Negative vs. Positive Rights

Negative vs. Positive Rights: Fundamentals and Criticisms

By LibertasBella | libertasbella | 7 Apr 2022

The difference between negative vs positive rights is that one requires action while the other requires inaction. Negative rights are the requirements of someone else not to interfere in your ability to obtain something. Positive rights are a requirement of someone else to provide you with something. 

You may hear negative rights referred to as “liberties,” and that’s because they are basic human and civil rights stating that no one can interfere with our right to obtain something through trade or bartering. 

Positive rights are often called “entitlements” because they are things that someone must provide to us, whether we’ve earned them or not. We don’t have to do anything to obtain positive rights; they’re granted to us. 

A great example would be a person’s individual right to purchase something from a store. Some might think this is a positive right, but it’s actually a negative right. You have the right to go to the store and purchase a meal, provided you can pay for that meal. As a result, it’s your negative right to ensure that no one interferes with that.

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