A Crash Course on Rights

There appears to be a great deal of confusion, particularly in the United States and on the left, about what, exactly, rights are. So I thought I’d take a little bit of time here to clarify things, because it’s really not the complicated issue that people make it out to be.

To figure out what is a right, we must first ask:

Can you do it in isolation on a deserted island?

If the answer is “Yes,” then it is a right–thus far. There is some more screening to be done, though, and that’s answered by the next question:

Does it require the consent of another?

If the answer is “Yes,” then it is NOT a right. This is obvious, because the “other” necessarily has the right to deny consent. One last question finalizes the matter:

Can it be achieved without force, violence, and/or coercion?

If this answer is “Yes,” then congratulations–it is a right. So let’s take a few sample actions and run them through the analysis and see what comes out as a right. First up, let’s take

Health Care

Can you have health care on a deserted island?

Yes, obviously, though you’d have to perform the care yourself.

Does it require the consent of another?

Yes. It requires the doctor, nurses, and hospital to consent to give you treatment. Unfortunate though it is, that doctor has the right to say “No, I don’t want to treat that person.” The nurses have the right to say that, and the hospital’s administrators have the right to say that. This is not the argument that “corporations are people.” It’s the obvious argument that corporations don’t exist. They are fictitious creations of human beings. There is not, and never has been, such a thing as a corporation. There are only people who work together to achieve a specific end. Those people do exist. The imaginary group that we have imposed onto reality that binds them together is not a real thing. The people, however, are, and people obviously have rights. Just as you couldn’t force a friend to give you a ride to an AutoZone, and just as you couldn’t force someone to be your friend, neither can you force someone to provide you a service, because that person providing the service is a person and obviously that person has the right to do with their time and energy whatever they want to do with their time and energy.

Someone owns that medicine somewhere down that line–it is someone’s property. You do not have the right to take it from them, and you do not have the right to force them to give it to you. Return to the desert island, where it would just be you and a man with penicillin that you need. Would you have the right to make him give it to you? Would you have the right to put a gun to his head (because, as I’ve said ad nauseum, everything the state does is at the point of a gun) and take it from him? Of course not. Things don’t get any murkier simply because you can’t see the person who owns the medicine you’re trying to forcefully take. There are other ways to acquire the medicine from the person without violating their rights. Again, peer pressure is the most underestimated force in the United States–no hospital administrator would resist a national shaming for their refusal to give someone medicine. No force required.


I’ve recently seen the contention that, yes, Wi-Fi is an honest-to-fuck human right. We know before we even start to process this that some dumbass millennial said it. I’m sorry, my fellow millennials and x-millennials, but no one else would make such a ridiculous claim.

Could you have Wi-Fi on a deserted island?

Obviously, yes, but you’d have to construct it yourself. You’d have to build the access points yourself, and build the devices that connect to it yourself. You have every right to do that, of course.

Does it require the consent of another?

Realistically, yes, because no one is going to create their own 802.11ish standard and conceive their own Wi-Fi topology, meaning that the topology they use will be patented. I’m actually against patents, trademarks, and copyrights, but that’s another matter. Because the Wi-Fi you constructed would be no use, we’re realistically talking about Wi-Fi as we actually know it today. And, again, we can see that the answer is “No.” Somewhere down the line, those access points, those gateways, those DNS servers, those webhosts, that bandwidth, etc… all belong to someone. That’s someone’s property. Again picturing yourself on the deserted island, would you have the right to go up to them with a gun and say, “That’s a nice, awesome thing you have! NOW GIVE IT TO ME! IT’S MY RIGHT!”? No, of course not.

Free Speech

Could you do it on a deserted island?

Absolutely. You’d have utterly unbridled free speech on a deserted island.

Does it require the consent of another?

Nope. All it requires is that others not inhibit your free speech. There’s a lot of confusion here, because we think that the government has given us the right to free speech. They have not. We can go all the way back to the dawn of homo sapien and realize that the natural state of human is to be able to say any foolish thing we want, without restriction and without punishment. At some point in our history, the state and other institutions rose and restricted our free speech, and we later rebelled and won back our right to speak freely. However, the state now, having been beaten back, and not restricting our right is not the same thing as giving us a right.

