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What is the difference between those two concepts? Would civil rights be a part of individual rights

asked Aug 03 '11 at 00:59

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edited Jan 05 '14 at 14:17

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Greg Perkins ♦♦

The way I interpret the conventional meaning of civil rights is that certain "rights" apply to certain groups; that membership in those groups alone conveys those special rights. Something else implicit in the conventional idea of civil rights is that they can be granted by government -- of course what the advocates don't say is that if they can be granted, then they can also be taken away. It's really an aspect of collectivism.

Individual rights, on the other hand, apply equally to everyone, regardless of which groups you belong to or don't belong to. An important property of true individual rights is that they can be exercised by everyone at the same time. They cannot be granted by anyone, nor can they be taken away; their source is our nature as humans.

answered Aug 03 '11 at 01:12

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Rick ♦

edited Jan 08 '12 at 00:59

Why the downvote?

(Jan 08 '12 at 00:57) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

I don't know. Wasn't me

(Jan 08 '12 at 11:41) c_andrew ♦ c_andrew's gravatar image

Sorry Rick, that was me. Having just come out of a class that focused on civil rights, I had a fairly exact definition in my head of what they were and I felt like your answer was technically wrong. I meant no offense by it.

(Jan 08 '12 at 14:17) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

No offense taken. Do you think modern society still uses the Lockean version of the definition of civil rights?

(Jan 08 '12 at 18:14) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

probably not. I am in law school right now, so the usage I am most familiar with might not be the one society uses.

(Jan 08 '12 at 22:00) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image
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Civil Rights should be the procedural enactment of Individual Rights on the Political level. Such things as equality before the law, protections against self-incrimination and property takings and other such rights exemplified in the Bill of Rights Amendments (and their post-Civil War additions) are examples of legal codifications of the means of protecting Individual Rights from improper government action.

Unfortunately, as Rick points out in his answer, Civil Rights have become Special Privileges that force action upon private individuals vis a vis their membership (or not) in particular protected classes instead of being a set of mandated actions by, or prohibited bounds on government.

It should be noted that protection of Individual Rights from violation by other people or non-governmental organizations should fall under Criminal and Civil Law and these should be codified in a hierarchy that properly notes their subordinate position to Civil Rights and Individual Rights respectively.

answered Sep 17 '11 at 17:17

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c_andrew ♦

edited Sep 17 '11 at 17:23

In Lockean natural-rights theory, Civil Rights are the rights a person receives when they leave the state of nature by surrendering to the government their "executive power" (i.e. their power to enforce their natural-rights through self-help). The primary "civil right" one receives is the right to have one's retained natural-rights protected by the government. Pursuant to that end, the government passes particular laws which result in more specific "civil rights." Ideally the enacted laws would protect all natural rights, but in reality civil rights and natural-rights are not coextensive.

(Sep 22 '11 at 21:55) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

Specific civil rights include any right positively granted by the government. Some civil rights exceed what is required by natural-rights: e.g., the right to vote, to a jury trial, and procedural rights (as mentioned by c_andrew). Such civil rights can be legitimately curtailed without violating natural rights theory (e.g. only 18+ non-felon citizens can vote). It is also possible (unfortunately) for the government to grant improper civil rights that actually violate individuals' natural rights--think ADA. A proper society would not allow such invalid civil rights.

(Sep 22 '11 at 22:17) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

Individual rights are the moral entitlements to act in various ways, which entitlements exist solely by virtue of being an individual entity possessing the faculty of reason. They hold for all individuals, irrespective of who they are, in the context of a regular existence (ie outside lifeboat situations and the like - but that's another topic entirely). As such, they are limits on individuals' actions qua other individuals.

Civil rights are the moral entitlement to be treated certain ways by the government of a given jurisdiction, which entitlements are determined on the basis of membership or non-membership of the group of people who (jointly or severally) own the property defining that jurisdiction and who empower that government to act on their behalf. They are an important part of the limits on government's actions qua all individuals.

Proper civil rights are an application of individual rights to the context of each particular society and how they politically organise themselves. This arises because proper governments are governments of by and for individuals, and it is individual rights that limit the action of those individuals. Governments get their authority from individuals, so may NOT overstep the bounds of individual rights. A large part of our troubles today come from counterfeit rights that do oversetp the bounds of individual rights and objective morality.

Discovery of these principles is the task of philosophy of law, and putting them in black-letter law is the task of politicians. Some of the content of civil rights is morally mandatory for all societies (eg the right to demand that elected representatives investigate grievances regarding government action and secure proper redress), and some is optional and so may be different for different societies as suits their culture (eg under what conditions the entitlement to vote for representatives is obtained, including whether particular offices are even elected or not). Note that this mandatory/optional contrast applies directly to valid vs invalid cultures themselves, so this distinction is not arbitrary and does not permit any given people to define anything their collective whims desire as part of that which is objectively optional. At every step of the way, objective morality is the proper guide in determining civil rights.


answered Oct 08 '11 at 19:48

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JJMcVey ♦

I find the expression "moral entitlements" potentially misleading, although it appears in the above answer to be just an alternative (condensed) formulation for the Objectivist view of the nature of man's rights. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with Ayn Rand's own formulations on the nature of man's rights (e.g., "moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context"), I recommend her article, "Man's Rights," published in The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism, Chapter 12 (also published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Appendix.) Key excerpts can also be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Individual Rights" (rights of individuals). In today's context, the expression "moral entitlements" may tend to suggest that rights are endowments from a society or a "creator," but Objectivism emphasizes the objective foundation (underlying facts of reality) for man's rights, which societies either recognize and uphold, or reject and abridge. And it is primarily to limit what societies may do to individuals that rights are most important, as the above answer acknowledges, at least in regard to civil rights. Individual rights are primarily limitations on societal actions and prerogatives toward individuals. "Entitlement," as commonlhy understood, raises the question, "Entitlement" granted by whom (e.g., society or "creator"), against whom (e.g., the productive), and for whom (e.g., the unproductive or allegedly "disadvantaged")?

Also, the historical meaning of "civil rights," like the expression "entitlements," should be clarified (if only briefly) insofar as it actually abridges individual rights and serves as a rallying cry for politicians who profess support for it while opposing and undermining man's actual individual rights. For additional history and perspective on the "civil rights movement," refer to Ayn Rand's article, "The Cashing In: The Student Rebellion," published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Chapter 22 (republished in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution).

(Oct 10 '11 at 00:20) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Yes, the word "entitlement" implies a so-called right to have some thing which others have a duty to provide. With individual rights properly understood, the only obligation of others is to not initiate force against you.

(Jan 09 '12 at 11:28) Andrew Dalton ♦ Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

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Asked: Aug 03 '11 at 00:59

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Last updated: Jan 05 '14 at 14:17