The primary difference in how natural rights are considered in Great Britain and Iran is that Great Britain has adopted a theory of natural rights as laid out by John Locke, including property rights and the right to form a government through democratic process; while Iran has a system of government modeled after natural rights as established in the Islamic religion. Great Britain’s government is secular, while Iran’s government is religiously influenced. The two governments have therefore evolved differently over time, with different considerations of natural rights, including what constitutes a natural right and how they should be upheld by governmental law.
The structure of both countries include an established head of government, although the powers between the two differ drastically. In Great Britain, the form of government is known as a representative monarchy. The monarch, however, has very little official powers in regard to the actual running of government, and instead has a more ceremonial role. While the Queen of England is the monarch, the true head of government is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister follows the directives of the House of Commons, which is the more influential body of government in Great Britain, although the House of Lords also contributes to parliamentary decisions. However, the reason the House of Commons is more powerful than the House of Lords is because the House of Commons has enough influence to veto actions taken by the House of Lords.
Because politicians in Great Britain are elected through democratic process, this would follow Locke’s view on natural rights that the role of government is to protect natural rights of its citizens. Through elections, the citizens are able to have control over their leadership, either directly or indirectly. The citizens will vote a majority party into place, and the head of that party is then appointed as Prime Minister. While the Prime Minister is not voted upon directly, the citizens have the ability to vote a different party into power during the election cycle, so the Prime Minister does to have indefinite powers. The citizens can not vote for the monarch, which is still hereditarily determined, but the monarch has very few actual powers and cannot influence governmental decisions on an official basis. The more powerful House of Commons also ensures that the natural rights of all citizens, and not just those of a protected class, such as land-owners, are able to exert an undue amount of influence in the country. Therefore, any legislative action that would have an impact on natural rights are essentially determined by the voting public. Any legislative action must also adhere to the British Constitution, which acknowledges and places emphasis on various human rights acts. Although the British Constitution itself does not mandate adherence to human rights, as established in the Constitutions of other countries such as the United States, there has been a long tradition of supporting natural rights as established by John Locke.
The Iranian government also has several legislative bodies and an elected president, but all of these figures fall under the authority of the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is a single figure, similar to the British monarch, but unlike the British monarchy, the Supreme Leader has ultimate authority. The Supreme Leader is considered both the head of government, and the highest religious authority. Because of this dual governmental and religious role, the Supreme Leader will often interpret natural rights, and laws regarding natural rights, in accordance with the teachings of Islam. The Islamic view of natural law is that humans can only overcome conflict by following divine law, according to the Islamic religion. These values include the right to life, reason, and the ability to follow Islamic teachings, but unlike Great Britain, not everyone has the same rights afforded others, as there are distinctions in rights according to gender, and for those who do not follow Islam. Natural rights are therefore not considered to be universal, in that they would apply to all persons regardless of any factor. Religious law is therefore a mandate, and the role of the Supreme Leader in Iran is to ensure religious adherence in all systems of government and forms of legislation. While there are many concepts regarding natural rights that are shared between the two nations, such as the right to life and property, there are other rights that are not shared between the two; for instance, in Great Britain the ability to choose one’s religion is considered a natural right, while in Iran, this is not a natural right because it goes against Islamic law.
When evaluating how the two systems have evolved according to natural rights theory, the government in Great Britain has become more democratic over time, while it has become less democratic in Iran. Great Britain has had a monarchy for over a thousand years, but through various acts of legislation, the power of the monarch, whose power was once absolute, has weakened considerably over time. With the reduced power of the monarch, more power has been granted to the citizenry. In Iran, following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which established the role of the Supreme Leader, there has been less democracy because more power has become consolidated at the head of government. The Supreme Leader’s dual function of running the government, as well as being the head religious authority, has granted the role of the Supreme Leader more powers over time.