Liberty may be a “natural right” in theory but it can only be realized only within an organise state which is capable of preventing gangsters from killing and robbing us.
But it is not enough for a state to protect us from “other” gangsters. Throughout history it is rulers themselves who have turn into the worst gangsters by breaking the law they may make. In India it is very common today for the makers of laws to become the biggest breakers of these laws.
Controlling the power of the state is therefore the biggest single challenge in civilised society. It is the establishment of a strong rule of law which hinders such an eventuality. The establishment of the rule of law is done through the legal protection of our “natural” rights.
These rights (also called “human rights”) are a social contract that constrains government. They exist in opposition to the government – they constrains imposed by us on the government.
It is important to emphasise again, that rights do not exist in isolation: these are purely restrictions on government, so a government does not encroach on our basic liberties.
The idea of rights arose from the wars that people waged over hundreds of years against the misuse of power by government. The 1689 Bill of Rights in England and the American Bill of Rights (which is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution) are illustrations of rights. Freedom and liberty always mean freedom from police interference.
The Constitution of India protects us first and foremost against oppression by the government of India. We are protected from the use of arbitrary power or action by government. That is the core function of rights.
This idea of rights is therefore very limited. It derives from our innate right in our life and liberty and our defence against arbitrary curtailment of these freedoms by the government.
A government cannot stop us from our rights to thought, expression and action so long as we don’t physically harm others. Similarly, we have the right to our property. We own ourselves and the fruits of our labour. This includes ownership that is passed on through generations, for our children are the fruits of our labour and we can lavish whatever attention we wish on them. This is our basic biological birthright.
Unfortunately, rights have become an all-purpose term used for evading both facts and logic by saying that people have a “right” to whatever the socialists want to give them by taking from others.
Let us remember – that anything that does not arise from our fundamental opposition to arbitrary interference from government is not a right. There is therefore no right to food or to education, since this does not involve any opposition to misuse of power by government. Such “rights” are merely wishlists.