Right means a claim of some interest of an individual or a group of individuals which has either moral or legal basis and which is essential for his development in society. Discuss the relation of law and right in the light of this proposition.’


1.1 What are Rights?

 A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of will in a social context. There is only one basic right: a man’s right to his own life. All the others are its consequences or results. Life is a process of self-sufficient and self-generated will; the right to life implies the right to take on in self-sustaining and self-generated will—which means: the freedom to take all the wills necessary by the nature of a rational person for the sustainability, the furtherance, the completion and the satisfwill of his own life. (hence this is the true meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The notion of a “right” relates only to will—particularly, to freedom of will. It means freedom from physical impulsion, oppression or obstruction by other men.

Hence, for each and every individual, a right is the moral permit of a positive—the freedom to act according to his own judgment, for his own aims, by his own deliberate and  not oppressed  choice. When it comes to his neighbors, his rights inflict no duty on them apart from a negative sort: to refrain from infringing his rights.[1]

The right to life is the foundation of all rights—and the right to property is their only execution. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to continue his life by his own endeavor, the man who has no power to the product of his endeavor has no way to uphold his life. The man who produces while others discard of his product, is in fact a slave.

Keep in mind that the right to property is a right to will and like every other: it is not the right to an object, but to the deed and the consequences of creating or taking home that object. It is not a warranty that a man will receive any property, but only a pledge that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to get, to carry on, to use and to discard of material values.[2]

1.2 Right to Life

 The right to life is the fundamental right, of which all other rights are consequences. The right to life states that you have full ownership of your own body. It is your property and you can do whatever you want with it. No one can pressurize you to do anything, no one can hurt you in any way, and most of all, no one can take your life without your permission.

The reverse to the right to life is the life of a slave, where someone or some people basically own you — they can order what you do, when you do it, and take your life whenever they please.

It should be illustrated that rights are warrantees to freedom of wills. They do not offer anything but freedom of will. There is no right to food, for instance; only the right to work and take the earnings with which you may buy food.

1.3 Right to Liberty

 The right to liberty is an element of the right to life, particularly indicating to your freedom of will. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, given that you don’t violate on the rights of the others. This is a requirement for man’s life because man’s ways of surviving is rationale. Survival by rationale necessitates that you are able to act upon your logic or else your logic is of no use. You can only act on your rationale if you are free from the oppression of others.

If society only authorized some wills and did not authorize that of others, it would be as if it is allowing some reason and not allowing other reasons. It would be successfully ruining individual reason by making reason it second place compared to some other standard. When a society prohibits its citizens from the commencement of force, it is not ignoring reason, because there can never be a valid reason for the initiating force.[3]

1.4 Right to Property

 Property rights are an addition to the right to life. In order to sustain yourself through rationale and still be living, you must be able to possess and utilize the product of your toil. If the apparatus of your endurance are prone to arbitrary exclusion, then your life will be prone to arbitrary destruction.

1.5 Right to the Pursuit of Happiness

 The right to the pursuit of happiness is freedom of will. To live, man must realize morals. To realize morals, man must have freedom of thought and action. The right to the pursuit of happiness implies a man is free to do as he wishes, as long as it doesn’t clash with the rights of anyone else. Since man must utilize his own mind to survive, he must be able to pick his morals and act towards them. Even actions which are disparaging to oneself must be permitted, or a man cannot survive by his own mind. Eventually, man should have the freedom to pursue his own aims and happiness.

