The Difference Between Negative Rights and Positive Rights
Here’s a very good explanation by J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Biola University, from his recent interview with Hugh Hewitt:
A negative right is a right for me to be protected from harm if I try to get something for myself. A positive right would be my right to have something provided for me.
If health care is a negative right, then the state has an obligation to keep people from preventing me from getting health care and discriminating against me. If health care’s a positive right, then the state has an obligation to provide it for me.
As I read the New Testament, the government’s responsibility, and by the way, I think the Old Testament prophets say this, too, is I read the prophets in the New Testament, the government’s job is to protect negative rights, not to provide positive rights. So as a Christian, I believe in a minimal government. It’s not the government’s job to be providing the health care benefits for people. So I will be looking to see if Obama does things to minimize the role of government in culture, and to provide for as much human freedom as possible.