Natural rights - Politics in Minutes (2016)

Politics in Minutes (2016)

Natural rights

An important element of liberalism is the emphasis on the rights of individuals to go about their lives freely. Traditionally, it had been thought that rights are divinely granted, and these were cited in defence of institutions, such as hereditary privilege and the power of the clergy, but during the Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke (pictured) argued that there are some natural rights that are applicable to every human being. These, he said, are not only universal, but inalienable: they are not granted by a leader, government or religion, and do not depend on the beliefs and culture of a society, nor can they be restricted or removed by them.

These universal and inalienable natural rights to life, liberty and property are the foundations of the liberal ideology, and have been enshrined in the constitution of republics, such as the USA and France. They are, however, only the most basic of rights, which can be supplemented by legal rights granted to individuals by governments and legal systems.