Political Philosophy: Liberty and Rights
3. Positive and Negative Rights
Aeon J. Skoble is a professor of philosophy at Bridgewater State University. His research in moral and political philosophy includes theories of rights, the nature and justification of authority, virtue ethics, and theories of legal interpretation.
Prof. Aeon J. Skoble describes the difference between positive and negative rights. Fundamentally, positive rights require others to provide you with either a good or service. A negative right, on the other hand, only requires others to abstain from interfering with your actions. If we are free and equal by nature, and if we believe in negative rights, any positive rights would have to be grounded in consensual arrangements.
- Two Concepts of Rights [Video]: Tom G. Palmer explains two concepts of rights, positive and negative.
- Saving Rights Theory from its Friend [Article]: Tom G. Palmer cautions us not to make everything we think is good a "right."
- The Perils of Positive Rights [Article]: Tibor R. Machan argues that "One of the most powerful ideas opposed to the free society is a notion political philosophers call 'positive rights'.”
- Positive Rights as Means Not Ends [Article]: Steven Horwitz attempts to examine the unseen costs of others' positive rights.
Use these questions to enhance your understanding of the topic. We recommend watching the featured video first; the suggested resources will also help.