The notion that there are such things as "natural" rights is due to the fact that rights originate in the mores, and may remain there long before they can be formulated (because it requires some mental development to be able to formulate them) in philosophical propositions, or in laws. The notion of "natural" rights is the notion that rights have independent authority in absolute right, so that they are not relative or contingent, but absolute.
The interests of men always clash in the competition of life. It is inevitable, on account of the organization of society, that this should be so. Even in the lowest form of the division of labor, that between the sexes, independent interests clash in the distribution of the products. The man there carries his point, if necessary, with the help of the other men, and a precedent is established by force, which through subsequent repetition becomes a law, and carries in itself a definition of rights between men and women.
The question of right or rights can arise only in the in-group. All questions with outsiders are settled by war. It is meritorious to rob outsiders of property or women, or to invade any of their interests; it is meritorious also to repel and punish any efforts of theirs to invade the interests of one's group-comrades. War with group-comrades is "wrong," because it lessens the power of the in-group for war with outsiders. Here, then, is
- For approximate date, see Preface.
- Sumner, W. G., Folkways, §§15 ff.