The Infant in the Snow

PROPERTIES OF LAW, T. Endicott, J. Getzler & E Peel, eds., pp. 348-366, Oxford University Press, 2006

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper Series

19 Pages Posted: 29 May 2007  

Timothy A.O. Endicott

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Abstract

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

Endicott, Timothy A.O., The Infant in the Snow. PROPERTIES OF LAW, T. Endicott, J. Getzler & E Peel, eds., pp. 348-366, Oxford University Press, 2006; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper Series. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=989542

Timothy A.O. Endicott (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

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