The justification of human rights – the quest for reasons why they are important and why we need them – is probably the most important topic of this blog (some previous posts are here, here, here, here and here). One element of justification is their compatibility with an important tenet of moral theory, namely value… Continue reading The Ethics of Human Rights (64): Value Pluralism Supports Human Rights
First of all, my apologies for the ridiculous length of this post, but I wanted to offer a systematic overview of some of the most common theories of justice and to try to figure out which one is best from a human rights perspective. Given the variety of theories of justice this can’t be anything… Continue reading The Ethics of Human Rights (59): Human Rights and Theories of Justice
Another reason not to worry too much about the supposed incompatibility of equality and freedom is the fact that an equal level of monetary resources promotes freedom. Money in the form of a relatively decent income allows us to choose from and engage in a wide variety of activities. It makes it possible for us… Continue reading The Compatibility of Freedom and Equality (13): More Income Equality Makes Us More Free
In general, those who promote human rights will not be tempted to engage in paternalistic policies. That’s because human rights are about protecting people against each other, not about protecting people against themselves. And one of the foundations of human rights is the moral value of personal autonomy: people have a right to organize their… Continue reading The Ethics of Human Rights (47): What’s So Funny About Paternalism?
Freedom understood as independence and the absence of interference or intentional coercion (especially government coercion) is an important concept. The problem is that it seems to invalidate redistribution through taxation. If the government taxes a wealthy person to transfer some of her wealth to another person living under a fixed threshold of basic resources, then… Continue reading The Compatibility of Freedom and Equality (12): How Coercion Promotes Freedom
Some of the consequences of hate speech are human rights violations; others are not. Only the former are good reasons to criminalize hate speech and carve out an exception to the right to free speech. Rights can only be limited for the sake of other rights or the rights of others (more here). Let’s go… Continue reading Limiting Free Speech (43): The Consequences of Hate Speech
Cosmopolitanism and partiality (or parochialism if you don’t mean it in a negative sense) are two very strong and yet contradictory moral intuitions. Let’s start with the former. Most of us have a strong sense of the arbitrariness of national borders. The accident of being born on one or the other side of a border… Continue reading The Ethics of Human Rights (44): Human Rights Between Cosmopolitanism and Partiality
Property is the set of rules governing people’s access to and control of things. Three types are traditionally distinguished: private property, common property and collective property. Types of property 1. Private property In the case of private property, an individual agent (usually persons, but also families, businesses etc.) has a right to private property if… Continue reading Why Do We Need Human Rights? (22): Private Property Rights, Justifications Based Not On Their Origins But On Their Purpose
The notion that taxation is theft and a violation of property rights is quite common, especially in libertarian circles. (A less extreme version of the argument claims that taxation may be a justified limitation of property rights but its level should be kept as low as possible because of concerns for economic incentives). The classic… Continue reading Is Taxation Akin to Theft and Slavery?
Prominent libertarian politician Rand Paul recently caused a stir by claiming that he didn’t support parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically the parts applying non-discrimination legislation to private businesses. Like most libertarians, he believes that if private restaurant owners, for example, want to prevent blacks from eating there, then that’s their right.… Continue reading Discrimination (3): Libertarianism and Private Discrimination
The Repugnant Conclusion is a moral dilemma for utilitarian and consequentialist moral theories. The dilemma was first presented by Derek Parfit in his 1984 book Reasons and Persons. The “repugnancy” in question refers to the consequence of a thought experiment. Imagine a society with a large amount of total utility resulting from a very large… Continue reading The Ethics of Human Rights (26): The Repugnant Conclusion and Human Rights
Although I take human rights, and especially freedom of expression, very seriously (I wouldn’t be writing this blog otherwise), I also believe that hate speech can produce hate crime. It’s a thin line between hateful words and hateful actions. Impressionable people can be led to violent crimes by hate speech. This is called incitement to violence. I… Continue reading Limiting Free Speech (39): From Hate Speech to Hate Crime, the Case of Rwanda