Front Page Titles (by Subject) Is the Right to Freedom Vacuuous? - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Is the Right to Freedom Vacuuous? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Is the Right to Freedom Vacuuous?
“The Rights of Man.” Social Theory and Practice 4 (Spring 1978): 423–444.
The question of how to justify rights, particularly the right to freedom, has puzzled moral philosophy. An analysis of the views of H. L. A. Hart, an influential recent ethician, holds that natural rights, apart from a particular political context, is a vacuous notion.
Edmund Burke strongly opposed the French Revolution's emphasis upon natural rights. He feared that the notion of natural rights might be used as a means of overthrowing government. His fear was groundless. Natural rights mandate no specific policies of government action.
We may see this if we analyze Hart's claim that the basic natural right is the “right to equal freedom.” As Hart points out, we cannot conclude from this right that specific forms of government action are prohibited: the right is only a claim which may be overriden in particular instances. Rights are a “determinable” rather than a “determinate” policy: that is to say, they advance a general claim which must be filled in, in specific instances.
Furthermore, it is not certain that the right to freedom is the most basic right. One cannot have any rights without the right to life, and the notion of rights also seems to presuppose the right to equality of treatment. All of the basic rights seem interconnected.
But again, we cannot deduce any specific course of conduct from them. Rights are better considered as an elaboration and defense of the prudential maxims expressing the aims of particular societies, not truths of all time. Their use is primarily ideological.