Human Rights Theory

Topics: Human rights, Rights, Economic, social and cultural rights Pages: 4 (1269 words) Published: February 24, 2008
Paper 1: Human Rights Theory

In this paper, I will make a number of arguments against the human right to social and economic welfare. In particular, I will examine Henry Shue's defense of subsistence and illustrate why I find his reasoning ineffective. The first point I will make in this paper is that socio-economic welfare rights cannot be human rights because they are not universal. Thereafter, I will argue against two thoughts proposed by Henry Shue in Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence and U.S. Foreign Policy. I will first argue, in direct contradiction to Shue, that human rights are only negative, and that subsistence rights are inherently positive; therefore subsistence rights cannot be human rights. Finally, I will argue the idea that socio-economic welfare programs are not practical with respect to the scarcity of resources.

One argument against the existence of social and economic welfare rights is that they do not apply to all people universally. In order for a right to be a human right, it must apply to all persons, with no exception for age, color or social standing. How then, can welfare rights be universal when they only benefit a certain class of individuals? Furthermore, welfare rights do not just benefit one class of individuals; welfare rights benefit those individuals at the cost of the more fortunate members of society. It could be argued that the taxation of the fortunate to provide for the welfare programs is a violation of rights, but I will not address that here. Critics argue that human rights are universal, but that some of them only become operative once relevant conditions are met. For example, the right to vote can only be exercised when you are of legal age. However, the right to vote and other civil and political rights are not of the same condition as welfare rights. Whereas civil and political rights do not discriminate against anyone, welfare rights do discriminate against social standing, whether intended...
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