20 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 695 (1996-1997)
Do Natural Rights Derive from Natural Law

handle is hein.journals/hjlpp20 and id is 709 raw text is: DO NATURAL RIGHTS DERIVE FROM
NATURAL LAW?
MICHAEL P. ZUCKERT*
Less than thirty years ago, a very competent student of
political theory gave this assessment of the subject of this
Symposium: Natural law, which was for many centuries the basis
of the predominant Western political thought, is rejected in our
time by almost all students of society who are not Roman
Catholics .... [N]atural law is today primarily not more than a
historical subject.' Yet Professor Barnett has proposed that we
explore the differences between natural law and natural rights
(both included,. by the way, in the assessment quoted above).
Barnett's concern to distinguish natural law from natural rights
is not inspired, I think, by a merely historical interest. His own
writings2-to say nothing of the now ever-swelling chorus of what
Professor Mary Ann Glendon (deprecatingly) denominated
rights-talk--prove that, like Lazarus, natural rights and
natural law are back. Yet Professor Barnett's question to us is
motivated, I suspect, by a perception that natural law and
natural rights may have suffered from their hiatus underground,
that there may have occurred some decomposition, some
conceptual melding of the one into the other so that now we
have but a blurry notion of what they are and tend to confuse
them.
It is both theoretically and practically important to achieve
clarity in this matter, for so far as natural law and natural rights
have indeed risen from the dead to walk the earth again, they
appear in the most significant places in our public life. Natural
law and rights function as ultimate normative standards for
* The William R. Kenan,Jr. Professor of Politics, Law & Philosophy, Carleton College.
1. LEO STRAUSS, STUDIES IN PLATONIC POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 137 (1983).
2. See, e.g., Randy E. Barnett, Foreword Unenumerated Constitutional Rights and the Rule of
Law, 14 HAR.J.L. & PUB. POL'Y 615 (1991).
3. See generally MARYANN GLENDON, RIGHTS TALK: THE IMPOVERISHMENT OF POUTICAL
DISCOURSE (1991).

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