Where Do Rights Come From?

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Recently by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.: But I Thought Ron Paul Was the Candidate of BigBusiness

A reader writes: “My non-religious Libertarian friends completely disagree with my view that we are endowed with unalienable rights by our Creator. That being said, do you agree with that? (Right to be free, right to live) and if so, how can I defend my position to someone who feels rights can only come from a state?”

If your friends don’t believe in a Creator, then of course they aren’t going to believe that rights are bestowed by a Creator. That gap is unbridgeable as long as one of you is a religious believer and the other is not.

But I don’t understand why your friends think the only remaining option is that rights come from a state. There are other options, too: (1) there is no such thing as rights; and (2) rights exist, but are not divinely bestowed. They would be odd libertarians indeed to think people have no rights until a group of people wearing funny hats declare that they do, especially given that your friends would now need to explain how, if there is no such thing as rights prior to the state, these people get the right to establish a state and start barking out commands in the first place.

If you’re just looking to persuade your friends of the idea that rights exist, you might benefit from this lecture I gave on the history of rights theories. Unfortunately, it’s broken into small parts.

(Thanks to Travis Holte for the playlist.)

Reprinted with permission from TomWoods.com.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [send him mail; visit his website], a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, is the creator of Tom Woods's Liberty Classroom, a libertarian educational resource. He is the author of eleven books, including the New York Times bestsellers Meltdown (on the financial crisis; read Ron Paul's foreword) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and most recently Nullification and Rollback.

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