Sean Edwards

The American Resurrection

There Is No Such Thing As “Gay Rights” (or “Black Rights” or “Women’s Rights”)

Dictionary definition of "equality". Close-up view, showing paper textures.In the media you will see these terms thrown around a lot. But there is really only one kind of right: Human rights.

Those rights we all have because we are human. And any legitimate gay, black, or women’s rights fall under a human right.

Any legitimate gay, black, or women’s rights fall under a human right.

Why is this important to realize?

Gay, black, and women’s rights imply that there are special rights for those people that don’t apply to others. Or that there is something special about those groups that makes them different from others.

And when we start to demarcate different kinds of people with different kinds of laws, we are inherently dividing, not uniting.

Secondly, this semantic error reveals a deeper, more troubling problem: People don’t know what rights are.

If we did, we would have no need for terms like “gay rights” or “women’s rights.”

We would know what was really happening: People’s individual rights were being violated. Gay, straight, black, man, or woman… we all have the same rights.

This misunderstanding about rights is fundamental to the problems we are facing in the world today.

Because we lack this understanding, our laws and movements are ungrounded, tossed about by the winds of “Yeah… that makes sense.”

Our laws and movements are ungrounded, tossed about by the winds of “Yeah… that makes sense.

They are not firmly rooted in truth and reason. They are whims. A mix of thought and emotion with no attempt at understanding their meaning.

This means that fear, jealousy, or other emotions are influencing our laws without us knowing it.

Here are three simple rules to help clear this up:

1) What is true for one person must be true for another.

If I cannot kill another person, then no other person can kill either.

If I cannot steal from another person, then no other person has the right to steal.

If one human has a right, then all humans have that same right, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

2) What limits one person must also limit a group of people.

A group of people do not magically gain the ability to overturn other people’s rights.

Throughout history we have done this. The holocaust. Slavery. Denying women their basic human rights. The list goes on and on.

Furthermore, our government gets its power from the people… individuals. Therefore, the government cannot have any moral authority that an individual does not possess.

For the government is comprised of people. This means that the legislature does NOT have the authority to overturn ANY human right.

What limits an individual must also limit the legislature.

3) One person’s ‘right’ cannot violate another person’s right.

A ‘right’ that violates another person’s right isn’t a right. It is a ‘want.’ I know that sounds harsh, but it is true.

If the legislature decided that access to clean water was a basic human right, the government must then guarantee every citizen access to clean water.

Which means they would have to build out the infrastructure to do so.

Which means they would need to do one of two things. They would either need to tax people for that money, or they would need to force people to build the infrastructure.

Obviously the latter option is out of the question. That is forced labor.

However, the first option to tax people seems reasonable. We do this all the time. It is standard government practice.

But it only seems reasonable because we don’t understand rights.

Let me explain:

Those tax dollars are not going to protect my life and freedom. They are going to give other people water.

Which is a great cause, but that’s all it is…. a cause. It is basically a government run charity program.

Furthermore, when that program is funded by taxes, I am forced to support it. Either I pay that portion of my taxes, or I face legal ramifications. Ultimately I could be imprisoned for not supporting that charity work.

Let’s go back through our rules on this:

1) I–as an individual–cannot forcibly take money from other people under any circumstance. Any instance where I force someone to give me money is called theft. Even if I do it to help other people gain access to clean water. I do not have that right. And therefore, no other individual has that right either.

2) If it is wrong for me to do it, it is wrong for a group of people to do it. I could not form a group and go door to door demanding money for this cause. And since the government is just a group of people, and those people are limited by the same rules as individuals, the government cannot do this either.

3) The ‘right’ to clean water cannot exist because it demands that the rights of others be violated to fulfill it.

Some of you may be asking, how do we know that it isn’t the other way around? Why isn’t the ‘right’ to water legitimate, and that the ‘right’ to your wealth is illegitimate?

This leads to a few very real and pressing questions: Where do rights come from? Why do they exist? And how can we define them?

Those are excellent questions. Questions that we need to be asking. And I cannot go into more depth in this post.

