The Value and Limits of Rights: A Reply

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Author(s)Jones P
Publication type Article
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Year2012
Volume15
Issue4
Pages495-516
ISSN (print)1369-8230
ISSN (electronic)1743-8772
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I reply to each of the contributions in this issue. I agree with much that Hillel Steiner argues, especially his insistence that the associated ideas of impartiality and discontinuity are crucial to dealing satisfactorily with a diversity of competing claims. I am, however, less willing to conceive provision for that diversity as the role, rather than a role, that we should ascribe to rights. I question the success of David Miller’s endeavour to provide a unified justification of human rights grounded in the concept of need. It is the notion of a minimally decent human life, rather than need itself, that does most of the justificatory work in Miller’s argument and, arguably, that notion does not deliver a genuinely unitary account of human rights. I concede the case for state funding of opera and the arts more generally to John Horton’s argument, but defend neutralism, and its associated distinction between the right and the good, as a strategy for dealing with diversity, including cultural diversity. I resist Richard Bellamy’s attempt to ground all basic rights in democracy and suggest that his argument relies upon idealized assumptions about the functioning of democracy. I share much of his objection to substituting judicial for political decision-making but argue that a strong moral commitment to rights need not imply a shift in power from democratic processes to courts. I endorse Albert Weale’s argument for favouring a beneficial design approach over a rights approach to healthcare and to many other social goods. Rights should not monopolize our moral and political thinking.
PublisherRoutledge
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698230.2012.699400
DOI10.1080/13698230.2012.699400
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