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What are Natural Rights and why you need to know?

Natural rights are those that are not defined or dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture, tradition, rules, or government

What are Natural Rights?

Natural Rights are rights that you have when you are born. The idea first came up in ancient times but was discussed most famously by English philosopher John Locke in the sixteen hundreds. Locke said that the most important natural rights are “Life, Liberty, and Property”. There are two types of rights. Natural rights are those that are not defined or dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture, tradition, rules, or government, and so are universal and inalienable (they cannot be repealed by human laws, though one can forfeit their enforcement through one’s actions, such as by violating someone else’s rights). On the other hand, Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system (they can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws).

Define Natural Rights Meaning. Natural Rights vs Human Rights

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In general, natural rights are moral rights that people would have no matter what their legal rights were and even if there were no government and no laws. Alternatively, natural rights are fundamental human rights based on universal natural law, as opposed to those based on man-made positive law.

Natural Rights Definition

Although there is no unanimity as to which right is natural and which is not, the widely held view is that nature endows every human with certain inalienable rights which cannot be abrogated or interfered with by any government. And that, whether or not these rights are enshrined in a national legal code, no government is lawful if it fails to upholds them. We will talk more about inalienable rights and alienable rights below

According to Merriam – Webster, Natural right is a right considered to be conferred by natural law. The idea of natural rights has been contrasted with earlier teachings about natural law that were grounded in more robust principles of reason and natural or divine teleology. Many important thinkers of early modern Europe subscribed to a version of natural law without endorsing a doctrine of natural rights

John Locke Natural Rights Theory

John Locke (1632–1704) born on August 29, 1632, in Wrington, Somerset, England, went to Westminster school and then Christ Church, University of Oxford. At Oxford he studied medicine, which would play a central role in his life. He was one of the greatest philosophers in Europe at the end of the seventeenth century. Locke grew up and lived through one of the most extraordinary centuries of English political and intellectual history.

The main lines of Locke’s natural law theory are as follows: there is a moral law that is (1) discoverable by the combined work of reason and sense experience, and (2) binding on human beings in virtue of being decreed by God.

Natural Rights Examples

There are two types of Natural rights, Unalienable rights and Alienable Rights.

Whare are Unalienable rights?

Unalienable rights are those which God gave to man at the Creation, once and for all. By definition, since God granted such rights, governments could not take them away. The unalienable rights are fundamental parts of humanity, the basis for moral interactions between people, and are irrevocable. These are the rights that can never be forfeited.

What are Alienable Rights?

“Alienate” is a term from property law. It means to transfer something. We alienate rights over property all the time by selling or given the property away. For example, the rights I have over the sofa I just bought are “alienable” rights. If I sell the sofa to someone else, then I have alienated my right to use and to dispose of that sofa; I have transferred those rights to the purchaser. But if someone breaks into my house and steals my sofa (it is a sweet sofa), the fact that my rights over the sofa are alienable does not in any way lessen the fact that the person who stole my sofa committed an injustice.


Natural Rights in America

In America, this fundamental truth is recognized and enshrined in our nation’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence: “[A]ll men are created equal…[and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence says that among these rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The U.S. Constitution does not mention “unalienable” or “natural rights.” But the first 10 amendments to the Constitution list the basic rights of Americans.

Best Natural Rights Quotes

“Man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man: the individual’s capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor.”
― Murray N. Rothbard

“Rights have become what the political sovereign or ephemeral master decides to dispense and whatever gratifies the undisciplined cravings and desires of the individual.”
― Russell Kirk, Academic Freedom: An Essay in Definition

“Every history of the creation, and every traditionary account, whether from the lettered or unlettered world, however they may vary in their opinion or belief of certain particulars, all agree in establishing one point, the unity of man; by which I mean that men are all of one degree, and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural right, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation instead of generation, the latter being the only mode by which he former is carried forward; and consequently every child born into the world must be considered as deriving its existence from God. The world is as new to him as it was to the first man that existed, and his natural right in it is of the same kind.”
― Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

“[in response to Jean-François, who claimed that, “there is no irrevocable liberty for the former slaves except that which the Spanish monarch would grant them because, as a legitimate king, he alone has the right to legitimate that freedom”] . . . [W]e are free by natural right. It could only be kings . . . who dare claim the right to reduce into servitude men made like them and whom nature has made free.”
― Toussaint L’Ouverture, The Haitian Revolution

“Resherphire: True freedom is not that which is granted by an oppressor. It is a self-evident right, not something that originates from an external force.”
― Angry Zodd, Danny the Last Earth Man

“Capitalism is not a form of government. Capitalism is a symptom of freedom. It is the result of individual rights, which include property rights.”
― A.E. Samaan

“A libertarian is somebody who believes, of course, in personal liberty. And liberty is a personal thing; it is not collective. You don’t gain liberty because you belong to a group. So we don’t talk about women’s rights or gay rights or anything else. Everybody has an absolute equal right as an individual, and it comes to them naturally.”
― Ron Paul

“Harming one’s unalienable rights in order to serve justice is injustice.”
― J.S.B. Morse, Gods of Ruin

“The thing about rights is they’re not actually supposed to be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.”
― Rachel Maddow


“Collectivism is the “philosophy” of every cockroach and sewer rat: “If I want it, I must need it, and if I need it, I have a right to it, and if I have a right to it, it doesn’t matter what I have to do to get it.” The
fact that such an inherently animalistic, short-sighted, anti-human
viewpoint is now painted by some as compassionate and “progressive” does not make it any more sane, or any less dangerous.”
― Larken Rose

“The Founders believed, and the Conservative agrees, in the dignity of the individual; that we, as human beings, have a right to live, live freely, and pursue that which motivates us not because man or some government says so, but because these are God-given natural rights.”
― Mark R. Levin, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto

“The truth is, one who seeks to achieve freedom by petitioning those in power to give it to him has already failed, regardless of the response.
To beg for the blessing of “authority” is to accept that the choice is the master’s alone to make, which means that the person is already, by definition, a slave.”
― Larken Rose

Best Natural Rights Videos

Here are some best videos about natural rights.

What are Natural Rights?

Sue Rice

Natural Rights 101
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What are Natural Rights?

Natural rights are those that are not defined or dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture, tradition, rules, or government. more on Diversity Social Natural Rights Guide

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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory