Negative rights and the United States Constitution
The United States Constitution was drafted by people who, at least for amendments made before the 1930s, defined rights as negative rights. Thus, when the Constitution in the Fourteenth Amendment protects the "life, liberty, or property" and "equal protection of the laws" to "any person," it is referring to acts which government must refrain from doing, not to any positive duty of the government to act. The only time the government has a positive duty to act is when it has already deprived a person of liberty (e.g., prisoners, and arguably children compelled to attend public schools). Unfortuneately, the Court since the 1940s has departed sharply from this basci tenent of civilized law. It has read positive rights into the Constitution, thereby depriving citizens and other persons of negative rights to which we are entitled.