What is a human right?
I hear a lot of people claiming they have a right to things. A lot of young people seem to think they have a right to free university education, I’ve heard more than one person claim they have a right to feel safe, and on more than one occasion I’ve heard people insist they have a right to government subsidised housing.
Claims such as these lead me to asking the question, what is a human right? What is the purpose of having human rights? And, where do our human rights come from?
In my opinion, human rights do not grant people anything beyond what they are naturally capable of. They’re not there to give people any extra abilities, any extra luxuries, or any greater freedoms than they can provide for themselves.
Additionally, rights are not there to force the government to provide anything, or to do anything. In actual fact they are there to do quite the opposite. Rights are there to act as a restraint; their purpose is to prevent the government from infringing on what we are naturally capable of doing and achieving, and to prevent the abuse of power.
Right’s are effectively an agreement between the state and the population. The agreement says, you will not prevent us from doing, or being able to do, a, b, and c, and in return we shall allow you to do x, y, and z on our behalf, and we will pay and fund you to do it.
To clarify, let me find the most extreme example of what I believe is, and is not a right.
When I hear an American president talk about peoples ‘right to life’ following a tragic shooting I have to ask myself, do those people have an inherent right to life? Especially when we take into consideration the fact that rights aren’t put in place to protect us from individuals, but rather to protect us from government.
In my opinion no person has an inherent right to life. For that to be the case the very fact that we can die, and can be killed at the hands of a government, would be an infringement of our human rights. What we do have however, is a right to fight for life, fight for survival, and do everything within our capability to live. You have the right to do anything and everything necessary, and to use anything you see fit, to prevent yourself from dying. After all, you wouldn’t hold an antelope responsible for using its horns to defend itself from a lion, would you?
Does that mean murder shouldn’t be a crime? Of course not! That’s part of the agreement we made with the government. If anybody is to commit a crime, especially one as abhorrent as murder, then we have, by voting someone into power, agreed that they have the authority to administer justice on our behalf, as long as a number of conditions are met when administering justice.
I believe our human rights come from nature, or if you believe in God, perhaps they are god given. They are (or at least they should be) the written protection of our natural abilities to limit the government’s ability to subjugate and control us. Rights are not granted to us by government, they are a law of nature, both fundamental and priceless.