The Infant in the Snow
PROPERTIES OF LAW, T. Endicott, J. Getzler & E Peel, eds., pp. 348-366, Oxford University Press, 2006
19 Pages Posted: 29 May 2007
Suppose that you are wandering across the tundra, and you find an infant, all alone, in the snow. She is incapable of discourse, and yet she has the same human rights as anyone who is capable of discourse. Those rights do not depend on the practices or conventions of your people, or hers. Human discourse and human conventions play no role in human rights. I elaborate these claims through a critique of J.W. Harris's groundbreaking analytical account of human rights. I conclude that some welfare rights are paradigms of human rights, while rights of freedom of expression, privacy, and assembly, and rights to vote, and rights to independent tribunals are not human rights at all, except in a distantly metaphorical sense. Moreover, human rights can be explained with no reference at all to state authorities (though state authorities may have various special roles in observing and promoting some of them).
Keywords: human rights, welfare rights, J.W.Harris, universal rights, conventions
JEL Classification: K30, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation