Notes on founding principles of rights etc for Unit 3

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The notion of rights
Within society there are many parts of life that we often consider to constitute from the trivial
such as the right to go to the cinema or a music concert, the personal such as the right to
choose whether or not to have children or to decide who our sexual partners and the
political, for example the right to a private ballot so we can vote for whom we want without
fear of reprisals or the right to join a political party that we feel represents our views. Rights
are usually divided into who has the rights such as workers' rights and what they are a write
such as a funded state education up until the age of 18.
Rights can be broadly defined as `an entitlement to perform or refrain from certain actions
and a duty of other people to perform or refrain from performing certain actions towards
me'. For example, I have a right not to be killed without provocation and my right entails a
duty on fellow citizens to refrain from killing me unless I provoke you to a justifiable extent.
Wesley Hoefeld provided a categorisation of rights arguing that all rights fall into one of four
distinctions: (1) privilege/liberty ­ the right to do X, the right to not do Y as I have a duty not
to, (2) claim ­ I can claim that in certain situations others have a duty to do X such as the
right to be if I'm employed, (3) power ­ possessing the right to alter another's rights or
duties, for examples judges having the power to set jail sentences or to restrict someone's
rights to liberty through electronic tagging and (4) immunities ­ when I have the right to
pursue what I desire in a particular part of my life without any possibility of interference, an
example of this would be freedom of religious choice as no one has the power to impose a
particular concept of religion on me.
While these distinctions are undoubtedly useful in abstract debate over the origin and nature
of rights, and whether form or another is superior we can see that there is a complexity that
comes into position when it comes to everyday issues regarding rights. For example, I have
purchased my books, they are my property and as such I have the liberty/privilege to read
them, the claim that no one else has the right to read them as they are mine, the power to
waive that claim by lending them to people as well as the immunity from anyone else
transferring or waiving my property right to them. This simple example could be easily
applied to other pieces of property such as clothes, cars or indeed your house. However we
can also see that I do not have absolute rights to my property (unless I live in an anarchist
society outside the law) and that any transfer of property rights is usually temporary and for
a specific purpose. I may waive my right to my car for my neighbour so they can go and do
their shopping if their car has broken down, this however does not give them the right to
push my car into a river, furthermore depending on the system of taxes that exist in society it
may be possible that if I do not pay them my house or my books may be taken to cover any
debts I have incurred, thus showing that rights entail a fine balance between liberties and
duties and that in the case of some rights such as property rights political bodies have the
authority to suspend your rights temporarily if you do not adhere to your duties.
Natural rights are seen as rights that all humans have that can be seen to transcend laws and
indeed which can be violated by laws if the government of the day restricts the rights and

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As such natural rights tend to be supported by those who argue that there is an
objective, timeless morality that lays out rights that people have that continue to exist as
rights whether or not their government recognise and protect them as such.…read more

Page 3

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Instead it
can be seen turning franchise into a duty in return for the protection of other rights.
Another objection to choice being the grounding of rights is that it excludes certain other
protections that are not with concerned with making autonomous choices.…read more

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God's will, in this respect it is both in your interest and the
interest of the person whose right you would otherwise be violating if you instead to respect
it, a second version comes from the belief that if we agree to live in a moral community
together we agree to abide by its rules (for example in the early Muslim community that was
to become Medina the early followers of Muhammad agreed to respect the rights of those
whom they lived alongside by accepting…read more

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A second argument for justifying rights on political grounds is that inst6ead of contributing to
the greater they provide us with the possibility of legal protection when we find ourselves in
conflict with the greater good, occasionally with the aim of changing the greater good to
reflect our view. For example the right to peaceful protest and assembly has been used by
many marginalised groups in history when they have opposed the status quo and sought to
bring about social change.…read more

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It may in fact be
less costly for a state to keep all its citizens wellfed than to provide an adequate and
effective criminal justice system. Furthermore the form that the state takes may well have an
effect on the extent of rights.…read more

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Autonomy can be seen to resolve the conflict between rights and utility if we take it not as an
individual right but as a group right because it requires provisional duties such as education
facilities which, if we are looking to serve social utility need to be available to everyone.…read more


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