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Are liberty and human rights linked? Why or why not? 

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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John Locke certainly argued that the liberty and human rights were inexorably linked in this quote from Two Treatises of Government (Chapter II, Book II):

"The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.  The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule."

For Locke, this idea of natural law included liberty and protection from harm in terms of life, health, or possessions.  If human rights can be equated with Locke's suggestion of being "all equal and independent" as rights are considered a protection from the possible abusive powers of government, then it follows that liberty is an integral aspect of those rights.  Locke very purposefully includes liberty right along with life, health, and possessions.  According to Locke, liberty and freedom must be protected every bit as vigorously as "life, health...or possessions" under natural rights (human rights).


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