T Nation

Negative vs. Positive Rights


#1

It seems that much political debate centers around what type of rights should be protected. There are two types of rights: negative and positive.

Most supporters of "big government"(they often don't believe they are, and who am I to say otherwise?) believe that people have positive rights. Most supporters of "small government"(if positive rights exist, then supporters of small government-libertarians, "tea party" types, Constitutionalists, etc.-may actually be supporters of tyranny) like the concept of negative rights.

Positive rights require the action of others. Negative rights require that others not act against you.

A negative right to life requires that others not kill you. A positive right to life requires that one needing a lung transplant to live be given a lung transplant, regardless of his ability to pay for it, the willingness of another to provide him with it, etc.

Should a restaurant be forced to serve, say, people with dark skin? Does the owner of a business have a right to decide how to run his business, or does a member of a protected class have a right to the service of others?

Negative rights do not violate the negative rights of others; however, positive rights can conflict.

What type of rights do we have? What are they?


#2

Is this a negative right?

You may not deny anyone any service that they may need to save their life.


#3

[quote]magick wrote:
Is this a negative right?

You may not deny anyone any service that they may need to save their life.[/quote]

No(in fact, that’s not a right at all-it’s a statement affirming a positive right to life).


#4

Any rights we have exist insofar as nobody stops us from doing what we want to do, so I would say negative.

We have the right to freedom of speech and the press, insofar as nobody censors what we say or read.

We have the right to worship our own God, or no God at all, insofar as nobody attempts to force their own version of God onto us.

We have the right to bear arms, insofar as the arms we want to bear are not outlawed.

We have the right to be secure in our homes and persons, insofar as a cop doesn’t decide to frisk us on the street, or search our car for the hell of it, or bug our phone, or snatch our computer and scan the hard drive.

We have the right to life, insofar as nobody tries to kill us.

We have the right to liberty, insofar as nobody tries to enslave us.

And we have the right to pursue happiness and property, insofar as nobody tries to hinder us from the pursuit through legislation, taxation, civil forfeiture and eminent domain.


#5

[quote]NickViar wrote:
Negative rights require the action of others. Positive rights require that others not act against you. [/quote]

I think you meant to say the opposite of this.

Positive rights involve other people doing stuff for you, whereas negative rights require that nobody hinders you.


#6

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]NickViar wrote:
Negative rights require the action of others. Positive rights require that others not act against you. [/quote]

I think you meant to say the opposite of this.

Positive rights involve other people doing stuff for you, whereas negative rights require that nobody hinders you.
[/quote]

I did. Thanks for catching it. I was wondering how magick was able to ask that question.


#7

Couldn’t this be individual vs collective rights?

Individual: life, liberty, property

Collective: The right to others life, liberty and property.


#8

I’d say that most of what people think of as “positive rights” are in fact priveleges and entitlements.

Nobody has the “right to vote”. Voting is a privilege afforded to full citizens of a representative democracy,and as such the privelege may be recinded if a person does not meet the requirements or live up to the responsibilities of being a full citizen. In the United States, we do not allow convicted felons to vote, which makes sense. I would say we should not allow the clinically insane to vote, either, but that would have serious consequences for the Democratic Party.

One might argue that we do not allow felons (or the insane) to own firearms, either, but this is not, I would say, a violation of their right to keep and bear arms, simply a restriction of the priveleges afforded by that right. A felon may still bear arms in the U.S. armed forces, and many currently do. And of course, a felon or lunatic may still keep and bear as many crossbows, broadswords, catapults, and ninja throwing stars as he wants. And many do.

The Bill of No Rights I posted over on the Constitutional Convention thread gives a good list of the various priveleges many people erroneously think of as “rights”.


#9

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:
Couldn’t this be individual vs collective rights?

Individual: life, liberty, property

Collective: The right to others life, liberty and property.[/quote]

Nobody has the right to anyone else’s life, liberty or property.

Anyone who says otherwise is my enemy.


#10

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:
Couldn’t this be individual vs collective rights?

Individual: life, liberty, property

Collective: The right to others life, liberty and property.[/quote]

Nobody has the right to anyone else’s life, liberty or property.

Anyone who says otherwise is my enemy.[/quote]

Exactly.


#11

[quote]Varqanir wrote:
Nobody has the right to anyone else’s life, liberty or property.
[/quote]

Bigot…or maybe racist…or homophobe.


