A concise paper on Natural Law and Natural Rights.
What is Natural Law?
First to state what it isn’t, Natural Law is not Common Law, nor Positive Law. Natural Laws stem from the natural base of individual human thought i.e. Natural Law is emplaced by reason, and not force. The Latter being bodies of Positive Law. Common Law may be taken from both Natural and Positive Law; It is the universal set of laws that are generally (commonly) accepted within society.
Natural Law originates, or comes into being through reason. As the reasoning abilities of a given society increase/progress (i.e. calculus is built upon algebra), so too does the ability to understand what are the ultimate best interests of all free individuals who live within it. In other words, the development of reasoning skills within a society is concomitant with the development of a higher and greater morality.
From the development of social morality/Natural Law, social order naturally derives from reasoned rational negotiation instead of the initiation of force (violence), in other words, individuals utilizing the carrot e.g. ‘mutual contract’ instead of the stick e.g. the stick, will promote civility and develop complex cooperative inter-relationships. Without violence and under free, voluntary contract, individuals construct a civil society i.e. a society free of theft, enslavement, & murder, and hence people are greatly empowered to invest their labor and resources in the development of society allowing great benefits to all.
The corruption of Natural Law then, is the corruption of morality and a failing of people to employ reason; hence the best interests of all individuals, cannot be met.
When freedoms are diluted & diminished by violent oppressors, so too does the order from which it stems – i.e., as Natural Laws can only be curtailed by violence and/or the false belief that one’s best interest is served through submission to a group, and as Natural Law is morality, then those who condone the initiation of force and/or submit themselves to the collective will of a group are acting immorally i.e. not in their own long term best interests.
It therefore follows that the society which restricts itself to the defense of Natural Law and thus individual liberty and that has a population interested in the further development of reason & morality shall be the most ordered and lawful society possible at any given time.
What is a natural right?
Natural Rights are derivations of Natural Law. Specifically they detail what should be the state of the individual within a civil society such that the ultimate long term best interests of all individuals in society can be met.
What are the basic Natural Rights of individuals?
1. The right to your life [freedom from the initiation of force against your person]
2. The right to the products of your labor [freedom from enslavement]
3. The right to your private property, including your own body [freedom from theft]
A civil society of individuals working in their own long term best interests must therefore protect each of these rights for each and every individual in society. Other Natural Rights may also be derived, however, as Natural Rights are derived by reason, at no point may any rights contradict each other.
How does Natural Law function in society?
Natural Law and rights shall function by default if, within a given society:
- reason is promoted by all able individuals
- information is unbounded
- no area of thought is restricted e.g. as social taboo
- individuals do not tolerate any coercive individuals/groups/gangs i.e. all such entities must be prosecuted for any immoral behavior
If one or more of the above conditions is not met, then Natural Law and Natural Rights shall not function as effectively, however they must always function to some extent, else there shall be no civil society.
This work, Natural Law & Rights by Tyler Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.