Rights vs Privileges (Definitions and Examples) (2023) (2023)

Rights vs Privileges (Definitions and Examples) (2023) (1)

Rights refer to entitlements determined by law and custom, while privileges refer to special advantages or opportunities granted by power, authority, or circumstance.

Rights are legal or moral entitlements that individuals have by virtue of being human (see also: natural rights). In western democracies, we respect basic human rights because they safeguard and empower people, serving as a moral anchor that cannot be tampered with.

Examples of these principle-based entitlements include freedom of speech, fair voting procedures, and equitable legal proceedings – all crucial aspects that uphold society’s integrity.

Privileges, on the other hand, are special advantages or benefits granted to certain individuals or groups.

Factors like social status, race, or affluence commonly determine the allocation of these privileges. Some examples of privileges include the privilege of a private education, the privilege your boss has of having a personal assistant, and the privilege of exclusive access to an elite paid-for-only club.

In general terms, rights promote equality and provide a level playing field for everyone, whereas privileges create inequality by providing certain advantages to some but not others.

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Definition of Rights

Rights are fundamental entitlements that every individual is entitled to have simply by virtue of being human. They protect individuals from arbitrary state or societal interference and are often enshrined in law as legal guarantees.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

“Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states” (Wenar, 2005).

Rights cut across different aspects of life, such as economic, social, cultural, political, civil (see: civil rights), and environmental domains.

Human rights can be classified into two types: inherent rights that belong to all humans (e.g., the right to life) and rights that governments or international organizations give through treaties and conventions (e.g., the Right to Education).

Rights are generally deemed universal and should apply equally to all regardless of race, gender, age, etc. (United Nations, 1948).

They are also considered indivisible – meaning that individuals should enjoy all basic human rights regardless of whether they can exercise some rights due to specific circumstances fully. For instance, a person living in a state emergency zone where movement is curtailed should still have access to medical care if it’s a right generally afforded in normal circumstances.

The concept of rights emerged as a necessary means for ensuring individual dignity and protecting people from oppression (Andorno, 2014).

It recognizes that every individual deserves respect just for being human and affirms our obligation as citizens toward creating a more equitable society where everyone’s rights are respected and upheld.

Protecting and promoting human rights can lead to positive advances in society, such as increasing empowerment, social cohesion, and economic growth while limiting instances of discrimination or arbitrary exercise of government power (see: limited government).

10 Examples of Rights

Rights commonly enjoyed in liberal democracies include:

  • Right to life: This is one of the most basic human rights and refers to an individual’s right not to be unlawfully deprived of life.
  • Right to liberty: This right guarantees every individual’s freedom from arbitrary detention and arrest without a just cause, including freedom from slavery in all its forms.
  • Right to security: Every individual is entitled to security against any form of physical violation or physical harm perpetrated by other people or even by state actors.
  • Freedom from discrimination: Human beings are entitled to equality irrespective of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political views.
  • Freedom from torture: Everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture under any circumstance.
  • Right against arbitrary interference with privacy: Every person has the right not to have their private lives interfered with without justified reasons, such as criminal investigations based on established facts.
  • Freedom of thought/expression/religion/belief: Citizens have a right to thoughts that cannot lead to harm towards others as expressed openly in words in religion, faith expressions, media, etc.
  • Right to education: All citizens, regardless of economic ability, should have access to the education necessary to acquire knowledge and improve their quality of life later on.
  • Right to information access: Everyone can demand access to information held by government entities without fear of retaliation, and it helps promote transparency and accountability.
  • Right to a fair trial: Every individual accused of a crime is entitled to a fair and impartial trial process before an independent tribunal, with free access to legal representation.

Definition of Privileges

The concept of privileges is related to the idea that some groups or individuals have been granted certain benefits or advantages by society based on their status or position (Black & Stone, 2005).

Privileges are not inherent entitlements based on citizenship (or even status as a human) like rights, but instead are often afforded based on a particular status such as wealth, social standing, education, contacts, or other influential means.

“Studies on privilege define it as the unearned comparative advantages and benefits individuals enjoy because of their membership of dominant groups in societies characterized by structural inequalities” (De Cleen & Alberto, 2023, p. 5).