#12

They are also mutually exclusive. Remember a positive right means that the government has the right to compel people who have done nothing wrong to serve whoever they deem worthy. Positive rights, first and foremost, mean that you do not own yourself. I don’t think that there are many people on the planet that believe in positive rights once they know what that fully means. There are plenty who “believe” in them without realizing what they mean. And many more who agree with them as long as they are on the benefiting side of compulsion. But, if you whittle it down to fully aware humans, with full knowledge of the net effect of positive rights, and with unbiased evaluation of the consequences, I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.


#13

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
They are also mutually exclusive. Remember a positive right means that the government has the right to compel people who have done nothing wrong to serve whoever they deem worthy. Positive rights, first and foremost, mean that you do not own yourself. I don’t think that there are many people on the planet that believe in positive rights once they know what that fully means. There are plenty who “believe” in them without realizing what they mean. And many more who agree with them as long as they are on the benefiting side of compulsion. But, if you whittle it down to fully aware humans, with full knowledge of the net effect of positive rights, and with unbiased evaluation of the consequences, I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

What he said.


#14

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on.


#15

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on. [/quote]

HAH. That is actually a far better argument that I expected here. My daughter is only 6 months old though so I’ll let you know in about 17 years. And as an aside, I believe the parent-child relationship is unique and entirely worthy of special rights.


#16

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on. [/quote]

HAH. That is actually a far better argument that I expected here. My daughter is only 6 months old though so I’ll let you know in about 17 years. And as an aside, I believe the parent-child relationship is unique and entirely worthy of special rights.[/quote]

Nah, the irrational, illogical arguments will come in about 17 months, lol. But just like those for positive rights you’ll look at her like “I know you are intelligent, how on Earth did you think that was an okay thing to do/think/say. Oh yeah, you’re 2 (3 or 4 or 6, whatever.)”


#17

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on. [/quote]

HAH. That is actually a far better argument that I expected here. My daughter is only 6 months old though so I’ll let you know in about 17 years. And as an aside, I believe the parent-child relationship is unique and entirely worthy of special rights.[/quote]

When does a parent no longer own a child, and what are the ramifications of your answer for the abortion argument?


#18

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on. [/quote]

HAH. That is actually a far better argument that I expected here. My daughter is only 6 months old though so I’ll let you know in about 17 years. And as an aside, I believe the parent-child relationship is unique and entirely worthy of special rights.[/quote]

When does a parent no longer own a child, and what are the ramifications of your answer for the abortion argument?[/quote]

You don’t physically own the person, ever. You own the responsibility, and with that responsibility comes the bets gift life can give, love.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your boys teach you how to be a man, and your daughters teach you what love truly is.


#19

[quote]NickViar wrote:
It seems that much political debate centers around what type of rights should be protected. There are two types of rights: negative and positive.

[/quote]

That’s one way of looking at rights that was popular in the 18th Century. Another way to look at rights would be duties and obligations. And then there’s the argument as to whether “natural rights” exist extrinsic to man and man made rights were are sometimes called legal or legislative rights. Jeremy Bentham for example didn’t believe in natural rights. Generally(but not exclusively) natural rights and natural law are associated with religious thinkers and the concept dates back to Aquinas and earlier.

Of course not! You think I want to have to eat around a bunch of niggers? No but seriously, the problem with many libertarians is they take a maximalist, extreme position on negative rights. You can see how loopie it is when they have to actually articulate a working system. Just take a look at the crackpot stuff that Rothbard and more recent kooks like Molyneux have come up with. They’re cranks and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

We should of course lean towards giving businesses, private individuals and entities as much freedom as possible to conduct lawful business or other activities however they see fit. The particulars of the whole range of anti-discrimination and post 60’s “civil rights” legislation, particularly in the form of positive rights as you mention is a major problem of course. But I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to concentrate on the aspects of civil rights legislation pertaining to forcing businesses to serve everyone. There are more important things to tackle.

[quote]

Negative rights do not violate the negative rights of others; however, positive rights can conflict.

What type of rights do we have? What are they?[/quote]

I believe in natural rights. Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke and others have described very similar definitions of natural rights and they pretty much accord with mine; in a nutshell, a right to life, liberty and private property.


#20

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]countingbeans wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
I cannot even fathom an argument for positive rights.[/quote]

You have kids?

Think of one of their emotional melt downs. Now imagine it being a college age kid with a Che shirt on. [/quote]

HAH. That is actually a far better argument that I expected here. My daughter is only 6 months old though so I’ll let you know in about 17 years. And as an aside, I believe the parent-child relationship is unique and entirely worthy of special rights.[/quote]

When does a parent no longer own a child, and what are the ramifications of your answer for the abortion argument?[/quote]

Never owns.