want him to ask for ID from me. I live by the Golden rule which clearly reveal from how I initiate my exchange with (Do unto others).

        It seems most have lost this understanding but it seems you clearly understand this.

        • Keepit


  • Vince John Salzer

    I think if society was run on the basis of the Golden Rule…which is what we are talking about…the courts would be much easier to deal with. They would only decide who’s right was violated and to what extent. Not much use for lawyers then…

    • Exactly. If people just respected one another.

      • Nobody

        There can be no respect for tyrants or those who support them. Soon all respect for those who do not actively assist in the tyrant’s removal from society will also be lost.

        The golden rule has two sides of perspective the initiator and reciever. In order to follow the golden rule the reciever must return in kind the act of the initiator. When the tyrants initiate injury they have shown how they wish to be treated which MUST be returned in kind. Do we initiate injury? No, because we are following at least one half of the two sides of the golden rule. It seems all good people are completely missing the second half , the recievers duty, of the golden rule.

      • Nobody

        Removed again. It seems DB has a thirst for controlling the conversation.

        • Keepit


  • jymm

    Yes, rights exist, and they are god given not man given, The US constitution tells me so.

    • Don Duncan

      Rights are not given, they are recognized or not, but they stil exist when not recognized. Rights come with being human. They are necessary for a human existence, in a social setting, in society. A hermit who lives his entire life alone has no need of rights. Rights describe the relationship between people needed to survive, to optimize interaction. A disfunctional society will not recognize rights and therefore be unsustainable. Or it will recognize rights in some areas, e.g., the private sector, but not the public sector, making for a chaotic social system which will slowly degrade if it doesn’t change and recognize the contradiction.

  • George

    If “self ownership” is a “right,” who is supposed to defend that right other than the self-owner? As a concept, “self ownership” is only as valuable as the strength or willingness of said owner to “defend” that “right.”

    Somebody tries to kill me, and nobody else is there. I say, “but I have the right of self ownership” and the guy kills me anyway.

    I get that a bunch of people can get together and say “we all respect the right of self ownership” but if a bigger group of stronger people come and kill everybody, what of their right to self-ownership?

    Might Makes Right > Right of Self Ownership

    Even if somebody attempts to violate my right of self ownership, and I successfully defend my right with brute force, then I have used the “Might Makes Right” strategy to defend my right of self ownership.

    If somebody commits a crime against me, and I use the natural law to put the guy in jail, and he doesn’t want to go to jail, the natural law court (in defense of my natural right) must use Might Makes Right to enforce my right of self ownership.

    MIGHT MAKES RIGHT – you can run, but you can’t hide.

    • Joe Jarvis

      The might that is used in each example you give can be distinguished based on if it was initially violating self ownership, or reacting to a violation. Again, the argument is not that rights can magically not be violated. The point is that the concept of a right is the best standard in which to base legal matters, settle disputes, and therefore have the most peaceful society ppssible. Thank you for the input.

  • Nobody

    right = not wrong

  • Michael Kowalik
  • Gregory Alan of Johnson

    This all depends under which authority One claims. Certain authority(s) extend “privileges/Immunities” for being subject (citizen) to their jurisdiction.
    Yahweh’s Torah contains duties, not Rights. Read Deuteronomy 28 and ask yourself which side are the peoples of this land on. The 1-14 side, or the 15-68 side. Thanks to Yeshua, everyone is under Torah.

    • Nobody

      Ay least somebody here knows what’s going on…

      The 14th never ratified ‘amendment’ conversion of man to person thereby bringing man into subjugation of personhood so that statutes will apply to the person with the man lost to tyranny.

  • larryparks

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if this has
    been covered:

    The concept of a “right” exists only if voluntary action is possible.
    If one is confronted with a life-boat situation, rights do not apply.

    For example, suppose you are on a ship and as the ship is sinking
    you make into a lifeboat with three gallons of water and the rest of the occupants
    have none.

    No one is going to respect your “right” to your property. That
    is because their right to stay alive trumps property rights.

