Tuesday, February 05, 2008

rights and children: a tenuous analogy

Children are awkward for libertarians. We mostly think we have a right to be left alone, not to assistance from others. But infants clearly have a right to more than this, implying a positive duty on someone else, "the parents!" a libertarian might cry. But it doesn't take much imagination to see that this isn't enough to protect the rights of children, some are still going to be abandoned and abused and they shouldn't need to rely on charity to get some help. So the government should guarantee these rights.

Of course, even if we take a minimalist, negative view of rights, we all have them, we talk about human rights all the time; not citizens rights, or South African rights. People in certain countries have these rights violated all the time. The cry is usually that it is their governments duty to enforce these rights. Maybe we should put pressure on delinquent governments but we have no duty ourselves. I think this is wrong, if we talk about human rights then we should face up to our (negative) duty.

I'm sceptical of arguments by analogy like this one, but I think it's something worth thinking about.

Governments create new rights for their citizens all the time. I don't see any problem with these rights only applying only to their citizens, but we should remember what the most basic fundamental rights are and what they should imply.

2 comments:

Tracy said...

Perhaps the problem is in the conception of rights. I haven't studied philosophy/politics so I don't understand the definition very well. But I think for the general public rights represent the ideal of a fair society. Who makes sure that people have their rights enforced is a completely different question and very tricky.

If I believe in the right that all people should have a safe place to live, what can I do about it? What is my responsibility?

Even though it's tricky to decide who should do what, it doesn't mean we should give up on the idea of those rights does it?

What would you say are the most fundamental rights? It is tricky because I imagine that our expectations increase as we get better off - though I'm not sure this is a bad thing?

Stuart said...

My understanding of rights comes from Jamie Whyte, rights imply duties on other people. Sooo, in the case of having a safe place to live, you should refrain from murdering people, and pay taxes to fund the police and justice system, so you do have duties.

My analogy fails in a way, government providing for abandoned children requires positive action to assist it. With people from Sudan, rich country governments government have to STOP doing positive actions to prevent them from enjoying rights. Easy as pie.

The most fundamental right is for you and your stuff to be left alone. We then create new rights to go ontop of that, which is fine.

I think we're too used to the rights that rich countries grant. there citizens have a right to be rich, and are full of indignation at the lack of justice when they're not made rich enough. and millions of people dont have any rights at all. I think its a little sick.