The Generalist

You Have a Right to What?

I recently had a Facebook encounter with someone who objected to the use of the terms right to life and right to property because he felt these terms confused people into thinking that they had a right to life in the sense that if they couldn’t manage it, someone else had to support it for them.

I objected to this at first because to me you most certainly do have a right to LIFE and PROPERTY. But then after some thought, I understood what he meant. I still object, but now I understand where he’s wrong. The problem is not with WHAT you have a right to – it’s a misunderstanding of the meaning of the world RIGHT.

A RIGHT never obligates anyone else. By definition it can’t. That’s because rights are really just restated responsibilities. Since I understood that, this Facebook commenter’s views at first made no sense to me. My understanding of the term right is now completely automatic. I don’t have to think about it. Instead I had to think to undo this understanding so I could understand his problem.

There is really no way to state it that people can’t bend and twist it if they want to. This is the bane of language. It’s alive. For that reason, people seeking power can change the meanings of words so that all that’s left is the feeling left over from the old meaning. Think liberal for example. This word has now come to signify its opposite. So it should be no surprise that the term right now signifies its opposite.

So, if you keep the term right but remove the terms life and property because some people are ignorant or obtuse, you will just have other problems. For example, if we say you have a right to defend yourself – well, what are you defending if not your life and property? If we leave out property for sure some people will use that to defend socialism – i.e., the John Lennons of this world that think a world without property (imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can – yes, I can John, it’s called death) is somehow a good thing.

The truth is no matter how you state it if people are hell bent on being obtuse they’ll figure out how to do it.

Nevertheless, if we must reword it for the dummies out there how about this:

We the people recognize that each person has a responsibility to support his/her own life – that is in part to supply it (property) and defend it (life) – and we the people will make no law in contradiction with this responsibility or any of its corollaries.

This basically means the same thing. But if we should do this, I wouldn’t be surprised if after a few years one starts to notice a change in the general understanding of the meaning of the world responsibility.


P.S. To David who says we really only need the term property since our lives/bodies are our property – I agree with you. The mind/body problem is another can of worms, though, so it’s just easier to include both life and property here understanding that it’s a bit of a redundancy. We could just use life as well, since one implies the other.

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  1. Justin

    25 Apr 2019 - 9:37 am

    Thank you! I am quite relieved having discovered your site. I’d love to read an equally concise continuation on the extent of one’ s responsibility to acquire supply and it’s relation to another’s responsibility to defend, as in theft. Thanks again!

  2. Gary Berge Varjian

    16 May 2019 - 8:39 pm

    I read the idea for imagine was something John got from yoko(everyone’s favorite). Anyway I didn’t interpret the Lennon line politically (maybe I should since maybe a lot of the other lines in the song about having no countries or religions have political implications). I kind of think possessions can be a pain because they can be lost or forgotten and you can feel naked without them. I am not sure if minimalism is freeing spiritually or it just allows you be freer with the stuff you do have by having more room for it or appreciating it more. But yeah, I guess your interpretation is that you don’t try to have anything which is not life affirming to you. He was very extreme at the end renouncing everything he could get his hands on except for yoko.. renouncing the Beatles as meaningless to him, that song god he did had a bunch of lyrics about everything he hates or does not by into. It’s just a fine line whether that’s death or transcendence as he had been through everything the world has to offer and been a big ego in the game of that, so maybe he gets to say that when most can’t since he had already been ‘bigger than jesus’ and I guess he found it hollow on the other side, maybe drugs were a factor in that ‘ mind expansion’ but then again drugs allowed him to write breakthrough stuff, but it may have that cost of disbelief from seeing things upside down and being on the top( wheras most people seeing things upside down never rode the top of the escalator or had their ego matter like he did.). But, yea I don’t know politics so im sure there is an argument there. I wonder what would have happened if Ben Franklin took mind ‘enhancing’ drugs..somehow that goes with music

  3. Lisa

    21 May 2019 - 2:00 pm

    This is for Justin:

    Sorry for the long delay in approving your comment, I visit my own site a bit sporadically these days.

    When you are part of a civilized society, you realize that you must acquire your needs in a civilized way. You certainly have a choice on how you go about acquiring for your needs, but if you choose a method that infringes on your neighbors same rights, you get what you deserve. If you are in a situation where you have no other options open to you, you are likely not in a civilized society but in a state of war. The point is, if you choose to obtain for your needs via war, you get war. Does this make sense?

    Rights are a means to a civilized society. Violating them means the loss of the civilized society.

    If you want to fly you have to do certain things. If you violate those rules, you fall to earth.

  4. Lisa

    21 May 2019 - 2:03 pm

    This is for Gary:

    I can’t really speculate much on John Lennon’s state of mind, but I think he was just as brainwashed as the rest of the populace – he fell for something that sounded “nice” and, after all, Yoko was into it. But if you really pay attention to it, it’s all about as evil as it gets. If you think “sharing” all the world is so great – try sharing something with your siblings. That pretty much sucks. Imagine having to do it with a bunch of strangers! Yeah… imagine. Ugh!

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