“Rights are the fruits of the law and of the law alone; there are no rights without law - no rights contrary to law - no rights anterior to law.”
- The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring, Vol. III, p. 221 (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1843).
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The problem with the concept of natural rights is that it is egocentric; i.e., it places the individual in the center of importance. It assumes, falsely, that man, as Locke espoused, has certain inherent rights; or, as Jefferson phrased it, unalienable rights. However, that is not how things are ordered. There are no inherent rights; there are no unalienable rights; there are only legal rights. The words “inherent” and “unalienable” do not appear anywhere in the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution created a nation of laws and not men. It is the recognition, from the time of Magna Carta to this day, that no person can be above the law; for it is not the individual that is sovereign, it is the law. To say that one has a right to anything needs must admit that such right exists by law. Indeed, there is nothing in the varied course of human events, from the moment of life’s conception to the final disposition of one’s mortal remains and property after death, that is not governed by law. Natural rights are a fiction - a philosophical construct - airy nothings. Real rights are legal rights; rights that are provided and protected by law. As Bentham put it: "Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense - nonsense upon stilts." Jeremy Bentham, Anarchical Fallacies (1816).