What are the differences between natural law and positive law?
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Positive law is made by people. Natural law comes from sources that are universal. To many people (for example, to Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence) the source of natural law is God. Natural law is universal; it applies to everyone. Positive law only applies to those people who are the subjects or citizens of the government that creates the law. Positive law must be written down. Natural laws are unwritten laws. In short, then, positive law must be made by a given government and it relies on the government for its power. Natural law is not made by people and has moral power regardless of whether a government recognizes it and makes it into positive law.
Natural law and positive law differ in a number of ways. Firstly, natural laws are God-given laws inherent in our being whereas positive laws are man-made. Secondly, natural laws are universal as opposed to positive laws which are only applicable to a geographically defined political territory such as that controlled by a government. Thirdly, whereas natural laws are eternal and constant, positive laws can be amended or rescinded. Fourthly, natural law is based on reason and human beings have the free will to choose what they feel is right or wrong. On the other hand, positive law prescribes what is right or wrong and people have to abide by the prescriptions. Positive law is enforced by institutions such as the police and judiciary. Lastly, natural law can exist even in the absence of man but positive law is dependent on the existence of man.
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