“Their own confession of guilt lies in their terminology. Why do they use the word ‘rights’ to denote the things they are advocating? Why don’t they preach what they practice? Why don’t they name it openly and attempt to justify it, if they can? The answer is obvious.”
Ayn Rand, Essay “Collectivized ‘Rights’” (June 1963),
The Virtue of Selfishness, Chapter 14, p124
Today, few people can coherently argue for rights: what they are, why they are needed, who has them, and how. Most people’s understanding of rights is that they are had by majority vote, or by virtue of possessing the human genome, or by the decree of some appointed authority such as the United Nations, the Founding Fathers, or Scripture. This critical lack of understanding is why rights are being abrogated the world over in the name of “rights,” and why that abrogation is being met with popular support rather than moral outrage, fierce resistance, and convincing argument.
The fact is that rights are gained by reasoning. Rights result from reason identifying its own existential needs in a social context. It is because of a lack of reasoning, and of reasoned self-awareness specifically, that populaces are trading away their rights for privileges misnamed as “rights.”
The aim of this short course is to engage your reasoning, and bring an objective understanding of rights within your reach so that you can, with a bit of effort, grasp what rights actually are, then use your new-found knowledge to defend not only your rights, but the very institution of rights.
Getting straight to the point: A skeleton definition of rights is that a right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.  In the pages that follow, this definition is expanded upon, and several concepts to do with rights are introduced. These include (and don’t worry if this list is overwhelming at first – it is what you will come to learn by reading on): man, who is the subject of rights; moral space, which rights define and maximize; autonomy and liberty, which are the personal enjoyment of moral space and the universal enjoyment of autonomy, respectively; agape or good-willed reasoning, which is the ethos needed to be fit for liberty; immorality, amorality, and privilege, which are three corollaries of any rights violation (the last when the violation is sanctioned by law); the nature of rights, including the five stages of realizing rights; compossibility, which is a litmus test for the legitimacy of any set of asserted rights; a proper epistemology of rights, which differentiates between needing rights, having rights in mind, and enjoying rights; rights-recognition, which is the judicial application of rights; property, the right to which is the only means of implementing rights compossibly; and finally, individual rights versus collective “rights,” which are the concept and anti-concept of rights respectively.