Rights: Foundations, contents, hierarchy

Res Publica 12 (3):277-293 (2006)
It would seem that we in the West are suffering from an increasing glut of rights. To the sixty-odd human rights that the Universal Declaration and its Covenants have long given us, must now be added the particular rights claims of an increasing number of ‘oppressed’ minorities, claims to compensation rights for just about every conceivable harm done and claims to ever more trivial things. This tendency is harmful insofar as it trivialises rights and devalues the coverage of rights. Human rights are fundamental and ought to be protected from these tendencies. Using an analysis of the foundations of human rights, and their function in maintaining autonomy in particular, this article analyses the content of rights – what must be fulfilled in order for a right to be protected – as a means of demonstrating the possibility of reducing the volume of rights without reducing rights coverage and of creating a defensible hierarchy.
Keywords autonomy  contents  foundation  hierarchy  rights
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