Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 23 (2):265-280 (2003)

Inter‐personal morals should be understood and described in the language of duties, not rights. Rights are self‐centred, duties other‐centred. Whereas duties are primarily a moral construct, rights are primarily a legal construct. There is an important distinction between the language appropriate for inter‐personal morals, and the language appropriate for the morals of the State. The first principle of the morals of the State is that the State holds its power as trustee for the people; otherwise we would face arbitrary and capricious rule. In this setting it is natural and proper to speak of rights—the rights of the citizen beneficiaries against their trustee, the State. However, inter‐personal morals and the morality of the State are inter‐dependent. Without a duty‐based personal morality, the laws which the State makes will tend more and more to be oppressive and contemptuous. And the laws of the State must themselves leave room for personal moral commitment, freely entered into, to flourish
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DOI 10.1093/ojls/23.2.265
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