Leif Wenar, in “The Nature of Rights,” claims to have provided an analytical framework which is not only adequate for explicating all assertions of rights but whose deployment offers a way out of the deadlock he believes to exist between will theories and interest theories regarding the nature of rights.i To have accomplished one, let alone both, of these things would be a significant achievement in the field of rights theory. It is therefore worth showing why, unfortunately, he has not (...) succeeded on either score. Despite the clarity of Wenar’s exposition of his own position, and notwithstanding the incisive insights he brings to bear in the course of it, his revised Hohfeldian analytical framework does not in fact serve better than the original to clarify what is at stake in controversies over rights, and his deployment of it does not provide a cogent alternative to the interest theory. (shrink)
“There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.” (Blackstone, p.
The subject of this volume presents a more difficult question: Who, if anyone, is morally responsible for acting to alleviate severe poverty? Here our convictions are less steady. Are impoverished people responsible for improving their own condition? Or are the leaders of their countries also responsible, or the leaders of rich countries, or we ourselves as individuals? When considering this question we tend to have the kinds of reactions—avoidance of the topic, brief enthusiasm, nagging guilt—that indicate that we perceive several (...) strong pulls on our reasoning, but are unsure how to order our thoughts so as to reach a firm conclusion. Here is where a philosophical account of responsibility might help. What we want to know is how to determine who, if anyone, has moral responsibility for ensuring that each person’s human right to an adequate standard of living is secured. What we seek is a general theory that will tell us how to locate responsibility for averting this type of threat to individuals’ basic well-being. (shrink)
There are, in the broadest terms, two views of the value of the right to free speech. On the first view speech rights good in themselves. To respect a person’s speech rights is just to respect the inherent dignity and worth of that person as a rational and autonomous being. On the second view speech rights are means to ends. We ascribe speech rights because doing so will help us to achieve desirable states of affairs like democratic stability, market efficiency, (...) and greater enlightenment. (shrink)
In John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples we find unfamiliar concepts, surprising pronouncements, and what appear from a familiar Rawlsian perspective to be elementary errors in reasoning.1 Even Rawls’s most sensitive and sympathetic interpreters have registered unusually deep misgivings about the book.2 Most perplexing of all is the general character of the view that Rawls sets out to justify. For in this book Rawls, the twentieth century’s leading liberal egalitarian, advances a theory which shows no direct concern for individuals and (...) requires no narrowing of global material inequality. (shrink)
What morality requires of us in a world of poverty and inequality depends both on what our duties are in the abstract, and on what we can do to help. T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism addresses the first question. I suggest that contractualism isolates the moral factors that frame our deliberations about the extent of our obligations in situations of need. To this extent, contractualism clarifies our common-sense understanding of our duties to distant others. The second, empirical question then becomes vital. What (...) we as individuals need to know is how to fulfil our duties to the distant poor. Moral theorists tend to base their prescriptions on simple assumptions about how the rich can help the poor. Yet a survey of the empirical literature shows how urgently we need more information on this topic before we can know what contractualist morality — or any plausible morality — requires of us. (shrink)
So long as large segments of humanity are suffering chronic poverty and are dying from treatable diseases, organized giving can save or enhance millions of lives. With the law providing little guidance, ethics has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the philanthropic practices of individuals, foundations, NGOs, governments, and international agencies are morally sound and effective. In Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy, an accomplished trio of editors bring together an international group of distinguished philosophers, social scientists, lawyers (...) and practitioners to identify and address the most urgent moral questions arising today in the practice of philanthropy. The topics discussed include the psychology of giving, the reasons for and against a duty to give, the accountability of NGOs and foundations, the questionable marketing practices of some NGOs, the moral priorities that should inform NGO decisions about how to target and design their projects, the good and bad effects of aid, and the charitable tax deduction along with the water's edge policy now limiting its reach. This ground-breaking volume can help bring our practice of charity closer to meeting the vital needs of the millions worldwide who depend on voluntary contributions for their very lives. (shrink)
justice as fairness envisions a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights cooperating within an egalitarian economic system. His account of political liberalism addresses the legitimate use of political power in a democracy, aiming to show how enduring unity may be achieved despite the diversity of worldviews that free institutions allow. His writings on the law of peoples extend these theories to liberal foreign policy, with the goal of imagining how a peaceful and tolerant international order might be possible.
