Modern Theory Of Natural Rights

T.H. Green, the idealist philosopher, explained natural rights by reference not to the past but to the future. He holds that they are inherent in the moral nature of man. They are minimum basic conditions for moral development and self-realisation. Man exists to realise the best in his nature. The State must create those conditions in which he can do so. These necessary conditions of moral development of human personality are the natural rights.

Laski rejects the historical element in the theory of natural rights as existing at some time in human past. He criticises some points of this theory. He says “They are not historical in the sense that they have at some time won their recognition. They are not natural, in the sense that a permanent and unchanging catalogue of them can be compiled”. But he accepts other aspects of this theory. He says. “They are historical in the sense that, at one given period and place, they are demanded by the character of its civilisation, and they are natural in the sense that, under those same limitations (of time and place) the facts demanded their recognition.

These rights are freedom of speech and of association, the right to suitable employment, and a living wage, adequate education, proper self government, etc. They are natural rights because they are useful to the ends the State seeks to serve. They may not be recognised by a given State, but they demand recognition. In this sense they are prior to State, because without them the purpose of the State cannot be fulfilled. Any given State is set between rights that have been recognised and rights which demand recognition, that is, between legal rights actually recognised and the ideal or natural rights demanding recognition”. This view of natural rights is both correct and incontestable.