Human Rights vs Property Rights
Just World Institute Working Paper No. 2013/04
26 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2014
Date Written: October 11, 2013
It is possible to claim that human rights trump mere rights of property. But first the two categories must be clearly distinguished. Progress on this requires some methodological innovation. The approach adopted does not start from definitions of two concepts and then seek to contrast them; rather, it proceeds by noting a series of distinctions that together differentiate two mutually disjunctive categories of rights. Recognizing that sometimes human rights fulfillment may instrumentally require specific property rights, and that a capacity for ownership can sometimes be defended on a human rights basis, I argue, nevertheless, against justifications for claiming that among human rights is a general and substantive right of property. The conceptual distinction presented here enables us to delimit the scope of justification for property rights so that for any specific property right in any definite context we can determine whether or not it has a human rights justification.
Keywords: human rights, property rights, rights, Waldron
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