Rights dominate most modern understandings of what actions are proper and which institutions are just. Rights structure the forms of our governments, the contents of our laws, and the shape of morality as we perceive it. To accept a set of rights is to approve a distribution of freedom and authority, and so to endorse a certain view of what may, must, and must not be done.
[FIRST PARAGRAPHS] One third of the human species is infested with worms. The World Health Organization estimates that worms account for 40 percent of the global disease burden from tropical diseases excluding malaria. Worms cause a lot of misery. In this article I will focus on one particular type of infestation, which is hookworm. Approximately 740 million people suffer from hookworm infection in areas of rural poverty: more than one human in ten, a total greater than 23 times the population (...) of Canada or twice the population of the United States. The greatest numbers of cases occur in China, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—that is, mostly in the places in the world where poverty is most severe. (shrink)
Contemporary movements for the reform of global institutions advocate greater transparency, greater democracy, and greater accountability. Of these three, accountability is the master value. Transparency is valuable as means to accountability: more transparent institutions reveal whether officials have performed their duties. Democracy is valuable as a mechanism of accountability: elections enable the people peacefully to remove officials who have not done what it is their responsibility to do. “Accountability,” it has been said, “is the central issue of our time.” The (...) focus of this paper is accountability in international development aid: that range of efforts sponsored by the world’s rich aimed at permanently bettering the conditions of the world’s poor. We begin by surveying some of the difficulties in international development work that have raised concerns that development agencies are not accountable enough for producing positive results in alleviating poverty. We then examine the concept of accountability, and survey the general state of accountability in development agencies. A high-altitude map of the main proposals for greater accountability in international development follows, and the paper concludes by exploring one specific proposal for increasing accountability in development aid. (shrink)
All of these claims for reparations have mobilized popular support, and all share a degree of intuitive plausibility. The challenge to the theorist is to judge whether and which of such demands are grounded in sound principles of political normativity, so as to be able to select out the valid claims and to measure how the urgency of these claims compares with other demands on the public agenda. The most basic question for those considering the justiﬁcations of reparations is how (...) to orient their theories within the space of reasons. Do valid claims for reparation rest at the deepest level on reasons we have for redressing a past injustice? Or do they rather rest on reasons we have to improve our current relations so that we can get along better in the future? Are valid reparative demands backward- or forward-looking? (shrink)
The twentieth century saw a vigorous debate over the nature of rights. Will theorists argued that the function of rights is to allocate domains of freedom. Interest theorists portrayed rights as defenders of well-being. Each side declared its conceptual analysis to be closer to an ordinary understanding of what rights there are, and to an ordinary understand- ing of what rights do for rightholders. Neither side could win a decisive victory, and the debate ended in a standoff.
A Northern Ireland politician declared not long ago that the British people had a right not to believe the IRA’s latest statement on disarmament. Therefore, he said, the British government had no right to allow the IRA further representation at the talks. Rights assertions like these are quite common in everyday talk, even if pronouncements linking epistemic and legal rights are less so.
What morality requires of us in a world of poverty and inequality depends both on what our duties are in the abstract, and on what we can do to help. T.M. Scanlon's contractualism addresses the first question. I suggest that contractualism isolates the moral factors that frame our deliberations about the extent of our obligations in situations of need. To this extent, contractualism clarifies our common-sense understanding of our duties to distant others. The second, empirical question then becomes vital. What (...) we as individuals need to know is how to fulfil our duties to the distant poor. Moral theorists tend to base their prescriptions on simple assumptions about how the rich can help the poor. Yet a survey of the empirical literature shows how urgently we need more information on this topic before we can know what contractualist morality — or any plausible morality — requires of us. Key Words: Scanlon • contractualism • global <span class='Hi'>justice</span> • global poverty • aid effectiveness. (shrink)
Leif Wenar examines the impact on takings scholarship of the redefinition of "property" early in the twentieth century. He argues that the Hohfeldian characterization of property as rights (instead of as tangible things) forced major scholars such as Michelman, Sax, and Epstein into extreme interpretations of the Takings Clause. This extremism is unnecessary, however, since the original objections to the idea that "property is things" are mistaken.