Privileges may come from various sources, including legislation, societal norms, and personal relationships or networks.

Those who enjoy privileges may access better opportunities within society, a better standard of living, and a personal growth path that would otherwise be available only after many years of hard work and sacrifice by others without the same returns.

Privileges operate mostly within social systems and tend to benefit those with a dominant position in society due to gender, race, economic ability, etc (Sutton, 2020).

For instance, political leaders enjoy privilege by possessing executive authority, while religious leaders offer spiritual guidance but, through influence, command obedience from members of their faith.

Privileges may also have legal standing depending on the country in question. A common example is tax exemption privileges awarded to people with diplomatic immunity. If used properly, these people can add value to society.

So, privileges can be seen as entitlements that favor certain individuals at the detriment or disadvantage of others, and they often perpetuate inequality unless checked.

10 Examples of Privileges

  • Wealth privilege: People with financial resources tend to enjoy better opportunities, services, and living standards than those without. This privilege affords people access to quality education, better healthcare, luxury goods, experiences, and investment opportunities.
  • Social status privilege: Some individuals may be born into a social status (see: ascribed status) that comes with benefits like respect from others, influence within groups, and connections with influential members of society. Such connections can create paths to access power and important business networks or enable the rise of various departments making it easier to get funding for their projects.
  • Race or ethnicity privilege: In some societies, certain races and ethnicities enjoy systematic preference over minority groups, especially concerning employment opportunities. For example, in the United States there is a longstanding concept of white privilege.
  • Gender privilege: Historically, certain gender-based customs and traditions have provided men with more opportunities and choices than women (see: gender stereotyping). This has resulted in men having a greater likelihood of acquiring power and occupying leadership positions in politics and the corporate world. Consequently, statistically, men as a group have generally enjoyed greater pay and more power than women as a group – this is known as the glass ceiling.
  • Appearance privilege: It was hard to find a better term than this – when I went to high school, we called it “pretty girl privilege.” Individuals who are attractive can often get away with subtle things that less attractive people cannot. Similarly, overweight people often face subtle bias against them, such as being made fun of or judged as lazy and unhealthy.
  • Physical ability: Unfortunately, some attitudes held toward people suffering from physical disabilities may miss out on job opportunities or career advancements, or accessibility provisions provided by law. At the most basic level, we see that people in wheelchairs cannot access certain establishments that others can.
  • Educational attainment privileges: Educational attainment is increasingly seen globally as a meaningful lever of individual success, better earnings, respected career, and gains influencing board rooms further non-attendees. In this sense, being educated is a privilege that we should be grateful to receive.
  • Geographic location/residency privileges: Certain geographic areas enjoy privileges based on their location, including proximity to amenities and a well-developed transportation system. This can lead to higher income opportunities, contributing to an improved standard of living for residents in these areas. In contrast, remote locations may lack such advantages, limiting the chances for individuals to enhance their quality of life.
  • First mover privilege: People or companies who introduce new products or services first in a new market may gain significant competitive advantages over any rivals who come later. This can include brand recognition, market share control, and certain profit margins. Some societies recognize this as a problem in certain circumstances, leading to the passing of laws against insider trading, for example.
  • Perception privilege: Based on personal qualities, attitude, family background, and the people you know, how others perceive your persona could open doors to previously closed-off to you. Perception plays a huge role in promoting one’s skills, capabilities, and talents through a positive global view, courtesy of those who can influence the social, economic, & political spheres.

See More Examples of Privileges Here

Rights vs. Privileges: Similarities and Differences

Rights and privileges are two concepts that may share some similarities but differ in many significant ways.

Let’s take a closer look at their similarities and differences:


  • Both come with some inherent benefits or advantages: Rights are considered essential for the well-being and freedom of individuals, while privileges afford benefits based on certain status.
  • Both can be subject to varying interpretations and jurisdictions: Rights and privileges differ from country to country and can even vary within different legal code interpretations depending upon contextual interpretation.
  • Denial of both rights and privileges is damaging: Differentiated access to both rights and privileges causes social inequalities. Whereas society generally aims to ensure everyone has access to all their inherent rights, this is often not the case in reality.


