Natural Law, Natural Rights

Washington Times, September 9, 1991. University of Cincinnati Law Review 61:1 (1992–93).


“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and the American people, just now, are much in need of one.” That was said in 1864. Judging from the controversy provoked by the Clarence Thomas nomination, what the American people need just now is a good definition (or a better understanding) of natural law and natural rights.

They are not likely to get it from Judge Thomas’ critics. Professor Laurence Tribe, for example, Harvard’s “justice in waiting,” opposed the appointment of Judge Robert Bork because of Judge Bork’s unwillingness to appeal to the “natural law” or “natural right” when interpreting the Constitution; he now opposes Judge Thomas because he threatens to do just that. But what “that” is, or what it comprises, neither Mr. Tribe nor any of the other critics has defined with any precision.

American Enterprise Institute
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