The Contradiction of Negative and Positive Rights

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Ethical theory holds that a negative right means that no person shall be subjected to the harmful actions of another person or group of people while a positive right requires that a person be subjected to the beneficial actions of another person or group of people.

Only the first instance, the so-called and inadequately named, “negative right” involves wrongs of any sort. The second instance requires provision of goods or services from one person to another.

If there are such things as “rights” then the foremost is the right to be remain inviolate in person and effects. All other rights are variations on that basic theme.

The provision of goods and services to another person against the will of the person providing the good or service requires expropriation which violates that primary right. This renders the very concept of positive rights invalid.

A reasonable way to avoid the confusion caused by the collision of negative and positive rights is to abandon use of the term “rights” altogether and instead discuss remedy for the violation of a person or a person’s effects. So, to strike at the root of social injustice stop talking about rights and focus on remediation of wrongs.

There is a good video at the Liberty Classroom discussing the idea of Negative and Positive Rights

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