Are personal freedoms a myth? A fairytale? Is it true that you have no true freedom, that you only have temporary privileges that you enjoy until someone tells you to stop enjoying them? This is definitely a philosophy that is prevalent among the supporters of authoritarian government. However is this rational?
If privileges are only temporary and exist only until someone tells me to stop enjoying them, then in the absence of others, I am free. Well this seems to point to the idea of a universal freedom rather than a freedom that is given by any specific person, and indeed that seems true. So we have in a way a contradiction; since freedoms naturally exist until they are taken away, they can not be mythical or fleeting.
If however we assume that rights, instead of being transient, are perpetual, unless oppressed by an outside force, then we do not have a contradiction; as soon as the oppressor is removed from the picture, our freedom suddenly is expressible once again; thus it seems that the idea of persistent freedom is more rational.
Definition of Rights
Okay; it’s great to think about something from an entirely philosophical point of view, but that doesn’t always help us out. So, now I will discuss rights, starting with a working definition. A right is that which is voluntary maintained by a group of people in the absence of a superset of people and is recursively predicated on the rights of every subgroup of the group.
The aforementioned working definition puts the individual at the center of what is a right. It is not something that is maintained by government or any other cultural construct. If it were, then the government would not need to actively suppress rights of individuals or groups. Culture does play a role in the workings of rights however. Specifically, each culture determines how to manage situations of conflicting rights by fashioning a hierarchy of rights.