Right Are Given, Not Inherited

Throughout all of history, the concept of ¬†“rights” has played a huge role. In ancient Greece, philosophers wrote about the rights each citizen(each citizen, not each person) had, which included the right to vote and the right to be involved in public affairs, among others. In Rome, while there was really no idea of human rights as we would think of it today, there were officials who’s job was specifically to represent the plebeians, the poor of Rome, and uphold their right to be involved in the affairs of the city. With the rising of the English constitutional monarch and it’s Parliament, rights began to be thought of as something every person had, not simply a privilege occasionally granted by a noble or king.

With the Enlightenment came an even greater increase in rights. Philosophers abounded, many of whom wrote about natural rights. John Locke was one of these-it was his opinion that all people have the right to “life, liberty, health, and property”. This was adapted somewhat for use in the American Declaration of Independence, which states that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Other rights, as we know, included freedom of religion, speech, the press, and many others, some of which are debated(the right to bear arms, for example).

With the coming of the French Revolution and, soon after, the conquests of Napoleon, rights were spread across most of Europe. The rights guaranteed by the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and the Citizen made France one of the most forward looking nations in the world, and similar ideas and documents were created all across Europe.

The idea of natural rights has played a key role in the last few hundred years. Massive protests gained equality for women; in many places it took extreme bloodshed to gain freedom for the slaves. It still took more time and protests for black people to gain equal rights in countries dominated by Europeans or their descendants. Wars have been fought over the demanding of rights by the people and the refusal to grant them by the government. Most wars of independence were fought for this very reason. Freedom in it’s entirety is a goal sought after by every people, and even today these rights are still fought for-Iran’s protests for freedom being a key example. Unfortunately for the people of Iran and the world, these protests often end with repression and bloodshed, and nothing was changed by them.

The history of the world is deeply intertwined with the eternal ¬†quest for rights and freedom. “I will fight for my rights” is a phrase that can sum up a great deal of history. People claim to have these rights, simply by virtue of being human(animal rights are another issue). Yet, we ever seem to be discovering new rights-the right to internet access -and even developed nations differ on their opinion on certain rights, which is why the US is one of the few developed nations not to have free universal health care.

But where do these rights come from? Most people just say “These are human rights” and leave it at that. But on this point, I would disagree.

There is no intrinsic worth or value to a human. “Natural rights”, I think, are non-existent. There is nothing inherent to a human that makes it deserve anything. The right to free speech, free thought, to the pursuit of happiness if you will, is not ingrained into the human body. There is not an “aura” of any sort that contains these things. Not just by virtue of being human should we have these rights. Mark Twain once said “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” In that same vein, humans are merely occupants of the Earth. It does not owe us protection, freedom, or any sort of gift simply because we live here.

I’m not saying we should do away with all rights. Of course not. I simply say that we have rights because they are necessary for society, not because we simply have them. We need to have rights guaranteed to us for society to work. For civilization to advance further along, rights need to be in place. People need to be legally protected from injustice, and have the things that push advancement along-all the “free” rights-guaranteed. Things such as universal health care and, yes, internet access should be guaranteed as rights, to improve the quality of life and have the things necessary for survival in the modern world. But these things are not granted by virtue of being human. They are granted to humans, by humans, for the benefit of humans.

23 thoughts on “Right Are Given, Not Inherited

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Rights are Given, not Inherited: great student post from on the nature of our basic human rights #talons -- Topsy.com

  2. You say you believe “there is no intrinsic worth or value to a human”. If we are truly worthless, what value is there in creating a society?

    You are in fact backwards, society’s rules allow us to express the freedom all men should have. We don’t create rights to have society, we create society to keep our rights.Society is simply a reflection of what we believe to be important and a mechanism to keep those beliefs existing after we are gone.

  3. Chamberlain-we do not create a society for the sake of it, because we have worth. We create a society because we know, in the long run, that it is advantageous to live in a society that works and will progress.
    I disagree that society is formed to protect our rights. The vast majority of people had no rights to protect until thousands of years into the development of society(depending on the country you were in). Society formed as a way of giving yourself and your family an advantage over the people who weren’t in a society. Rights came later, when people wanted something and those in power realized they could not stop the mob from taking their own freedom for their own happiness.

  4. This was a very thought provoking and well written post. I agree with you that being human does not make us any more special than the millions of other species on our planet. As a matter of fact, we have used our power and sense of entitlement to repress and take away the “right” of many living things on earth.

    The question than becomes: Do other beings have rights and whose job is it to look out for them? This brings to mind The Lorax, the Dr. Seuss book, where The Lorax is in charge of speaking for the trees. I guess what I am trying to say is that, we have hoisted our own societies to levels which are not sustainable, and if we want to enjoy the very freedoms we have taken for granted and assume our unalienable rights, then we better start to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole.

    I am an international school teacher and my class blogs here:


    We are always looking for thoughtful people such as yourself to join in our learning. Stop by leave a comment. I think you and James would get along very well:


    Keep up the good work.

  5. hey give Mr. chamberlain a break i bet your not a good person 4 god sakes so leave him alone and i am his student he

  6. I love what you said about people thinking that they have certain rights, just because they are human. That is so true. And you are right, we don’t have rights just because we have them, but because they are necessary for society. I love your last sentence, “Rights are granted by humans, to humans, for the benefits of humans”. Keep up the good work.

  7. We are given rights. We do have them for a reason. Some people take advantage of being free and that is a right and most of us do.

  8. I like the 3D map given to you it is really coll when i zoomed out far i couldn’t find Mars bummer But it is cool.

  9. You have a point in the last few sentences people want rights to help benefit themselves they could careless about others just themselves. All in all I would have to agree with you good work on your passage.

  10. We are not worthless everything has some value lions keep the other animals from where ever the lion lives from over flowing and taking over, wolfs keep where ever they live from over flowing with animals that eat grass so the grass doesn’t leave, and we keep the predators under control so that they do not eat up all the prey and die of hunger cause then we would die to, but other than that your right.

  11. I know what you are saying, people have no worth, but they need to be put in limits so they can’t do anything wrong to others. Humans just make rights for other people to give their country more power. If the people have more freedom, the government is stronger. Everything you saying is telling people the leaders control all the others below them.

  12. Uh…wow. Thanks for the comments, everybody. Except for Daniel. I do not thank you for the insult.
    @Chayenne-while that is true, this does not give something worth. Each organism has it’s little niche in the ecosystem. While they are an important part of the system, this doesn’t give them worth, and does not give them rights. They have rights if those who are at the top of the food chain-namely, us-understand that they are a part of the system. We should understand that.
    @Ben-I completely agree. We’re on the same page here. Not putting limits and rules against killing is not a good idea. Ultimately, it is the leaders that grant us rights, but the whole point of democracy is to have them represent the people, meaning they control which rights tehy have.

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  15. “Right Are Given, Not Inherited”

    I agreed on this line. So as of the rest of what you have written. I love how you discuss about the world history of the concept of Rights.

    “They are granted to humans, by humans, for the benefit of humans.”

    Indeed, to gain the so called “Rights” we should give back Right unto others. Remember it is not inherited it is given.

    Angela of Cellulean Reviews

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