|“||A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)
The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.
The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.
Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.
- (“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 1964, p. 93
What is a 'right'?
A possible action is considered to be a right when and only when the action is never destructive in any way to the life of any other non-consenting individual. A right is said to be "respected" if no individual attempts to impede the action considered to be a right. Thus, an individual is morally bound to respect the rights of another. The reason for this is because respecting rights is conducive to the lives of all parties involved.
If one individual contravenes the rights of another, it is moral and proper for the victim to defend himself against his attacker, as well as to force the attacker to recompense the victim.
The notion of freedom is closely allied with the notion of rights. An individual is free to do precisely that which he has the right to do. An individual is said to be free (in general) if and when all of his rights are respected.
There is no such thing as a collective right. An aggregate collection of individuals (i.e., a group) cannot logically claim a right that the individual alone cannot possess. For example, a political advocate may claim the existence of a "social contract" to justify levying a tax—but individuals do not have a right to steal, and so no larger group of individuals is subsequently magically bestowed with it after some arbitrary size is reached or a vote is held proclaiming intent. Such as group would, at that point, be hypocritically initiating force upon dissenting individuals.
As collectives, governments therefore do not have rights. They merely enforce their whims, to lesser or greater ill upon humanity. Governments are commonly preoccupied with restricting individual rights while simultaneously claiming those same rights for itself, to be subsequently doled out as privileges. For example, a government might forbid the ownership of various types of property, such as weapons, and have its edicts enforced by police officers armed with the very same weapons. It may have laws forbidding driving too fast, yet its police officers are exempt (i.e., it is their privilege), and they will not stop speeding vehicles with government plates. Government invariably forbids theft, yet routinely seize property under all manner of pretexts, such as eminent domain, and it may invent categories of crime in order to extort from individuals convicted of violations.
|“||The man in Seat 5, Car No.7, was a worker who believed that he had "a right" to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not.
The woman in Roomette 6, Car no. 8, was a lecturer who believed that, as a consumer, she had "a right" to transportation, whether the railroad people wished to provide it or not.
The man in Roomette 2, Car No. 9, was a professor of economics who advocated the abolition of private property, explaining that intelligence plays no part in industrial production, that man's mind is conditioned by material tools, that anybody can run a factory or a railroad and it's only a matter of seizing the machinery.
The woman in Roomette 9, Car No. 12, was a housewife who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing, to control giant industries, of which she had no knowledge....