Let’s say you have a sandwich. Then I take the sandwich from you. You hit me, and take your sandwich back. Then I say, “Fine. You can keep your stupid sandwich.”

Did I give you a sandwich?


Can it be achieved without force, violence, and/or coercion?

Again, obviously–you have only to open your mouth and speak. There could be force and violence required in forcing people to listen to your free speech (because you do not have the right to be listened to), but your free speech alone? It requires no force, violence, or coercion.


Can you do it on a deserted island?


Commerce fails at the very first hurdle. Commerce (that is–the buying and selling of property by mutual consent) ipso facto requires another person. You cannot have commerce on a deserted island because there is no way to have commerce with yourself. Ergo, commerce is not a right; you do not have the right to sell things and buy things. You have the right to attempt to buy things and sell things, even on the deserted island, but “the attempt to have commerce” is not equivalent to commerce itself. Yes, on the deserted island you have the right to attempt to buy a hamburger. You’ll obviously fail, because there is no one from whom to buy a freaking hamburger, but you obviously have the right to try. And the universe has the right to make you fail in your endeavor because there is no one there from whom you can buy it. The presumption that you have the right to commerce is the presumption that you have the right to force the universe to sell you a hamburger on a deserted island. It’s utter nonsense and wholly unrealistic.

You can wander the island all day attempting to buy a hamburger, shouting to the palm trees and seagulls and coconuts, but you obviously do not have the right to buy a hamburger. To say that you have the right to buy a hamburger is to assert that the universe owes you a hamburger, that the sky should part and the universe should send a specially made hamburger to you from the Eagle Nebula. It’s silly. Once more, you have the right to try to buy a hamburger, for obvious reasons, but you cannot have the right to succeed, as the act of buying requires the existence of another person, and the other person obviously has the right–as we have already discussed–to say “No, I don’t want to sell you a hamburger. It’s mine, and I don’t want to sell it.”


So there we go. That’s how rights work. That’s how we distinguish rights from not-rights. If it involves another person, then it’s not a right. If it involves another person, then you usually have the right to try (“usually” because there are obviously some things you could try that would immediately violate their rights, such as “trying to rape them” and “trying to kill them”), but you do not have the right to succeed. That’s because they have the right to say “No.” They have the right to refuse consent on whatever grounds they want. You have the right to argue with them, to reason with them, to rally people together and attempt to apply peer pressure, but you do not have the right to force them to do what you want. The very moment you do, you are overstepping the bounds of your rights and violating theirs.

6 thoughts on “A Crash Course on Rights

  1. Hmmmm Well in theory if I was on deserted island, had the materials and the knowledge then I could construct a Wifi network that connects my computers to make a network. Doesn’t have involve the same standards that we have for Wifi here, just as long as the computers can exchange data over the Wifi network. So that would be a right.

    The same with health care. If I had the knowledge and the materials then I can perform my own health care. The same thing a lot of people do except they do commerce to get the materials they need to perform their own health care.

    So I guess its my right to do anything I want as long as I am not forcing, coercing, or stealing from someone else to get what I want. I can enlist other people to help to do what I want but its not my right to expect them to help me. I cannot decide for them, they have to decide for themselves to help me.

    Like the sandwich. I may need a sandwich that you made, because I am hungry. I cannot take it from you thinking its my right to be feed. Its up to you to decide to give me the sandwich or part of it to me to feed me. But if I grew my own food and constructed the sandwich then its my right to be feed because I am not forcing, coercing or stealing to do it.

    As far as free speech. The right to free speech only applies to the government. It doesn’t apply to companies or individuals. You have a blog here on WordPress, you don’t have the right to say anything you want here. Your speech is restricted by the Terms of Service that WordPress has governing their website. That is perfectly legal for them to restrict you speech here. Just like if you where in my house you would be restricted in your speech by any standard I have to be in my household. But if it is your household or the deserted island then your speech is free.

    • I’ve definitely argued that about free speech before. That’s a sore point for me–I can’t STAND to see people saying “This company or that company violated my free speech!” People are saying that now about ESPN and whoever that dude was. ARGH! >.< lol

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