The source of rights
The Core 1.6 Mail
Hugh Gibbons

The Biological Basis of Law adopts a deontological approach to the source of rights. Rights arise out of duties. When duties are violated, rights emerge. The opposite, teleological, account of the source of rights is more familiar: Rights simply exist. They are the base datum of law, the thing itself. Rights create duties, the duty to respect other's rights. When a right is violated the person has a right to go to court for redress.

But where do these rights come from? John Locke and Thomas Hobbes attributed them to God, a view that was adopted in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…." But that naked statement is followed by a completely deontological account of what had given the colonists the right to revolt. "…[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a desire to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…." King George breached his duties.

The Biological Basis of Law could not have put it more clearly. The king takes actions. Those actions create risks. The king has a duty to limit those risks; the king is no different than anyone else; all have the duty of care. The king failed in that duty. In fact, it appears that King George was not even trying else the long train of abuses and usurpations could hardly have persisted. That breach of duty created a right in the citizens to redress. There being no institution charged with disciplining kings, the colonists had to take matters into their own hands. Rights justify behavior that would otherwise constitute a breach of duty, such as firing a musket at another human being with evil intent.

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