Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops in order to govern itself. It serves many purposes, including keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, protecting individual rights and minorities, and promoting social justice.
The word “law” is derived from the Latin term lex, meaning “rule,” and law can be defined as a set of rules that must be followed by everyone, regardless of their status in society. This definition, however, does not explain why a person must obey these rules and what the purpose of the law is.
Normatively, legal rights are typically thought to be reflective of natural rights. These are moral rights without reliance on enforcement or social convention, recognition, or other legal norms (Raz 1970: 175-183; MacCormick 1977: 189; Raz 1994: 258-263).
As we have seen, rights in law are often thought to be qualitatively more powerful than certain other reasons. They are also thought to “punch” above their normative weight (e.g., Hart 1982: 86; Nozick 1974: 171-173) because they enjoy the status of being preemptory.
Moreover, if the moral justification of legal rights is to be based on a “natural” basis, then it must be rooted in considerations other than those amoral or immoral interests that those rights protect (Raz 1995: 31-32). Hence, for example, predatory slumlords are sometimes protected by property rights, but their self-serving interests should not be the only consideration justifying their right to be free from discrimination and harassment.