    Some argue that the entire planet is a lifeboat. While I disagree
    with that concept, it seems to me that the notion that there are situations where
    rights do not apply is correct.

    I would like to see further discussion about this.

  • Joe_Wazzzz

    “Rights” along with “equality” and a host of other concepts are figments of the human imagination. No animal has any such illusions other than man. These “self-evident truths” are all the new gods of the religion of socialism and liberalism. Many people are quick to challenge the notion of “God” but the concept is the same. They are all effectively coping mechanisms. They are real only to the extent they have an impact on us because we react to them. But they are still imaginary and their absoluteness falls apart under simple analysis.

    • Joe Jarvis

      Thanks for commenting Joe. As I explain in the article, I agree that rights are simply human constructs. And I agree that in certain circumstances other considerations may take precedence. The point I am making is that this construct of a right is a useful tool on which to base law and therefore create a system with the least possible violence.

    • “We embrace the right to life as we drop the atom bomb.”
      That is beyond an oxymoronic statement & empirically a fallacy that is an assault to anyone reading in so far that you are comparing a basic self-evident right to exist with the criminal act of murder & genocide.(not a concept everything alive has a right to it’s existence) It’s the very same traumatizing tactics the PTSB use to disable & paralyze critical thinking of the powerless obedient masses. Clearly you have no problem violating people’s peace of mind. As for the article itself, there are many good points made… One important distinction is that rights are inalienable. (un “lien” able) Any force that attempts to undermine that Trust is a unlawful violation & fraud. (eg: Joe’s choice of words & attempt to manipulate the reader)

      The concept of having rights are more than mere concepts alone and is a natural condition found everywhere in nature. It’s why they are called universal “natural rights” What we in society do with them creates the paradox. To state they are nothing more than concepts is akin to saying violence is also a concept. (“religion of socialism and liberalism God” etc.) are dogmatic doctrines, constructions of politics. One has nothing to do with the other with the exception that both are used to express ideas of something that exists.. Each having the quality of actions. Violence used to impose force on another – & rights to protect from the imposition with equal force. Equality & justice is quite another matter which has nothing to do with rights – that’s an issue of public policy. Comparing apples to oranges only serves to confound the issue for those already unclear on the issues.1


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  • Clearpoint

    Self ownership is like saying you are your own God.

    • Kurt

      No, it means that you aren’t owned by other PEOPLE.

      • Clearpoint

        “Self ownership” is far from complete and unconditional, and that was my point. Self ownership varies in degrees from individual to individual. Those with a high degree of self ownership have sacrificed a great deal along the way to get it; and they must continue sacrificing a great deal to maintain it. These people may have a high level of satisfaction on the one hand from the fruits of their achievement, or a low level of satisfaction on the other hand because of the weight of the burden they undertook to achieve a high degree of self ownership. Likewise, those with a low degree of self ownership may have a high level of satisfaction because so many of the burdens of life have been removed from them, or a low level of satisfaction because they have very fruits of achievement.

        Self ownership is a human created concept, plain and simple. I do not agree that it is “required in order to avoid the most atrocious human rights abuses, like slavery, murder, and rape,” as the author writes. The belief that God gave us life, and that life is sacred and should be cherished is much more effective than that, because it extends not just internally to myself via rights, but externally to myself and others via responsibilities. This makes the viewpoint that incorporates God into an act of giving, and not just taking.

        I believe instead that the libertarian concept of “self ownership” in the manner the author writes about it exists to support individual property rights, as libertarians believe that property rights are an extension of self ownership. When I read articles like this, Murray Rothbard’s radical take on property rights comes to mind, i.e. that there are no human rights without property rights.

        • Kurt

          You don’t seem to get what is mean here by self ownership. This here is what is meant:

          • Clearpoint

            I get it. I don’t agree with it. Naïve thoughts like those expressed by goth girl in that video you linked vanished shortly after I graduated from college and started to work. Life is a far better teacher of the reality of self ownership than any video.

          • Kurt

            “Naive”, huh? There, that proved it! Along with “reality”.