1.6 Right to Free Speech

The right to free speech is an acknowledgment that if speech in itself is deprived of physical threats is not a commencement of force and does not deserve any penalizing force. Many dictatorships and People’s States will prohibit some types of speech as being treacherous or provocative or against the will of the people, but this suppression is only an avoidance of reality – in the hope that if a problem is ignored, it will go away. Freedom of speech is necessary for liberty since exclusion of the freedom of speech, prevents you to persuade others in seeing the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Without the freedom to convince others, only the exertion of force can make people act in a certain way. It is a vital test on government because it permits wrongdoings to be recognized and corrected rather than concealed and completed[4]

1.7 Right to Self Defense

The right to defend oneself is a consequence to the right to life. You should be able to defend what is yours when it is in jeopardy. If you are being threatened, the circumstance leaves the dominion of principles – it leaves the dominion of the daily and becomes a crisis. In such an emergency, anything is allowed. It is the choice that the aggressor has decided, and he must live with his choice. The government must uphold the right to bear arms so that self defense will be achievable[5].

2.The relation between right and law

“Rights” are a moral perception—the perception that provides a rational conversion from the values guiding an individual’s wills to the values guiding his relationship with others—the perception that conserves and protects individual morality in a social framework—the connection between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the ways of instigating society to moral law.[6]

2.1 Conflict of Rights.

Whenever we are faced with a moral predicament, we have to judge whether the actions would value the basic rights of each of the individuals concerned. How would the will influence the basic well-being of these individuals? How would the will influence the negative or positive freedom of these individuals? Would it involve exploitation or dishonesty—either of which would weaken the right to truth that is a vital individual right? Actions are incorrect to the degree that they infringe the rights of individuals.

Every now and then the rights of individuals will come into disagreement and one has to decide which right has precedence. We may all agree, for instance, that everyone has a right to freedom of involvement as well as a right not to be differentiated against. But presume a private club has a rule that prevents women from joining. How do we poise the right to freedom of association—which would allow the club to decide for itself who to permit—against the right not to be discriminated against—which requires equal treatment of women? In cases such as this, we need to examine the freedoms or interests at stake and decide which of the two is the more crucial for securing human dignity. For example, is free association or equality more essential to maintaining our dignity as persons?

Rights, then, play a central role in ethics. Attention to rights ensures that the freedom and well-being of each individual will be protected when others threaten that freedom or well-being. If an individual has a moral right, then it is morally wrong to interfere with that right even if large numbers of people would benefit from such interference.

But rights should not be the sole consideration in ethical decision-making. In some instances, the social costs or the injustice that would result from respecting a right are too great, and accordingly, that right may need to be limited. Moreover, an emphasis on rights tends to limit our vision of what the “moral life” entails. Morality, it’s often argued, is not just a matter of not interfering with the rights of others. Relying exclusively on a rights approach to ethics tends to emphasize the individual at the expense of the community. And, while morality does call on us to respect the uniqueness, dignity, and autonomy of each individual, it also invites us to recognize our relatedness—that sense of community, shared values, and the common good which lends itself to an ethics of care, compassion, and concern for others.

2.2 The proper function of a Government.

The appropriate function of government is to guard the individual rights of man; this means to defend man against brute force.

In a correct social system, men do not use force against one another; force may be used only in self-defense, that is, in defense of a right violated by force. Men entrust to the government the authority to use force in retribution and only in retribution.

The correct kind of government does not commence the use of force. It employs force only to answer those who have commenced its use. To illustrate, when the government arrests a criminal, it is not the government that infringes a right; it is the criminal who has infringed a right and by doing this, he has positioned himself outside the boundaries of the principle of rights, where men can have no alternative against him apart from using force.

2.3 Society can not exist without a moral principle.

A huge number of people today hold the foolish belief that society can do anything it pleases; that principles and ideals are pointless, rights are merely a fantasy and pragmatism is the realistic channel to action.

It is true that society can discard ethical principles and convert itself into a flock driving headlong to destruction. Just as it is true that a man can take his life by cutting his own throat anytime he chooses. But a man cannot do this if his aim is survival. And society cannot discard ethical principles if it wishes to be.[7]

Society is a great number of men who live together in the same country, and who deal with one another. Unless there is a distinct, ethical code or purpose, which men comprehend and follow, they have no way of interacting with one another — since no one can know what to anticipate from his neighbor. The man, who has no morality, is a criminal; you can do absolutely nothing when handling a criminal, apart from maybe try to break his skull before he breaks yours. There is no other language, nor no provisions of behavior that will be equally acknowledged. The notion of a society lacking moral principles is to promote that men live together like criminals.

