Monday, February 13, 2006



There are two important approachs to rights, freedom, and liberty. The first is called negative freedom (rights, liberties). The second is positive freedom.

Negative rights are rights "against" coercion or force - i.e. the right protecting against another person's infringement on your person or property.

Positive rights is the freedom "to". It is an approach where an individual is entitled to a certain amount or standard.

Most modern philosophers contend that individuals are entitled to both negative and positive rights. They deserve a right against coercive powers on life and liberty, but they feel that it is not enough. More is needed to attain wealth and in essence "move-up" in the world. This stems from an opinion that seems rather static to me, as if individuals simply stand still and are not capable or even able to better themselves in any respect without the use of redistribution or assistance from above. Moreover, I think positive rights infringe on the most basic negative right - theft of personal property. And without protection from coercion, what does anyone truly have any rights to or protection from? Without that most basic of stabilizing rights in a society, private property rights, how will a society be able to earn enough funds to make redistibution and entitlement worthwhile?

Although, I think there are flaws with this argument, I think that these two approachs fit the majority opinions (left and right) of Americans, so it is worth discussing.

Tibor Machan's working paper titled Two Philsophers Skeptical of Negative Liberty spells out the difference between the two opinions and helps explain the general Libertarian opinion in the realm of human rights and ethics.

Here is some more information on Negative and Positive Rights and Human Rights.

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