David Alm


The aim of this paper is to analyze the simplest type of case in which need-based positive rights to aid are often attributed. In such "two-person cases" there is just one agent and one patient, and the agent can aid the patient. Two questions are asked about such cases: (1) why does the agent in such a case lack a negative right he would normally have? And (2) why does the patient have a positive right he would not normally have? The main focus in on question (1), though an answer to question (2) is briefly sketched. The paper presupposes a view of negative rights as the authority to make demands of others. To explain why such authority is lacking in two person cases, it is suggested that such authority requires being able to demand non-interference "decently." This idea of a "decent", or non-selfish, demand is then elucidated, and an argument is offered for the suggested explanation. Finally there is a brief look at two-person cases involving significant cost to the agent.