It is mind boggling to me that people do not understand one of the most basic concepts, “right to life.” In the shadow of COVID-19 people have been using this expression to gaslight others into feeling bad for wanting to get back to work, wanting to walk in the park with their kids and just wanting to get back to living. This is just another misreading of what was intended when the founders said we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One of the biggest reasons for the oh-so-common misreading and misinterpretation of our rights is the lack of knowledge to the two different types of rights. There are negative rights and positive rights. Negative rights are rights that individuals have that do not require action or cooperation from another person. For instance, your right to free speech does not require action from another person. A positive right requires that others must help you. For example, when Bernie Sanders says “healthcare is a human right” he is referring to a positive right. By saying this, he is saying that you have the right to force a healthcare professional to treat you.
In the Declaration of Independence the founders told us they were talking about negative rights. The line right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In this line the founders are telling us that the rights they are mentioning are to be interpreted as negative rights.
Yes the most basic and most important right that we have as individuals is our right to life. This means that you have the right to live and not be killed by another entity, whether it be another person or the government. This is in fact a negative right because me continuing to live does not force action upon another person.
In regards to COVID-19, you have the right to defend your life how you see fit. You have the right to self quarantine, stay at home, and not come into contact with anyone if that’s how you think that you will best protect yourself. For instance my wife and I started self quarantining March 13th before ANY municipality issued a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. My wife was in the first trimester of pregnancy at the time, so we thought that would be best for us.
You do not have the right to use the threat of a government gun to force others to stay inside their home, to not work, and become unemployed just because it gives you a sense of safety.