ARE THERE ANY NATURAL RIGHTS?'
advance the thesis that if there are any moral rightsat all, it follows that there is at least one natural right, theequal right of all men to be free. By saying that there is thisright,
mean that in the absence of certain special conditionswhich are consistent with the right being an equal right, anyadult human being capable of choice (I) has the right to for-bearance on the part of all others from the use of coercion orrestraint against him save to hinder coercion or restraint and
is at liberty to do (i.e., is under no obligation to abstainfrom) any action which is not one coercing or restraining ordesigned to injure other
have two reasons for describing the equal right of all mento be free as a
right; both of them were always empha-sized by the classical theorists of natural rights. (I) This rightis one which all men have if they are capable of choice; theyhave it
men and not only if they are members of some so-ciety or stand in some special relation to each other.
Thisright is not created or conferred by men's voluntary action;
was first stimulated to think along these lines by Mr. Stuart Hampshire,and I have reached by different routes a conclusion similar to his.Further explanation of the perplexing terminology of freedom is, I fear,necessary.
includes, besides preventing a person from doing what hechooses, making his choice less eligible by threats;
includes any actiondesigned to make the exercise of choice impossible and so includes killing orenslaving a person. But neither coercion nor restraint includes
terms of the distinction between "having a right to') and "being at libertyto,') used above and further discussed in Section I,
all men may have,consistently with the obligation to forbear from coercion, the
to satisfyif they can such at least of their desires as are not designed to coerce or injureothers, even though in fact, owing to scarcity, one man's satisfaction causesanother's frustration. In conditions of extreme scarcity this distinction betweencompetition and coercion will not be worth drawing; natural rights are onlyof importance "where peace is possible" (Locke). Further, freedom (theabsence of coercion) can be
to those victims of unrestricted competi-tion too poor to make use of it; so it will be pedantic to point out to them thatthough starving they are free. This is the truth exaggerated by the Marxistswhose
of poverty with lack of freedom confuses two different evils.