I just realized that in the few years I have been posting here on the various aspects of freedom, I have never addressed the issue of right, per sé. Oddly, I thought I'd done so in my very first essay, "What Is Freedom?", but as it turns out, I had not done so in any useful depth. While there isn't all that much in terms of fundamentals to the notion of rights, it still serves us well to have a proper understanding of what they are.
That understanding is sorely absent from the repertoire of most people's educations. This is not only shameful, but very dangerous. I will, therefore, endeavor to provide the world with a sufficient synopsis of what rights are by type, there being two.
Before we begin, we should once again consult the dictionary for the proper definition(s) of the word "right" as it would rightly apply in the context of freedom.
From Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of 1895, the relevant entry defines a right as:
Right, n. ...
2. That to which one has a just claim
(a) That which one has a natural claim to exact
(b) That which one has a legal or social claim to do or to exact; a legal power; authority
(c) That which justly belongs to one; that which one has a claim to possess or own;
the interest or share which anyone has in a piece of property; title; claim; interest; ownership
(d) Privilege of immunity granted by authority
And from Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1785:
Right. n. s. ...
3. Just claim
4. That which justly belongs to one
5. Property; interest
6. Power; prerogative
From the definitions above, it is clear that a right is that to which one is entitled and to which he may validly claim ownership. Also note the implicit references to property rights. As it turns out, a right is centrally important to human freedom, for without respect for the rights of men, there can be no freedom, but only degrees of servitude, which I cover in "Degrees Of Freedom."
There are, however, two senses or types of rights. The first and most important is that of the inherent or natural right. An example of this would be a man's right to life - which is another way of saying his claim or title to life, further implying a man's life as being his property. Another would be a man's freedom.
These rights are those that are born into us as matters part and parcel of our human fabric. There is, therefore, no possible manner by which one's rights may be separated from the rest of one's being as there is no line of demarcation between the two. You and your rights are one and the same**.
The second sense of a right is that of those of a contractual nature. An example of this would be your right to vote. As a citizen of a given nation whose political structures includes the process of voting, there is most often an implied and assumed right to vote in elections. It is the reason why a citizen of one nation may be prohibited from voting in a nation of which he is not a citizen. Being contractual in nature, which is to say by way of agreement, this right may be stripped from you, which is the reason why a man convicted of a felony in America may have his right to vote removed. Men are not born with the right to vote. They are granted the contractual right as a matter of agreement that this is what men in good standing may do during elections.
All rights imply the right of exercise. If I retain the right to keep and bear arms, it perforce follows that I hold the right to exercise. This may seem redundant or even silly, yet it is an important philosophical point, as well as one of great practical importance. Despite our inherent right to keep and bear arms, many governmental institutions and agencies nevertheless disparage and violate it by enacting statutes and adopting policies that serve that end, despite lip service to the core right itself. It matters no whit that one acknowledges the right to keep and bear arms while preventing by some means the right of exercise, no matter how obliquely. "Yes, you have the right to keep and bear arms. No, you may not walk down the street with a gun on your hip." The violations are often precisely that blatantly illogical, invalid, and felonious.
The right of exercise directly implies the right to acquire the means thereto as one's just abilities may allow. What this means is that if I retain the right to keep and bear arms, implying my right of exercise and therefore the right to acquire the means of exercise, I rest centrally within the sphere of my just abilities to secure for myself those weapons I deem suitable for my purposes. It does not mean, however, that I am entitled to be provided with a weapon or that I may steal one in order to secure my right to exercise. It only guarantees my right to acquire such means as my abilities allow through non-criminal action.
By their very nature, inherent rights may be exercised for any reason whatsoever, or for no reason at all. No man may oblige or force another to justify the other's exercise of his fundamental rights and the prerogatives that follow therefrom. For example, a man decides to openly bear a weapon during a stroll downtown. Police hold no rightful authority to so much as ask even the most seemingly innocuous question of him regarding his comport of arms, and yet they violate these basic rights of good men daily, often for no other reason than they feel that they can.