  • Rights are universal, while privileges are not: Everyone should have access to their human rights regardless of their background or skin color, while only certain individuals enjoy specific advantages related to privilege.
  • Rights cannot be revoked unless for the protection of others: Generally, everyone has their rights for life, except in circumstances such as imprisonment where rights are restricted for the protection of society. Privileges, on the other hand, can be easily revoked if not responsibly exercised by the person benefiting from the privilege.
  • Rights are inherent, while privileges may be earned: Fundamental rights are universal and should not be taken away from any individual, while certain advantages that come with privilege may be earned, enjoyed temporarily, or revoked depending upon how the bearer responsibly exercises them.

In essence, although both terms imply advantages relating to humans, one refers specifically to non-refutable entitlements while the other can be revoked or change more easily.


Rights and privileges are two terms used to describe individuals’ advantages in society.

Rights are inherent entitlements that every individual has by being human. On the other hand, privileges are benefits or advantages conferred on certain people based on their status, position, or connection with other influential individuals.

While both concepts may benefit different individuals under different circumstances, rights, and privileges differ significantly.

Human rights are considered universal and fundamental for ensuring human dignity, justice, equality, and freedom. As a result, governments globally need to enforce laws protecting these.

Privilege is often associated with providing exclusive access to benefits, creating an unequal playing field.

While some believe privilege offers opportunities for those who work hard to earn them, there is criticism towards those with significant privileges that they may not have rightfully earned.


Andorno, R. (2013). Human dignity and human rights.Handbook of Global Bioethics, 45–57. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2512-6_66

Black, L. L., & Stone, D. (2005). Expanding the definition of privilege: The concept of social privilege.Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development,33(4), 243–255. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2005.tb00020.x

De Cleen, B., & Alberto, J. (2023). Populism of the privileged: On the use of underdog identities by comparatively privileged groups.Political Studies, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/00323217231160427

Sutton, H. (2020). Understand the privileges, power of academic leadership.Dean and Provost,21(11), 12–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/dap.30750

United Nations. (1948).Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights

Wenar, L. (2005).Rights. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/

Chris Drew (PhD)

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.


What are examples of rights vs privileges? ›

A right is something that cannot be legally denied, such as the rights to free speech, press, religion, and raising a family. A privilege is something that can be given and taken away and is considered to be a special advantage or opportunity that is available only to certain people.

What is a right vs a privilege? ›

In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth.

What are 3 privileges? ›

Below, we also describe five types of privilege with simple examples.
  • White privilege: In many countries, white privilege benefits white people at the expense of people of color. ...
  • Religious privilege: ...
  • Gender privilege: ...
  • Heterosexual privilege: ...
  • Socio-economic privilege:

What is an example of a right? ›

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

What are 2 examples of rights? ›

10 Examples of Human Rights
  • #1. The right to life. ...
  • #2. The right to freedom from torture and inhumane treatment. ...
  • #3. The right to equal treatment before the law. ...
  • #4. The right to privacy. ...
  • #5. The right to asylum. ...
  • #6. The right to marry and have family. ...
  • #7. The right to freedom of thought, religion, opinion, and expression. ...
  • #8.

What are the five privileges? ›

The five basic rights include the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to free and unperturbed media, the right to vote freely in public and open elections, and the right to worship religion in a free setting.

Is healthcare a privilege or a right? ›

Health care is a right not a privilege. When you or a loved one is ill or injured you should have access to a doctor, medication and treatment.

What are permissions vs rights vs privileges? ›

Permissions refer to the access granted for an object and determine what you can do with it. Rights refer to the ability to take action on an object - outside the scope of permissions. Privileges refer to the union of permissions and rights.

What is the full meaning of privilege? ›

1. Privilege… What Does it Mean? * Privilege comes from the Latin privilegium, meaning a law for just one person, a benefit enjoyed by an individual or group beyond what is available to others. *Any right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person or group beyond the advantages of most.

What are the two 2 types of privileges? ›

Administrator privileges control creation of objects and system administration. Object privileges control access to specific database objects.

What are the example of human privileges? ›

They range from the most fundamental - the right to life - to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.

What are the rights privileges? ›

Rights—claims that generate correlative duties in other persons or institutions—are contrasted with privileges (also called liberties or freedoms). To have a privilege means that one is free to act (or not act) as they wish, but this freedom is unprotected. This means that it doesn't entail corresponding duties.

