Front Page Titles (by Subject) Grounding Natural Rights in Needs - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, No. 3
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Grounding Natural Rights in Needs - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1981, vol. 4, 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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Grounding Natural Rights in Needs
“Natural Rights: A Reappraisal.” Journal of Value Inquiry 15, 1(1981): 3–18.
Are there rights that we cannot deny? The natural law tradition says so, but it is unclear how we can verify the notion of a “prescriptive end” to which mankind should strive. Hobbes also asserts such rights, but it is unclear how a basic need creates a right. Also a utilitarian may assert such rights, by connecting rights to the needs of a community rather than to particular individuals. Then, even though the nature of social utility might change in conception, the relationship of rights to utility would remain a constant. But the real content of rights would still be relative to each society and we couldn't justifiably interfere with societies which had different concepts or social utility.
However, the revulsion that we feel for certain practices in other societies, which we cannot restrain, shows that we have unshakable beliefs about certain basic ‘natural’ needs (i.e., that it is a presupposition of our conceptual view of the world that certain practices which we believe to be unnatural are unnatural). Certain rights cannot be denied, therefore, because we take certain facts about human nature for granted, and to question basic rights is to question these facts about human nature that can't be rationally questioned. Rights arise because behaving appropriately as a human being means behaving as if certain rights existed. It means behaving as if basic human needs create a prima facie right to have those needs fulfilled.
Since some physical needs exist independently of any social arrangements, it might seem as if any need creates an absolute right to have it satisfied. However, rights arise from needs within society and it is the purpose of a society to fulfill human needs, not just physical needs and not the needs of animals.
Given the structure and function of a society, claims are to be considered fullscale “rights” when they serve the well being of a society and when this “well-being” is defined in terms of how well the needs of individual human beings are being served.