As tradition dictates, we are still maintaining so many moral principles that we take them for granted, and do not understand the importance of these moral principles while making decisions in our daily lives. Why is it safe for you to go into a crowded department store, make a purchase and come out again? The crowd around you needs goods, too; the crowd could easily overpower the few salesgirls, ransack the store, and grab your packages and pocketbook as well. Why don’t they do it? There is nothing to stop them and nothing to protect you — except the moral principle of your individual right of life and property.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that crowds are restrained merely by fear of policemen. There could not be enough policemen in the world if men believed that it is proper and practical to loot. And if men believed this, why shouldn’t the policemen believe it, too? Who, then, would be the policemen?

Besides, in a Collectivist society the policemen’s duty is not to protect your rights, but to violate them.

 It would certainly be expedient for the crowd to loot the department store — if we accept the expediency of the moment as a sound and proper rule of will. But how many department stores, how many factories, farms or homes would we have, and for how long, under this rule of expediency?

If we discard morality and substitute for it the collectivist doctrine of unlimited majority rule, if we accept the idea that a majority may do anything it pleases, and that anything done by a majority is right because it’s done by a majority (this being the only standard of right and wrong), how are men to apply this in practice to their actual lives? Who is the majority? In relation to each particular man, all other men are potential members of that majority which may destroy him at its pleasure at any moment. Then each man and all men become enemies; each has to fear and suspect all; each must try to rob and murder first, before he is robbed and murdered.

If you think that this is just abstract theory, take a look at Europe for a practical demonstration. In Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, private citizens did the foulest work of the G.P.U. and the Gestapo, spying on one another, delivering their own relatives and friends to the secret police and the torture chambers. This was the result in practice of Collectivism in theory. This was the concrete application of that empty, vicious Collectivist slogan which seems so high-sounding to the unthinking: “The public good comes above any individual rights.”

 Without individual rights, no public good is possible.[8]

5. Conclusion

 The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.[9]

Since knowledge, thinking, and rational will are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t. Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.[10]

Individual rights is the only proper principle of human coexistence, because it rests on man’s nature, i.e., the nature and requirements of a conceptual consciousness. Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life—but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. He has to plan his life long-range, make his own choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreements they entered).[11]

6. Bibliography

  1. Landauer, J. & Rowlands, J. (2001).  The Importance of Philosophy.
  2. Piekoff, L. (1982). ‘The omniuous parallels’.
  3. Rand, A. (1963). ‘The virtue of selfishness’. Centennial Ed. p.93
  4. Rand. A (1963).  ‘The virtue of selfishness’. Centennial Ed. p.92
  5. Rand, A. (1962). ‘The Ayn Rand coloumn’. P.83
  6. Rand, A. (1963). ‘For the new individual’. Centennial Ed.. p.182
  7. Rand, A.(1986). ‘Capitalism the unknown ideal’.. p.17
  8. Rand, A.(1976). ‘The Ayn Land Letter II ’. p.2-3

[1] Piekoff, L. (1982). ‘The omniuous parallels’.

[2] Rand, A. (1963). ‘The virtue of selfishness’. Centennial Ed. p.93

[3] Landauer, J. & Rowlands, J. (2001).  

[4] Landauer, J. & Rowlands, J. (2001).  

[5] Landauer, J. & Rowlands, J. (2001).  The Importance of Philosophy.

[6] Rand. A (1963). p.92

[7] Rand, A. (1962).

[8] Rand, A. (1962). ‘The Ayn Rand coloumn’. P.83

[9] Rand, A. (1963). ‘For the new individual’. Centennial Ed.. p.182

[10] Rand, A.(1986). ‘Capitalism the unknown ideal’.. p.17

[11] Rand, A.(1976). ‘The Ayn Land Letter II ’. p.2-3