The purpose of this research is to examine analyses of rights by H.L.A. Hart, John Austin, and Jeremy Bentham. The plan of the research will be to set forth the basic views of each, and then to discuss the ways in which their analyses intersect and diverge.
Bentham's discussion of human rights as anarchical fallacies occurs in the form of a critique of Article II of the Declaration of the Rights of Man promulgated by the leadership of the French Revolution in 1789. The rights of the individual citizen are asserted against the government, to the degree it should be the government's purpose to protect individual rights. One might compare this with the American Bill of Rights, which tends to emphasize, not what society may do, but what the government may not do (e.g., "Congress shall make no law . . ."). But Bentham's view is that the rights of the society as a whole are superior to those of the individual, which ought to be institutionalized in the state. This is a restatement of the utilitarian view that the aim of civil society should be the greatest good for the greatest number.
This argues that society as such has a claim against the "selfish and dissocial passions" of the individual" (Bentham 29). Indeed, Bentham continues, "Society is held together only by the sacrifices that men can be induced to make of the gratifications they demand: to obtain these sacrifices is the great difficulty, the great task of government" (Bentham 29). To the degree the government is the arbiter of sacrifice, the individual citizen is the government's instrument or utility. Bentham interprets rights as the equivalent of passions that have no moral standing vis-a-vis real-world government institutions that have the object of achieving the common good.
How stands the truth of things? That there are no such things as natural rights--no such things as rights anterior to the establishment of government--no such things as natural rights opposed to, i...