What are the type of rights? ›

The UDHR and other documents lay out five kinds of human rights: economic, social, cultural, civil, and political. Economic, social, and cultural rights include the right to work, the right to food and water, the right to housing, and the right to education.

What is a right simple definition? ›

A right is something a person has which people think should not be taken away. It is a rule about what a person is allowed to do or have. A right is different from a privilege, which is something that must be earned. Rights may be put into laws, so they have legal protection.

What is right in society? ›

Social rights are moral, legal or societal rules and an understanding of what is necessary to fulfil people's social needs and to promote social inclusion and social solidarity. Social rights concern how people live and work together and the basic necessities of life.

What is an example of rights in America? ›

It spells out Americans' rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States.

What are two rights of everyone? ›

Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person. Right to life, liberty and personal security. Article II.

What are 2 examples of natural rights? ›

Among these fundamental natural rights, Locke said, are "life, liberty, and property."

What are least rights privileges? ›

What is the principle of least privilege (POLP)? The principle of least privilege (POLP) is a concept in computer security that limits users' access rights to only what are strictly required to do their jobs. Users are granted permission to read, write or execute only the files or resources necessary to do their jobs.

What are absolute privileges? ›

Absolute privilege, in defamation cases, refers to the fact that in certain circumstances, an individual is immune from liability for defamatory statements. Absolute privilege applies to statements made in certain contexts or in certain venues and is a complete defense.

Is Nursing a right or privilege? ›

Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Why is healthcare not a right? ›

There are several reasons why health care should not be considered a human right. Firstly, health care is difficult to define. It clearly encompasses preventive care (for example, immunisation), public health measures, health promotion, and medical and surgical treatment of established illness.

Is health considered a right? ›

The right to health was again recognized as a human right in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since then, other international human rights treaties have recognized or referred to the right to health or to elements of it, such as the right to medical care.

What are four basic permissions? ›

There are four categories (system, owner, group, and world) and four types of access permissions (Read, Write, Execute and Delete). The categories are not mutually disjoint: World includes Group, which in turn includes Owner. The System category independently includes system users.

What is the purpose of rights and permissions? ›

User rights and permissions are the levels of access granted to users (company employees), enabling them to perform specific tasks and access resources on your network such as data files or applications.

Are permissions and privileges the same? ›

Permissions allow users to perform some action, such as reading or writing data, or using a tool. Permissions are associated with resources, forming privileges. A privilege is written as a resource name followed by a permission separated by a colon, such as %DB_Sales:Read, which describes an action a user can perform.

What is the purpose of privilege? ›

A privilege is a legal rule that protects communications within certain relationships from compelled disclosure in a court proceeding. One such privilege, which is of long standing and applicable in all legal settings, is the attorney-client privilege.

What is the best description of privilege? ›

A privilege is a right or advantage gained by birth, social position, effort, or concession.

What's another word for privilege? ›

synonyms for privilege

On this page you'll find 94 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to privilege, such as: advantage, allowance, authority, authorization, benefit, and concession.

What is the opposite of privilege? ›

The Opposite of Privilege is Oppression.

What is a sentence for privilege? ›

Having been born to privilege in old Hollywood, she was carrying on a family tradition by acting. It must be a privilege to know such a man. I had the privilege of meeting Mandela at the only service of the Order of Merit he attended. They are privileging a tiny number to the disadvantage of the rest.

Which of the following is an example of least privileges? ›

For example, a user account created for pulling records from a database doesn't need admin rights, while a programmer whose main function is updating lines of legacy code doesn't need access to financial records.

What privileges do adults have? ›

Here's an overview of the privileges of turning 18:
  • At age 18 you are legally responsible for your actions. ...
  • At age 18 you can vote. ...
  • At age 18 you can join the military. ...
  • You gain more driving privileges. ...
  • At age 18 you must sign tax forms for employment. ...
  • At age 18 your juvenile record is sealed.

What are common law privileges? ›

Common law privileges are a different matter. These privileges are judicial creations, not based in constitutional provisions. They are designed to protect confidential communications between parties in certain relationships, such as the attorney-client, doctor-patient, and spousal privileges.

