In response to statements referring to rights being based on “magic” or having something to do with faith – this article will try to explain how exactly rights come into fruition.
In Ayn Rand’s book, The Virtue of Selfishness, she explains how we epistemologically acquire rights – individual rights. She claims that:
‘Rights’ are a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
Throughout history, political systems have always been based on an ethical code. Often times, this code was centered on the collective, and not on the individual. But in the case of the United States, for example, it was a nation built on individual rights. This means that a set of principles were put in place for how to preserve and protect individual morality and the actions that accompanied it.
Individual rights arise as a logical way to bridge society together with a moral code. This moral code that Rand believed should be followed was one where coercion was not used against another man. She saw a world in which the courts, military, and police were the only systems needed in a government to protect an individual’s rights (usually pertaining to property).
Those are the only moral offices needed, because they protect and preserve “a man’s right to his own life”. This is the only fundamental right that he holds. It allows man the ability to use his mind, and work toward happiness, leisure, fulfillment, wealth, etcetera. Yet, the “rights” that are listed in the United Nation’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” are not rights at all to Rand – they are a list of things that man must earn.
But in order to earn those things, man must be given the space to think. “A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival”.
To say that rights appear “magically” is to say that man is irrational and does not follow any kind of ethical system – that all our laws are chaotic and nonsensical. This statement may reflect the United States’ current mixed economy with its several baseless laws, but in a free market society rights are established in a logical way. By following man’s nature, we can create rights that allow society to live in accordance with a moral system – one that gives man freedom over his own life.
This freedom is absolute. It cannot be violated or changed by any “new rights.” The core of individual rights is not to be abrogated. So, something like wealth redistribution constitutes an infringement on other people’s right to their own property – their money. As the product of his labor, one man’s money is not to be taken from him to give to another man who has not earned it. Certain laws may change, but they must always be in accordance with the absolute “Rights of Man” in order to allow for a truly free market society to exist.