Theories of Law and Rights


Law is the system of rules that social or governmental institutions create and enforce to regulate human behavior. It is a vital part of a well-ordered society and is used to resolve disputes and protect people and property. Laws help keep the peace, ensure fair treatment and justice, promote safety and security, protect the environment and prevent crime. It is also a source of wealth, and many people have careers in the legal professions such as lawyers, judges and police officers.

Many theories of law and rights are based on natural or moral principles. They generally aim to establish a legal system that is oriented towards treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern. These theories often employ the notion of a set of core values such as supremacy of the law, equal enforcement of the laws, legal certainty and transparency, participation in decision-making, separation of powers, accountability to the law, and good faith and benevolence.

In contrast, the Hohfeldian view of rights tends to focus on the notion of preemptive reasons. In this sense, a right is a reason to ph that, in the face of competing reasons, a defender would like to block consideration or action on (Hart 1982: 86; see, for example, Skorupski 2010: 310-311). The idea is that legal rights have enough normative force or dignity to give them priority over some other reasons, but not so much that they outweigh all others.

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