What Is A “right”?

A “right” is a claim against other members of a contract, wherein each party grants the other party something (a right) in exchange for somthing else (an obligation).  Each person then has ‘rights’ as agreed upon in the contract, as well as obligations. This is the meaning of the term ‘right’.  A right is something that you obtain from others in exchange for granting them something.  There is no other logical meaning of the term, unless you invent a god or demon, or some equivalent that you are supposedly in contract with.  (Although the term ‘right’ is abused by way of analogy and metaphor, which I will explain below.)

A contract can be discreetly created, such as a handshake, a promise, or an agreement. Or a contract can be written as a note, a written contract, or a constitution. A contract can be created by habituation as a “norm”, such as manners, ethics and morals.

While very few people understand this, ethical and moral statements  are those that compensate for asymmetry of information between members of a contract for norms.  This contract for norms is we call a society.  Manners are promises that you will respect ethical and moral norms.  Ethics are rules that we follow to make sure that there are no involuntary transfers of prooperty due to asymmetry of information in an exchange.  Morals are general rules that we will follow to make sure there are no involuntary transfers from others who are outside (external to) any action or exchange.  (Having a chid that you cannot pay for, and expecting others to support it, is an involuntary transfer from others. That is why it’s generally been considered immoral.)

One can voluntarily enter discreet contracts.  But normative contracts are a necessity because people cannot peacefully and productively cooperate without them. One can generally move between groups with different normative contracts (societies, and communities) but it  is all but impossible to avoid them entirely, and it is entirely impossible to exist in a community without adhering to that contract – usually people are excluded from opportunity, punished, imprisoned, ostracized, or deported, for violations of the normative contract.

Some contract rights are both necessary for humans to engage in contracts, and possible to grant in contracts. Such as surrendering our opportunity for violence  theft and fraud, from those with whom we are in contract. If we surrender our opportunity to use violence theft and fraud, we define this set of forgone opportunities “property rights’.  Because these rights are necessary for peaceful cooperation, and necessary for contracts to function, we call these necessary rights ‘Natural Rights’ – in an effort to limit the ability of governments to violate the contract rights that are necessary for human cooperation when they make laws.

If we define our minds and bodies as our property. And we define those objects, that we freely obtained through exchange as our property, then there is only one natural right and that is property. It is the only right necessary, and the only right universally possible to grant to one another – because we must refrain from something, rather than do something.  In this sense, there is only one possible human right, and all other rights derive from it.

Some contract rights are not necessary but beneficial. These rights generally can be categorized as forms of ‘insurance’. They cannot be direclty exchanged without an intermediary institution acting as the insurer. People cannot equally contribute to their costs.  We call these rights ‘Human Rights’.

Now this is not to say that you have no control over your rights. You can for example (and we all do) demand additional rights in exchagne for our compliance with manners, ethics, morals, norms, laws that are levied equally against all. These rights are not human rights, they are not natural rights.  They are rights that you demand for your compliance.  THe problem is, that means that they are just a preference.  That’s all.  You must get a right in exchange even if you demand it, it cannot exist until there is a contract for it, somehow. And we can cause discomfort, economic friction, and political resistance. Or we can offer to contribute more somehow in exchange for additional rights.  In this sense, most arguments are in favor of demanded rights, in the form of FREE RIDING, PRIVILEGES, RENTS, and DIVIDENDS.

Free riding is letting other people pay for something that you enjoy. Voting for a tax that you don’t have to pay is free riding.  Living off your parents is free riding.

Sometimes we attempt to seek privileges not rights – a privilege is something that unlike insurance, is something we are likely to obtain, and which comes at a cost to others, without our providing something else in exchange. These are not rights, but privileges at the expense of others.

In contemporary politics, unscrupulous people attempt to label privileges as rights, so that they can obtain something from others at no cost to themselves   This is not seeking rights but seeking privileges. It is a form of corruption, which is just an indirect form of theft.

In economics, seeking privileges from government is a form of corruption called ‘rent-seeking’. (Which admittedly, is an old and confusing name.  In previous centuries, people would seek to obtain an interest in land so that they could collect rents on it.)  Today, people seek an interest in tax revenue so that they can collect income from it.  This is Rent-Seeking. The government, in practice, if not in theory, owns all land, and we rent it from the government by taxes. If you cannot pay your taxes, you cannot keep your land.  Taxes today, are no different from taxes under feudalism. We have just replaced private landowners with a political bureaucracy. In both cases we are renting our land, and in many cases the homes we build, from the government. Taxes are our rents.  And people who seek to own part of taxes are rent-seekers.

if you obey norms (manners, ethics and morals) and obey natural rights (property), you do so at a cost to you.

If you think of society as a business (it is, because it must be), and the business is to grow the local market (it is, at least to maintain it), because everyone in the local market will profit from it. (they do). Then these businesses (societies) grow through phases, just as businesses do (or really, business go through phases like society does, just a lot faster because they’re smaller), and in certain early phases(startups) they require a lot of investments from their shareholders (citizens), and in other phases they produce tremendous surpluses (mature, commoditized businesses), then we can see that most of the problem we deal with in politics, is who makes what contributions, and who collects what dividends, and how those dividends are used.


It is very hard to argue against dividends (redistribution) if people respect (adhere to) manners, ethics, morals, and natural rights (property rights), as well as whatever arbitrary laws are created that affect all people equally.

The general argument, which is true, is that by adhering to maners, ethics, morals, natural rights and arbitrary laws, you earn the right to participate in the market for goods and services.  And that dividends are a due only to those people who provide goods and services in the market.  The problem is that a market can’t exist without consumers, and that consumption is equally as important as production and distribution.  You can’t have one without the other.  So this argument is at best, empirically weak.

The problem with dividends (redistribution) is not the logical requirement for dividends (redistribution), but the problem with how to determine what a dividend is,  how to collect them, who has earned them, and how to allocate them, and how to distribute them.

But I will have to leave that  rather lengthly discussion for another time. 🙂

This is very close to the ‘final word’ on rights. It is extremely hard to criticize this series of statements using any form of rational argument.  I will be happy to engage literate people on the topic but ask the moderators for their help.



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