What Are the Rights of the Law?


Law is a body of formal rules that governs the conduct of individuals and the activities of groups. These rules are formulated in the form of legal codes and statutes, enacted by the government. These laws are used to regulate the lives of many people, including citizens of a nation and foreigners living in that country.

The term “right” in the law refers to a variety of Hohfeldian positions, typically associated with claim-rights (Kamm 2002: 476). For example, X has a right against Y with respect to some ph if and only if Y is under a duty to X to ph; X’s correlative right against Y correlates to Y’s correlative duty to X (Raz 1970: 226).

These rights vary in stringency and weight, based on a variety of considerations. The most stringent rights, for instance, are those that protect particularly significant interests or values. These can be civil or human rights, for example.

Moreover, some legal rights are group rights, aiming to further the interests of a particular group as a whole. This is the case, for example, with rights to cultural and language rights or peoples’ rights to self-determination.

The legal basis for these types of rights is often derived from some normative source, such as moral principles or a natural law tradition. However, they also are rooted in the practice of law itself, which means that their status as legal rights depends on how they are treated by the law (MacCormick 1982: 163).

A number of political and philosophical theories, including the Will Theory, view rights as a neat fit with certain political moralities that value personal liberty, self-realization, agency, and autonomy. These include political moralities oriented towards social justice or equality, and those concerned with the common good.

While a few of these morally grounded legal rights may be oriented towards the common good, the majority of them are individualist in nature and therefore align with the interests of an individual. Hence, they secure that person’s dignity, liberty, and welfare.

For example, a right to freedom of movement is a morally grounded legal right that furthers an individual’s liberty, as it enables him to travel and do business without the threat of arrest or detention.

Likewise, a right to health is a morally grounded legal right that aims to protect an individual’s physical wellbeing, as it enables him to receive the necessary medical attention he needs.

The right to education, in contrast, is a morally grounded legal right that provides an individual with access to educational opportunities.

In addition, some legal rights provide a person with remedies to enforce the violation of that right, such as restitution or compensation for proximate losses caused by the violation.

As with all the legal bases for rights, these are a logical extension of the Hohfeldian picture of rights as relations, which entail correlatives as a conceptual matter and rely on other reasons for their justification. For example, in a system of policing, the enforcement of a primary right is less favored and less likely to succeed than in a free society, which makes a restitution or compensation remedy more appealing.