Letter – Wrong about rights

By Zev Barnett

Editor, the Gauntlet,
In your article [“Thirsting After Sanity,” Cam Cotton-O’Brien, March 26, 2009] you argue that by extension the right to life implies that humans have a right to water. This is a gross misunderstanding of what it means for an individual to have a right. The concept, properly understood, does not refer to entitlement, but to freedom from force. Having the right to liberty, for example, does not mean that you are entitled to own a personal jet. It simply means that no one has the right to restrict your liberty. Having the right to free speech does not entitle you to a bullhorn and an auditorium. It simply means that no one may prevent you from gaining lawful access to the means of expressing yourself. Similarly, the right to life does not guarantee you the means of your survival, but rather, ensures that no one has the authority to prevent you from promoting your life by your own efforts. The significance of a right being a freedom and not an entitlement is that the former allows for the pursuit of one’s happiness and the latter demands it of others.

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