Contrary to popular misconception, and this is very important so please pay special attention**, all fundamental human rights are in fact absolute. Lawmakers, judges, other government figures, and large proportions of most populations are quick to assert the gross falsehood that the inherent rights of men have limits. They do not. My right to keep and bear arms as a Freeman cannot be rightly limited, save in those cases where my rights come squarely in crossing with those of another whose prerogatives supersede my own under very narrowly defined conditions, an example of which shall be forthcoming.
Were such rights not absolute, they would not be fundamental, but rather contractual or otherwise arbitrary in nature, meaning somebody somewhere held the authority to bestow and rescind such rights. Such a person would be your master and you, for all practical intents and purposes, his slave.
The fact that I may not murder someone with my weapon is not a restriction on my right to keep and bear arms per sé, but rather the simple denial of any right to murder my fellows. The two propositions seem similar, and yet they are at wide variance with each other. This is where my right to act ends and my neighbor's nose, as the old saying goes.
When I am traveling freely as a natural man upon the Commons, no other man may order me to disarm or otherwise molest me as regards my state of being armed, precisely because I retain the inherent right to keep and bear weaponry. Therefore, my exercise may not be questioned, all else equal.
Another man does, however rest within his prerogatives to prohibit me from coming armed on to his privately held property, or that over which he wields valid private control. For example, a shop owner may validly and lawfully prevent from entering his place of business those who are armed, even if he is not the actual owner of the real estate in which the business is located. Customers hold no inherent right to enter upon the private property of the shop. The shop owner may set the conditions of entry, including a policy of no weapons. If a customer finds the condition of entry unacceptable, he may choose not to enter.
Contractual rights are different in that they arise not as matters inherent of the fact that we live, but by conscious agreement or deign. For example, Acme Anvil Co. hires a new blacksmith and part of their employment offer is stock options for ten thousand shares such that any time within his first five years of service with the firm he may buy shares at some pre-set price, say $1 per share. That means that at any time during that period, the new hire holds the contractual right, or privilege, to purchase at $1/share as many shares as he wishes up to and including ten-thousands. Beyond five years, he no longer retains that right, an example of how such rights may be limited by essentially arbitrary (though agreed) condition.
As we can see, this is not quite the same as an inherent right in that it is contrived-by and agreed-upon by men through free and voluntary accord. In other words, it may not be absolute, save that it becomes so by such agreement.
The inherent right cannot be constrained in this way unilaterally, and while Freemen may waive certain of their fundamental rights, there is nothing in principal to suggest that they may not re-assert those rights at a later time.
Just because the fundamental rights of men are violated in gross and shamefully criminal fashion on a minute-by-minute basis by other men, most often those identifying themselves as "government" or "the state", it does not follow that those rights do not exist. It only testifies to the violations themselves. This is an area of reasoning where most people fail miserably in their analyses of such situations, falsely concluding that because rights are violated all the time, they therefore do not exist. Were this the case, then there would no such things as contracts because by this reasoning, if you and I enter into an agreement and I violate the terms, you have no recourse because rights, whether inherent or contractual, clearly do not exist as demonstrated by my violation. This is wildly failed logic, if "logic" can even be said to live there at all.
Our natural rights are the unalienable property of Freemen and as such cannot be righteously curbed, diminished, removed, violated, or otherwise disparaged save where a Freeman becomes a proven Criminal, in which case some of his rights may be curtailed for a limited period coinciding with the term of any sentence he may have earned as the result of his unrighteous acts. Short of that, no man holds the least authority to diminish another through acting as if to be the other's master. This is a felony of the highest order, regardless of who is committing it, or their purport to authority, for such claims are damned lies and may be validly met with extreme prejudice and non-equivocation.
It is my hope and desire to disseminate this information to as wide a population as is possible. The lack of proper understanding by so many regarding their birthright is both frightening and appalling in the level of danger it threatens to all men. If you do yourself no other honor in life, at least do that of learning in deeper stance that which no other man may take from you. Your rights are your first property. Treasure them and honor them properly, for to neglect this is to invite calamity upon yourself.
Until next time, please accept my best wishes.
** It behooves one to read these sentences however many millions of times needed to make their messages soak in fully. Tattoo it onto the insides of your eyelids if you must, but never forget them and endeavor with all good faith and diligence to understand them wholly and with great precision and clarity, for it will benefit you and those around you endlessly.