Rights Require a Duty


This is interesting. I read the legal definition of a right here, and I discover this fascinating paragraph.

Right is the correlative of duty, for, wherever one has a right due to him, some other must owe him a duty.

In other words, for every right we have, we demand something of other people to acknowledge and respect that right.

For instance, my right to life demands a duty that no one lay a finger on my life. My right to liberty demands no one impede my movement or actions. And my right to property means no one claims what is rightfully mine.

This is why rights are so inherently tied to violence. If I believe I have a right, and you do not perform the duty in accordance with that right, then I must, by violent means, gain from you that duty.

For instance, if you come at me with a gun, obviously not observing your duty to respect my right to life, I have to somehow stop you from shooting me, or I lose my right to life. Or if you impede my movement or behavior, rather than leaving me free to move about as I wish, then I have to use some means to end your impediment of my freedom otherwise I lost my right to liberty.

It is thus another reason why rights rely on God. God sits on His throne in heaven, and declares, “People have a right to live” by uttering the words, “Thou shalt not murder.” In other words, He defined the rights in terms of duties. The right to property is the duty “Thou shalt not steal”, and so on and so forth.

Perhaps when we examine rights in terms of their mirrored duties, we see whether or not something is really a right.

For instance, I interpret the right to health care as the right to find a doctor, contract him for his services, and receive his services according to contract. As long as no one impedes my right to find a doctor and contract with him, and no one interferes with the execution of the contract, I can have my health care.

A liberal defines the right to health care as the duty of someone else to pay for their visit to the doctor. As long as someone else writes a check for their doctor’s bill, then they have a right to see a doctor, but if they have to go on their own dime and contract with a doctor who is willing to treat them, then they don’t have full rights to health care.

Obviously, I don’t agree with the latter definition of that right. It means I have to work to pay for someone else’s sickness, and if I don’t, then the sick is allowed to come after me to beat me up to take my money. That sounds an awfully lot like stealing, which is in direct contradiction to God’s clear commandment “Thou shalt not steal”, which gives us the right to property. In other words, the liberal right to health care is in direct contradiction to our right to property. Either we are allowed to own what we create, or we give free health care, but not both.

From now on, I am going to see the mirrored duty for every right, and put things in terms of duties rather than rights.


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