Natural Law

J. Eric Mortensen (
Mon, 24 May 1999 12:07:47 +0200

I would like to say a few words on Natural Law and property rights.

There is a great confusion as to what Natural Law is all about. Some interpret it as a physical law, with the same level of predictory power and the same level of formalism as e.g., Newton's law of gravitation. That is mistaken. Natural law is a theory which predicts that human societies will tend to have certain legal (and moral) structures in common, namely a basic respect for induvidual property rights, both in person
and in material things. The evidence is, I think, indisputable. You will find no
society where it has been legal to kill a fellow citizen for no reason. Of course, all
societies have had slightly different definitions of what a "fellow citizen" is, but virtually
all societies have sooner or later evolved institutions that punish murder, kidnapping,
theft etc. Even Nazi Germany did not allow just any German to kill or steal from any other German.

Natural Law theory further predicts that the harder you try to suppress the natural institutions
of basic property rights the more violence you need to employ to succeed, and then
you will still only succeed for a time (witness the fate of communism). For a peaceful and orderly society to survive you need a certain institutional
recognition of property rights.

Natural Law theory doesn't prove libertarians right about "the government that governs least
governs best", but it does indicate that government must respect and support certain fundamental institutions, namely property.


J. Eric Mortensen,

PS: There's a good explanation of natural law here:

Natural Law and Natural Rights

see also

A proof that moral judgments, when done correctly, are judgments of objective fact