Plato points out that new ethical systems are not created ex nihilo; rather, they build on previously established ethics, as when the Civil Rights Movement reminded society, in Plato's phrase, that segregation was incompatible with basic American ideals of equality. In the case of animals, society looked to its ethics for the treatment of humans and adapted it, with appropriate modifications, to animals.
The part of the ethic that was adapted is the part designed to deal with a fundamental problem confronting all societies the conflict between the good of the group and the good of the individual.1-3-1 Thus, when we tax the wealthy to help feed the poor, the rich person does not benefit but rather society as a whole. Similarly, if a person is drafted to serve in a war, the society benefits but not the individual who may be wounded or killed. Many totalitarian societies simply favor the corporate entity. Western democratic societies, however, strike a wise balance. These societies do make most of their decisions by reference to the general welfare but also protect certain fundamental aspects of the individual, based on a reasonable theory of human nature, even from the general welfare. These legal/moral protections of key aspects of human nature speech, belief, property, assembly, etc. are called rights.
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