Human rights: a straitjacket on liberty

ESSAY: Natural rights celebrated democracy; human rights emasculate it.

Nowadays, people claim a human right to many things. Prisoners claim a human right to vote. Convicted immigrants resisting deportation claim a human right to family life. Victims claim a human right to damages. Travellers claim a human right to roam. Benefit claimants claim a human right to welfare. The ill and infirm claim a human right to medical and social assistance. I could go on. Today, it’s fair to say that somebody wanting something can usually frame its receipt as the performance of a human right.

The essence of these human-rights claims is an assertion that the claimant has a legal right to something from the state. Whether each claim is meritorious is neither here nor there; what matters is that the claim is made on the basis of there being a human right to it…

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