The Concept of Rights and the Social Context
The concept of rights as such only arises in a political, i.e., a social context. It is only in the real or imagined context of parties to a dispute appealing to some outside third party that one party can meaningfully complain that his rights are being violated and that the third party should find in his favor. (This is not to say that a person's moral rights disappear if he becomes stranded with only one other person. This is to say that the idea of rights itself could not arise if there were not some prior knowledge of a wider social context in which the political concept of rights could be identified.) If there were only two parties in the world and there were a dispute between them, then the first could speak of the other's interest, but if they did not agree and one party initiated force, what would the second do? Would the second party, beyond threatening to defend himself, then say, "Well, now you are violating my rights and I am going to appeal to" . . . blank out?
Epistemologically, the concept of rights requires the concept of some objective outside party to which one can make an argument based on a moral principle. Moral principles are necessary. But they alone without knowledge of a social-political context are not sufficient for the identification of the concept of rights.
Of course, if you want to ignore the context in which the concept is formed, and say that we already have the concept, so, academically, we can look at two parties on a desert island and say that the one has violated the rights of the other, we can ignore the fact that concepts develop, and simply take them for granted. Not that that would help the party whose rights had been violated if no external arbiter ever intervened. But that is a naive and ultimately pernicious view of what concepts are which Objectivism rejects. Objectivism doesn't take concepts, like values, as causeless givens. It asks and always asks under what circumstances they can arise.
Neither capitalism nor egoism nor minarchism nor romanticism is the essence of Objectivism. Anarchists may think that the essence of Rand is her politics, but compared to the essential nature of her epistemological method, which anarchists necessarily do not comprehend, her politics and her stands on other more concrete issues amount almost to mere accidents in the Aristotelian sense. Objectivism is the rejection of package deals and of stolen and floating and frozen concepts. Without the analysis of the contextual origin of individual concepts there is no such thing as Objectivism. The concept of rights would never arise if there were not some (potentially objective) third party to which at least one of the parties of a dispute could appeal.
Of course we all live in society. It is difficult for us to step back and imagine what it would be like to have no disinterested party to appeal to in the case of a dispute. We become used as children to complaining that a sibling or peer has violated our rights by the age of three, before the age at which we form permanent memories that will last to adulthood. Just as it requires a very deep focus to understand why it doesn't make sense for an indestructible being to have values, it requires an intellectual leap to understand that if two people had grown up on an island without the knowledge of the existence of any other persons, it would not make sense for one to add on top of the fact that he does not want the other to take his food, that doing so was a violation of his rights. There would be no context under which the differentiation between not simply wanting the other to do something enough to resort to force and viewing the other's actions as a criminal act could be made.
For one castaway to accuse the other of violating his rights (rather than just doing something he would fight to prevent) would make as much sense as one lifelong castaway accusing the other of speaking a foreign language if the other started speaking in tongues. There would be confusion, but the identification of the uncomprehended speach as a foreign language would be impossible. There would never have been any circumstance under which to differentiate the idea of a foreign language from mere babble. The concept rights is like the concept foreign language. It cannot arise without the experience of an outside party.