What is a Right?


Rollo’s post defining government is the inspiration behind this one.  What exactly is a right?  It’s been argued a lot in the last few years that healthcare is a right. Is it? Here is how I define a right, and this is a work in progress.  If you have anything to add, or you think I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments section.

A right is what we are allowed to do without permission from anyone else. We can exercise our rights as we please as long as we do not infringe on another person’s rights.  All men (read “people”) ever born into this earth have had the same rights.  It doesn’t matter if you were born in 300BC or 2012, your rights do not change over time.  Geography also does not affect your rights.  If you are born in the USA, Germany, China, or the middle of nowhere, you have the same rights as anyone else.

The test I always use is, “If I was born in the jungle, would I have this right?” If I was born in the jungle I would have a right to free speech, to associate, to life, to the pursuit of happiness, to liberty, among others.  I do not have a right to a house, a job, a paycheck, healthcare, or clean water, but I do have a right to pursue those things.

Plants and animals do not have rights.  They are not capable of thought or intelligence.  If I am born in the jungle I have a right to build shelter and hunter and gather food. Goods I acquire through my labor are mine, and I have a right to that private property.

I also have a right to defend my rights.  If someone infringes on my rights, I have the right to stop them through necessary force. If someone steals the food I recently hunted, I can take that food back or be compensated for the stolen food.  If my life is threatened, I have a right to defend myself, even if that means taking the life of the offender.

I understand this is short and probably not a thorough as it should be but it is late at night and I have work tomorrow, so I hope this at least gets the discussion started.

God Bless Freedom, Liberty, and Personal Property,

Slappy Jones II

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I agree with your “born in a jungle” logic. Our rights come from God. Period. The problem is that our elected officials now subscribe to a belief that government grants rights to its citizens. In reality, we the people agree to a social contract in which we allow a governing body to infringe on some of our rights in return for order (ie- free speech isn’t a defense for shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater). But even in a totalitarian state, government cannot create/bestow rights. God doesn’t guarantee anyone a house, a job, or health insurance. We have a… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle

“In reality, we the people agree to a social contract in which we allow a governing body to infringe on some of our rights in return for order”

There will definitely be articles about this idea written in the future.

But in general, rights cannot be created by the government, only taken away.


The Declaration of Independence says it best, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Cornwall Hoggins

Ironic that our elected officials create so many “rights” and look past the first and most basic right: the right to life.


I couldn’t agree more with both Steve and Cornwall. Slappy, I like your point and definition of a right. Seems spot on to me. It seems that a right has simple definition that has been skewed and convoluted by many. I think the lack of personal responsibility has affected people and their views of a right versus an opportunity (I shy away from using the world privilege because of the use of the word right in its definition). Opportunity, not free handouts from the government that are deemed rights, is the reason people came to this country.


[…] a recent article, Slappy defined what a right is.  If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do, as I am going to build off the ideas he explored […]