Thirsting After Sanity, March 26th, 2009
The University of Calgary
In your article you argue that by extension the right to life implies that humans have a right to water. This is a gross misunderstanding of what it means for an individual to have a right. The concept, properly understood, does not refer to entitlement, but to freedom from force. Having the right to liberty, for example, does not mean that you are entitled to own a personal jet. It simply means that no one has license to restrict your liberty. Having the right to free speech does not entitle you to a bullhorn and an auditorium. It simply means that no one may prevent you from gaining lawful access to the means of expressing yourself. Similarly, the right to life does not guarantee you the means of your survival, but rather, ensures that no one has the authority to prevent you from promoting your life by your own efforts. Regardless of whether we are discussing necessities like water, food and shelter or a luxury like owning a Rolex, the principle is the same: The right to life allows individuals to go about the business of living—free from outside force. The significance of a right being a freedom and not an entitlement is that the former allows for the pursuit of one’s happiness and the latter demands it of others.