Permission versus Rights

A right is the sanction of independent action. 
A right is that which can be exercised 
without anyone’s permission.
If you exist only because society permits you to exist
you have no right to your own life.

A permission can be revoked at any time.
If, before undertaking some action, 
you must obtain the permission of society
you are not free, 
whether such permission is granted to you or not. 
Only a slave acts on permission. 
A permission is not a right.
 “Rights” are a moral concept
the concept that preserves and protects 
individual morality in a social context
the link between the moral code of a man 
and the legal code of a society, 
between ethics and politics
Individual rights are the means of 
subordinating society to moral law.
Man holds these rights, 
not from the Collective 
nor for the Collective, 
but against the Collective
as a barrier which the Collective cannot cross; 
these rights are man’s protection 
against all other men.
Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action 
are properties of the individual, 
since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not 
depends on the individual, 
man’s survival requires that those who think 
be free of the interference of those who don’t. 
Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, 
they must be free to agree or disagree, 
to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, 
each according to his own rational judgment.
Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.
Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; 
living in a human society is his proper way of life
but only on certain conditions. 
Man is not a lone wolf 
and he is not a social animal. 

He is a contractual animal
He has to plan his life long-range
make his own choices
and deal with other men by voluntary agreement 
and he has to be able to rely 
on their observance of the agreements they entered.
Do not make the mistake, at this point, 
of thinking that a worker is a slave 
and that he holds his job by his employer’s permission. 
He does not hold it by permission
but by contract, 
that is, by a voluntary mutual agreement. 
A worker can quit his job. 
A slave cannot.
 In a free society, men are not forced to deal with one another. 
They do so only by voluntary agreement and, 
when a time element is involved, by contract. 

If a contract is broken  
by the arbitrary decision of one man
it may cause a disastrous financial injury to the other
This leads to one of the most important 
and most complex functions of the government: 
to the function of an arbiter who settles disputes among men 
according to objective laws.

Excerpts from the Ayn Rand Column