Rights vs Justice

I was stumbling my way across the Internet and discovered this response to a question about whether [some party] had a right to [some action].

Countries don’t have rights. Rights are something that someone or some entity with power affords to those under that power. The most common example being a government giving rights to its citizens.

Things like the universal declaration of human rights detail nothing more than an agreement by its signatories on what rights a government should give its people.

But the important thing to note is that if a government gives a particular right, that doesn’t mean that such a right is just. For example, Americans in certain states before 1864 had the right to own slaves. That doesn’t mean that owning slaves was the right thing to do. And in the reverse situation, women in the US before 1920 did not have the right to vote, but that doesn’t mean that it was right for them not to have the right to vote.

Now to the point. The only sorts of “rights” a country may have are those imposed by some even higher body. You could say that’s the UN. However, even if the UN says that a country has or doesn’t have the right to do some particular thing, that doesn’t mean that the rights given by the UN are right.

The real question you should be asking is this: Is it just?

And that of course is a matter of opinion.

I thought this was quite thought-provoking. And I think it aligns well with my framework for rights too.

What stands out to me is how closely rights should be based on justice. More importantly, rights should give justice to one party without harming another.

Take the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One’s ability to chase those for themselves does not negatively impact another’s ability to pursue theirs. Here are some other examples:

It might not be a perfect framework, but I think it’s a good starting point to keep in mind when hearing the word ‘rights’ thrown out so much in politics. What do you think?

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