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Looking for Rights in All the Wrong PlacesWhy State Constitutions Contain America's Positive Rights$
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Emily Zackin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691155777

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691155777.001.0001

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Defining Positive Rights

Defining Positive Rights

(p.36) Chapter 3 Defining Positive Rights
Looking for Rights in All the Wrong Places

Emily Zackin

Princeton University Press

This chapter provides a definition of rights and describes the distinction between the categories of positive and negative rights. It first examines the rights movements' campaigns to add education, labor, and environmental rights to state constitutions before discussing the controversy surrounding the positive–negative distinction. It defines positive rights as those that require government intervention in order to protect people from threats that are not directly or solely governmental. In contrast, negative rights are those that require government to restrain itself in order to protect people from threats that stem directly from an overbearing and intrusive state. The chapter suggests that state constitutions and the politics that have surrounded them demonstrate the importance of positive rights as an enduring feature of the U.S. constitutional tradition.

Keywords:   rights movements, education rights, labor rights, environmental rights, state constitutions, positive rights, negative rights, government intervention

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