Without legal definitions rights are just whatever we say they are. I say I have a right to that vase over there. Notice that I didn’t say “your” vase. I don’t think it’s your vase. You say I don’t. Who gets to be right? I say I have a right to kill you. You say I don’t. Who gets to be correct? We are often told we can defend our own property with guns. This artful trope misses a huge presupposition – that we know what our rights are. I can use my gun for whatever I think is my right in a stateless society. Who can tell me I can’t? People with more guns? Who gets to tell them what rights are?
Rights without backing are meaninglessWhen they are not backed by legal force, by contrast, moral rights are toothless by definition. Unenforced moral rights are aspirations binding on conscience, not powers binding on officials.
Without a system to delineate what a right is, and a system to protect them, rights just belong to whoever buy them through force. The opposite of freedom. Rights are just whatever I say they are.
Legal conventions costs money, and must be provided to everyone if they are to be provided to anyone. As a result, they fall under the category of public goods, and require a call upon a public treasury. Such things much be finances through some form of taxation. For freedom to exist, taxes must be collected and some form of government must be set up.
Philosophers also distinguish between liberty and the value of liberty. Liberty has little value if those who ostensibly possess it lack the resources to make their rights effective. Freedom to hire a lawyer means little if all lawyers charge fees, if the state will not help, and if you have no money. The right to private property, an important part of liberty, means little if you lack the resources to protect what you own and the police are unavailable. Only liberties that are valuable in practice lend legitimacy to a liberal political order. – The Cost of Rights