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Your Rights Don't Require My Participation


Can you have a right that requires another person to help you exercise that right? The answer to this question will make it much easier for you to identify your legitimate natural rights.

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In my last column here at TheBlaze, I discussed the concept of what a “natural right” is and what it isn’t. This week, let’s go over one practical way that you can identify what your specific rights actually are.

One of the most important characteristics of a legitimate natural right is that it cannot require the participation of another person to help you exercise that right. No matter how much some people today want to claim otherwise, you cannot have a right to something like health care or to have someone bake you a wedding cake. As I explained this weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, the problem with rights like those is, what happens if the other person chooses not to participate in helping you exercise your rights?

That’s the major problem with the idea that you can have a right that requires the participation of another person: it is completely inconsistent with the fact that all men are created equal.

Let’s use the “right” to have someone bake you a wedding cake to illustrate why that’s true. You decide that you want to exercise your right, so you go to this other person that you would like to bake the cake for you. The only problem is, that person chooses not to bake it for you.

Keep in mind that the question here isn’t whether or not this other person's decision is morally correct. People have a right to do all kinds of things that are immoral. The question we’re dealing with is: Do you have a right to demand that he bake a cake for you?

All that matters in this hypothetical case is that the other chooses not to bake a cake for you.

What are your options now? You either have to accept being denied your “right” to have this person bake you a cake… or you can get the government to force this person to bake a cake for you against his will.

The problem with the second option is that this other person also has a right to choose whether or not he wants to bake a cake (a right to liberty). So your right to have this person bake a cake for you is in direct conflict with the other person’s right to liberty. That creates a situation where society would have to decide whose rights are going to be violated. In other words, society has to decide who is superior to whom. Who is going to have full access to his rights? And who will have his rights trampled on for the benefit of someone else?

Do you see the problem there? If all men are created equal, then we all must have equal access to our rights. That is why there cannot be a right to something that requires another person to participate. It makes it impossible for us all to have equal access to our rights.

As you are trying to identify your specific rights, one of the first questions to ask yourself is, “Can I exercise this right on my own, without violating the rights of another person?” If the answer to that question is no, then what you have in mind simply is not a right.

It’s critical for us to understand the nature and scope of our rights. If we don’t know what our rights are, we’ll never be able to protect them and maintain a free society.

Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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