Do People Have A Right To Live?

The Knee-Jerk Answer (Yes!) Is Incorrect

By Alan Korwin

It sure seems right to say, “Of course!” people have a right to live. It’s the most fundamental, pure, God-given right there is. Your right to exist pre-dates and preempts all other rights and laws, or else no force of law, no sense of morality, nothing else would have any weight. But this seemingly self-evident built-in truth is deceptive when you get right down to it.

Your right to exist only exists if you can insist upon it. Nothing is intrinsic about it. If you can’t defend and protect your life against everything that would deny it to you then you have nothing.

In modern civil society we keep those forces at bay fairly well. But those forces-of-denial come in many shapes and sizes, including completely arbitrary natural ones, like storms, wild animals, spoiled food and the infinite variety of accidents that can snatch away your life despite any “rights” you may think or wish you had.

On a more sinister note, this sacrosanct right you’d like to think is yours can be summarily removed quickly by criminal action, or worse, by government action, in the form of police, war, naked corrupt aggression, massive accidental poisoning, flawed construction, unjust justice — lots of options. You must be vigilant and defend this delicate “right” you have to life. It doesn’t just come naturally, or without effort. The need to feed and clothe yourself, and maintain constant adequate shelter is part and parcel of this ephemeral right to life you imagine is yours.

What You Really Have

So to be clear, you don’t have a right to life, you have an ability to have life. You must exercise this ability, with both intellect and use of force, to keep what you have.

In order to protect and have the life you have, you need property, whether private or communal. You need to acquire this property, by any means necessary — your life depends on it. Peaceful acquisition has advantages over aggressive acquisition. Methods vary over the eons, but one must occur. The aggression can be nearby, far removed, ancient or externalized.

Then you need ability to protect that property, so others don’t take it from you and leave you without the necessities to support your life (food, clothing and shelter, primarily). Currently we use the nation-state system, and in the U.S., a (somewhat) private-property system, all maintained by armed force, on property originally obtained by force. No one “owns” land in a pure sense. They have land they have taken and held.

It’s no secret if we dropped our collective guard for any length of time, our property and our lives would be at risk, if not forfeited. People worldwide are poised to pounce on us, given the chance. Leave a border unsecured and people flood in, literally by the millions, to get some of what we have, it’s not a theory.

Leave your bike unchained on any traveled route and see how long it stays there. Your right to live is no greater than your right to leave your bike unattended and expect it to be there days later. What does that say about your natural right to lock up your bike or to defend your life against someone trying to take it from you? Can anyone legitimately ban you from doing such things? Of course not. Don’t you have a right to work for food (if you can find work), lock up your bike (if you can afford a bike and lock) and use anything available to you to defend your life or the lives of your family (assuming you choose to do so)? Yes, yes and yes.

This is what’s called natural law. No laws need to be passed for these truths and rules to exist. If a lion tries to eat you, you can work to beat it back, i.e., defend yourself, with or without a stick, with or without a point. Self-defense is one of the most fundamental natural laws. Almost everything else can trace back to that. This is where intangible right to life resides.

You can plow a field to make potatoes, acting on survival instincts that are natural law. You can get your hands on a plow horse somehow and do your best to protect it. These things work simply by the way things are. Putting a limit on how fast you can plow, or how many potatoes you can grow, that’s man’s law. We may all agree to it, and maybe for good reason, but it’s not natural law. Turns out in a society of significant size you need some of both.

American law is based in good measure on natural law. When a society gets as large as ours, we need laws to manage trash, who can build fires where, what to do with sewage, and people must comply with the laws, which are enforced, with force, to benefit all.
In modern society, the pointed stick is a sidearm. The need to use it is as crucial — when it’s needed — as when a lion tries to eat you, though maybe less often (but who knows for sure). Natural law demands its presence.

Man’s law though, promoted by some, seeks to severely limit gun presence and use. Restraint in using sidearms makes sense, but restricting their innocent availability makes as much sense as insisting lions get to eat you so they don’t go hungry. You could choose that for yourself, but no one can legitimately choose it for you — it’s your life to protect, not theirs to relinquish.

Alan Korwin’s website features books and DVD’s on state and federal gun laws for the public. Visit

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