What are examples of constitutional privileges? ›

What are my basic constitutional rights?
  • Freedom of Religion. The First Amendment requires the federal government to be absolutely neutral in matters of religion. ...
  • Freedom of Speech. ...
  • Freedom to Petition & Assemble. ...
  • Freedom of Association. ...
  • Right to Bear Arms. ...
  • Right to Privacy. ...
  • Equal Protection. ...
  • Right to Vote.

What are the 8 basic rights? ›

The eight consumer rights are: Right to basic needs, Right to safety, Right to information, Right to choose, Right to representation, Right to redress, Right to consumer education, and Right to healthy environment.

What does access rights privileges mean? ›

Access Privileges means the rights and abilities assigned to a specific Authorized User account (e.g., read-only access, write access, certain patient access, etc.)

How many human rights are? ›

30 articles on the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Who defines human rights? ›

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations was founded in 1945. The United Nations allowed more than 50 Member States to contribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948.

What are the six different rights? ›

The words of the First Amendment itself establish six rights: (1) the right to be free from governmental establishment of religion (the “Establishment Clause”), (2) the right to be free from governmental interference with the practice of religion (the “Free Exercise Clause”), (3) the right to free speech, (4) the right ...

What is the other word for right? ›

appropriate, good, honest, honorable, legal, legitimate, proper, suitable, true, correct, perfect, sure, valid, acceptable, all right, common, convenient, decent, desirable, happy.

How does the constitution define a right? ›

Constitutional rights are the protections and liberties guaranteed to the people by the U.S. Constitution. Many of these rights are outlined in the Bill of Rights; such as the right to free speech in the First Amendment, and the right to a speedy and public trial in the Sixth Amendment.

What is the theory of rights? ›

Theory stating that everyone has rights arising simply from being born—the right to life, maximum individual liberty, and human dignity are all fundamental rights.

What is right behavior? ›

right. noun. behavior that is considered good or moral.

What is right morally? ›

Morally right acts are activities that are allowed. They include the morally neutral, the morally obligatory, and the morally supererogatory. Morally neutral acts are morally right activities that are allowed but not required. One is neither obligated nor prohibited from doing them.

Is healthcare a right or a privilege? ›

Health care is a right not a privilege. When you or a loved one is ill or injured you should have access to a doctor, medication and treatment.

What rights and privileges do all citizens have? ›

Right to vote in elections for public officials. Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship. Right to run for elected office. Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

What is citizen right? ›

Abstract. Citizenship rights is a set of rights and rules that governs in macro society, state-country and is a mixture of tasks and responsibilities of citizens toward each other and/ or government in its common meaning and also rights and privileges that government should satisfy them.

What are privileges in healthcare? ›

What are hospital privileges? Hospital privileges authorize medical practitioners for a specific practice of patient care in a specified healthcare facility. Privileges are granted to physicians based on their current medical credentials and previous performance.

What are rights responsibilities and privileges? ›

The strategy is called “Rights, Responsibilities, and Privileges,” and it's based on the belief that households function better when children understand that their privileges are directly tied to their responsibilities. Beyond that, you can raise more resilient children by teaching them self-efficacy.

What is the most important right granted to US citizens? ›

The First Amendment is widely considered to be the most important part of the Bill of Rights. It protects the fundamental rights of conscience—the freedom to believe and express different ideas—in a variety of ways.

Which is an example of the privileges and immunities of US citizens? ›

Examples of privileges and immunities include life, liberty, and property, but also include the right to sue, the right to protection of a federal Marshall, and the right to run for federal office and vote in federal elections.

What are privileges under the law? ›

A privilege is a legal rule that protects communications within certain relationships from compelled disclosure in a court proceeding. One such privilege, which is of long standing and applicable in all legal settings, is the attorney-client privilege.

What are special privileges? ›

: a privilege granted (as by a law or constitution) to an individual or group to the exclusion of others and in derogation of common right.

What does it mean to be a privileged person? ›

When you're privileged, you enjoy some special right or advantage that most people don't have. You could be privileged to live in a lighthouse and have a spectacular view of the bay. People can be privileged in many different ways, but it always means that they're getting some unusual deal that others probably envy.


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