Positive and Negative Rights

Have you ever wondered what the difference between positive and negative right is? I don’t believe that I actually even knew that these rights ever existed.

Let’s begin with negative rights. Negative rights are not in reality “negative,” they are actually quite beneficial to us. My teacher, Tom Woods, says that “negative rights do not require anything from anyone else except for not interfering with you.” In other words, nobody has to do anything for you to let you have negative rights, these rights occur naturally. With negative rights people are able to leave me (and themselves) alone and don’t have to do anything for me in order for me to have my negative right.   A few examples of negative rights are the right to life (the right not to be killed), the right to property, and the right to sleep. No one has to do anything for me in order to not kill me; no one has to do anything to give me the right to property (they simply don’t have to take away [steal] my property); and no one has to do anything for me to give me the right to sleep. These examples do not require anyone to do something in order for me to have my right.

Positive rights are rights “that place some obligation on others to bestow certain benefits on you.” Take, for example, a right to police protection. A police officer would have to be trained by someone before he could be capable of protecting me. Numerous peoples’ lives would be affected by my right to police protection. Another example of a positive right is the right to health care. Someone, like a doctor, would have to give his time in order for me to have the right to health care- he would have to do something. These example of positive rights require someone to do something in order for me to have my right.

In conclusion positive rights oblige action from a person and negative rights oblige inaction from a person. Which rights do you prefer?

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