| So what are rights? If there are none of these things, functionally, despite what anyone might claim, then what are they? How do they function in daily life? How are they exercised inalienably by every person everywhere that has ever existed, regardless of the government that claimed authority over them?

George Potter wrote:

“Rights: Not granted or protected by any state, God or magical hoodoo monster. What we call rights are reciprocal agreements negotiated on the fly between individuals. They are not granted, but claimed and defended. Otherwise they do not exist.”

It’s that middle sentence that is the key. “Rights are reciprocal agreements negotiated on the fly between individuals.” Reciprocal means that the agreement is equal both ways. On-the-fly means they are adjusted to compensate for individual priorities and needs at any given moment. And they must be between individuals.

How does this definition work in the real world?

When you are walking down the street, you are exercising a set of rights. You claim a new space, and relinquish an old one. When you see someone walking towards you on a collision course, what happens?

Usually, both of you dodge, feint, indicate or otherwise try to avoid a collision. But there is a complete rights negotiation, agreement, and fulfillment with every interaction.

You take a step, laying clam to a space.

He takes a step, laying claim to that space. Direction and momentum indicate future claims to a conflicting space.

You acknowledge his claim of his right to walk down the street.

He acknowledges yours.

At that point, you have a reciprocal agreement with each other. You have a functioning “right.” He has claimed the right to walk down the street and you have acknowledged it. In return, he has acknowledged your claim.

Now, you begin negotiating. He indicates that he will avoid the conflicted rights by stepping to his right. You negotiate that you will step to your right. You indicate this through body language, change in direction and momentum, or even verbal words, such as “Excuse me!” Each of you negotiates while you are walking past each other how to exercise your equal, reciprocal right peacefully.

And then when you get the point where your agreement is fulfilled and each is able to pass peacefully through successful negotiation, there’s a good chance you will smile, say thanks, laugh, or indicate a measure of success to each other.

This successful negotiation cannot happen unless each of you recognizes and respects the other’s claimed right.

So what happens in our street-walking scenario if one of the parties does *not* reciprocate? What if your claimed right is denied?

You claim your right to walk on the street into a space.

He denies your claim, by not acknowledging your claim. You know this because he does not begin negotiating. He doesn’t change direction or momentum, doesn’t slow down, doesn’t indicate he acknowledges your right in any way. At this point, you have several choices. Most of us, in this situation would abdicate the right to *that* space at *that* time and move to a different spot. The right to walk down the street has not been taken away, nor is your claim to it invalidated. But the conflict must be resolved. It was *not* resolved respectfully, because your claim was not reciprocated, but it was resolved without violence. If you are unable to avoid a conflict, the chances are good there will be angry looks, words, and potentially violence. Shoving through you into the space you had claimed is an act of violence. You could choose to defend your claim, which would mean resisting his attack in some way, perhaps verbal, physical, or psychological. Some people will even deal with this conflict by denying yet another person’s claim to space, by pushing *them* out of the way in order to avoid the brute that is about to step on them.

But all of this pushing and shoving is not a function of rights. It is conflict resolution. Conflict is what happens when an individual’s claimed rights are not acknowledged and reciprocated. Follow this through to *any* interaction between individuals. When their claimed rights are not reciprocated and acknowledged, conflict of some kind ensues. Read More