Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 8.: Its Corollaries - The Principles of Ethics, vol. 2
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CHAPTER 8.: Its Corollaries - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Ethics, vol. 2 
The Principles of Ethics, introduction by Tibor R. Machan (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1978). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Principles of Ethics, 2 vols.
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281. Men's activities are many in their kinds and the consequent social relations are complex. Hence, that the general formula of justice may serve for guidance, deductions must be drawn severally applicable to special classes of cases. The statement that the liberty of each is bounded only by the like liberties of all, remains a dead letter until it is shown what are the restraints which arise under the various sets of circumstances he is exposed to.
Whoever admits that each man must have a certain restricted freedom, asserts that it is right he should have this restricted freedom. If it be shown to follow, now in this case and now in that, that he is free to act up to a certain limit but not beyond it, then the implied admission is that it is right he should have the particular freedom so defined. And hence the several particular freedoms deducible may fitly be called, as they commonly are called, his rights.
282. Words are sometimes profoundly discredited by misuse. The true ideas they connote become so intimately associated with false ideas, that they in large measure lose their characters. This is conspicuously the case with the word “rights.”
In past times rivers of blood were shed in maintaining the “right” of this or that person to a throne. In the days of the old Poor Law the claims of the pauper were habitually urged on the ground that he had a “right” to a maintenance out of the soil. Not many years since we were made familiar with the idea, then current among French workingmen, that they had a “right” to labor; that is, a right to have labor provided for them. At the present time communists use the word “rights” in ways which entirely invert the meaning given to it by past usages. And so lax is the application of the word that those who pander to the public appetite for gossip about notable personages, defend themselves by saying that “the public has a ‘right’ to know.”
The consequence has been that, in many of the cultivated, there has been produced a confirmed, and indeed contemptuous, denial of rights. There are no such things, say they. except such as are conferred by law. Following Bentham, they affirm that the state is the originator of rights, and that apart from it there are no rights.
But if lack of discrimination is shown in such misuse of words as includes under them more than should be included, lack of discrimination is also shown in not perceiving those true meanings which are disguised by the false meanings.
283. As is implied above, rights, truly so-called, are corollaries from the law of equal freedom, and what are falsely called rights are not deducible from it.
In treating of these corollaries, as we now proceed to do, we shall find that, in the first place, they one and all coincide with ordinary ethical conceptions, and that, in the second place, they one and all correspond with legal enactments. Further, it will become apparent that so far is it from being true that the warrant for what are properly called rights is derived from law, it is, conversely. true that law derives its warrant from them.