Principles of Social & Political Theory

By Ernest Barker | Go to book overview

BOOK IV
THE RIGHTS SECURED BY THE STATE
The Principles of their Allocation, and the Methods of their Declaration and Enforcement.

§ 1. THE NATURE OF RIGHTS, AND THE PRINCIPLES OF THEIR ALLOCATION TO PERSONS

THE argument of the previous section has led to the conclusion that the development of the capacities of personality in its members is the ultimate purpose served by the State and the final political value. It has also, and pari passu, led to the further conclusion that the law of the State is right, and possesses the quality of rightness or justice, in virtue of securing and guaranteeing, to the greatest possible number of persons, the external conditions necessary for the greatest possible development of the capacities of personality. These secured and guaranteed conditions are called by the name of rights. When it has framed a scheme of such rights, and proceeds to determine the distribution of the rights contained in the scheme, the State will act by general principles, which are generally and evenly applicable. Those principles have been called, since 1789, by the names of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. They were not, of course, an invention of the year 1789. They are as old as the Stoics, and as old as the State itself, however imperfectly they were applied for generation on generation. But the formula to which they were reduced in 1789 has now become their classic expression.

Two questions here arise for discussion. The first is that of the general nature of rights, and of the relation in which they stand both to their receivers and to their giver--if indeed the terms 'receiving' and 'giving' can properly be applied, and if we can rightly speak of the State and its law as giving or of its members as receiving. The second question is that of the general nature of the principles on which the State and its law proceed in determining the distribution of rights.

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