What Are Rights?

With all the talk about the so-called "right to health care," it's important to consider what "rights" really are. In general, there are two types of rights. One type is intrinsic to us as humans. Some call these "fundamental rights" and others call them "human rights." Our nation's founders labeled them "inalienable rights." These are rights that demand nothing from other people - nothing, that is, except respect. The right to speak freely, to worship as we please, and to defend our property are among these. The role of government is to secure these rights from infringement.

Other rights are granted by government. Some simply provide structure, such as the right-of-way at a traffic intersection. But when government grants me a right to a commodity, such as food, or a service, such as health care, it is really granting me the right to make you pay for my food or health care. I already have the right to buy food and health care. So if there is a question of a "right" to these things, it is, "Who will pay for my needs - you or me?"


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