A System of Rights by Rex Martin

By Rex Martin

The justification of political authority is a long-standing factor of political philosophy, one that repeatedly defies answer. This booklet offers an unique justification via setting up a framework for facing this challenge. The version that emerges is one within which definite forms of political rights are emphasised. Martin discusses the results of the sort of method for democratic associations, political allegiance, punishment, and finally for the character of political authority.

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And this would make Hobbes's account of the rights of the sovereign (in civil society) simply impossible, simply incoherent. On pain of equivocating or, even worse, of falling into logical contradiction, then, Hobbes must leave off such conceptual identifications as that of mere natural powers or mere liberties with rights. On the likely supposition that Hobbes would want to retain his talk of rights as mere liberties in a state of nature, his only recourse, then, would be to leave the concept of rights neutral on the point of implying or not implying second-party obligations.

It seems, therefore, that arguments based on the existence of rights of the sort we have been discussing—immunity rights—are telling against the view that every right is necessarily connected to a closely related secondparty duty. But we can still accept the important point that a right which doesn't guide anyone's behavior is no right at all; but to do this we should add that this guidance need not involve a duty—a disability or liability will do as well in some contexts. The truth, which the rights-correlate-with-duties thesis skews, is that any genuine right must involve some normative direction of the behavior of persons other than the holder—for example, direction of the sort given by the Hohfeld elements mentioned earlier (duty, disability, liability).

And this capacity to issue such directives and, perhaps, to take other steps, would add a further degree of establishment, or fastness or security, to any way of acting in question. It is often said that rights are guarantees to the individual that a certain pattern of activity is accredited and will be maintained socially, and we can readily see how such a notion of guarantee could arise from this point. We must recognize, of course, that the account of rights so far given is very abstract, very general, and the features we have identified would undergo revision and acquire peculiar emphases depending on which The Concept of Rights 29 kind of right we were said to be concerned with—legal, moral, or what have you.

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