But if you want to learn more about these issues, check out John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government.

Or you can download a free PDF version of my book American Resurrection. In it I distill these concepts down into a short and easily digestible book.

However you decide to study this subject, I implore you to do so. If we do not understand the concept of rights, we could be partnering with tyranny without our knowledge.

The philosophy of government is very important. Without it, we can easily be led astray.

There is an old adage that says, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

How many bricks have we already laid because we didn’t know where we were going?

About Sean Edwards

Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.

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4 Replies

  1. Dan Morris

    I agree 100% that there is only human rights. Spot on! Unfortunately, the law has allowed these “splinter rights” to have a protected status. For example, women, blacks and homosexuals are protected groups and are afforded additional legal protections.

    I also agree 100% that people DO NOT know what rights are. Man do they not know. You didn’t touch on it, but the difference between positive and negative rights could be a whole post by itself.

    On Rule 1, agreed. On Rule 2, agreed. On Rule 3, agreed.

    On Rule 2, I think there is a whole lot of unpacking to do on this one. You touched on the fact that taxation is essentially codified theft because if I cannot steal money for whatever cause than neither can a group of people – not matter their title or the color of the flag they wave. Additionally, if I cannot kill someone for a murder I’m convinced they committed, than neither can a group of people. For this reason, the death penalty should also be viewed through this lens. There are tons of examples where the government has claimed supra-rights that individuals do not possess. If you took this to its logical conclusion on all the issues, people would be less than agreeable I think.

    On Rule 3, this is where positive and negative rights come into play. If everyone in the world sat in their homes and didn’t take any action, we would have a just world. No one would be aggressing on anyone else because no action is taken. The right to life, liberty and property are all negative rights and require no action from anyone else. It’s only when others take action against others we see injustice. Positive “rights” are those like the right to education, water, food, health care etc that would require the action of someone else for that “right” to be satisfied. Obviously, if the right requires someone else to take action it can’t be a right because you have placed an obligation on someone else to act.

    Thanks for helping to illuminate what rights really mean and how they apply in society – plus the broader implications to government and society (not the same thing). I hope I’ve not blathered on and I’m sure you’re aware of most if not all of what I’ve mentioned. But sometimes it’s fun to pontificate.


    1. Sean Edwards

      These are great insights! Very articulate and well said.

    2. Elizabeth

      Hi Sean and Dan,

      I’m new to studying this subject, but I find it quite fascinating and I’m trying to understand how it all works. I understand that we don’t have a “right” to clean water since it would demand that someone else lifts a finger or pay for it. Are there any real “public services” then, or should all infrastructure and other services be completely privatized?
      What does this mean for people who may not be able to pay for clean water or a road, and how would this affect their ability to take part in the economy?
      I’m mostly think about my experience in other countries (Guatemala, Haiti) where the government has largely neglected vast populations of rural communities that struggle to gain access to things like clean water, healthcare, or infrastructure where they can sell their goods.

      Thank you, I look forward to learning more about this!


      1. Sean Edwards

        Hello Elizabeth, great questions. It depends on who you’re talking to. There are strict anarcho-capitalists that believe all infrastructure should be private. And many libertarians agree.

        However, I am not there. I believe there can be a way for people who use the infrastructure to pay for it. For example, we could restructure the gas tax so that it only went towards building and maintaining roads. There could be special clauses for people who won’t be driving on the roads (for lawn mowers, etc…), but only the people buy gasoline and diesel are using the roads. Therefore, if you want to use the roads, you have to pay for it (via some sort of gas tax). And if everyone starts using electric or fuel-cell cars, then we’ll modify the tax to keep our roads in condition.

        The same thing applies to water and sewer lines, but to be fair, many cities already function this way for water and sewer.

        Also, many cities are privatizing their waste disposal. Private companies are able to turn a profit from it, and do it more efficiently.

        Do I have all the answers? No, but I feel there are moral answers to keep the government restrained, while supplying infrastructure. I am not advocating a return to 3rd world status. We can have the best infrastructure in the world, and find a way to pay for it in an ethical way.

        Is that helpful?