Why can the assertion of a positive right in particular lead to conflict between different persons or parties within a given society?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

The assertion of a positive right can lead to conflicts between individuals and/or groups because the assertion of a positive right requires someone else to do something for you.  This assertion may require, for example, the use of more resources than the other party is willing to provide.  There will then be a conflict between the party that is asserting the right and the party that is being asked to provide that right.  Let us look at some examples.

Let us say that we assert that everyone has the right to some level of health care.  This is a positive right.  Now let us say that someone who does not have money asserts the right to that care.  Someone must pay for that person’s care.  There may come a time when the people who are being asked to pay for the care (typically taxpayers) will no longer want to pay for it.  They might think that there are too many people who are asking them to pay and they may feel that they cannot afford to do so.  At that point, conflict arises between them.

Or let us imagine a scenario in which a large number of children are injured and there are only one or two doctors on the scene.  Each child can assert a right to be treated.  However, there are only the two doctors.  They cannot treat everyone.  This means that the children will in some sense come into conflict with one another because care that is given to one of them cannot be given to another at the same time.

Assertions of positive rights require others to give something up to fulfill our rights.  These demands can lead to conflicts between those who assert the right and those who are asked to sacrifice to provide it.

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