Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hayek on Human Rights

 Take the conception of human rights.  I’m not sure whether it’s an invention of the present administration or whether it’s of an older date, but I suppose if you told an eighteen year old that human rights is a new discovery he wouldn’t believe it.  He would have thought the United States for 200 years has been committed to human rights, which of course would be absurd.
The United States discovered human rights two years ago or five years ago.  Suddenly it’s the main object and leads to a degree of interference with the policy of other countries which, even if I sympathized with the general aim, I don’t think it’s in the least justified.  People in South Africa have to deal with their own problems, and the idea that you can use external pressure to change people, who after all have built up a civilization of a kind, seems to me morally a very doubtful belief.  But it’s a dominating belief in the United States now.
HT: Aid Watch. Videos and more here.

Blattman comments:
Human rights trouble me less than their blind acceptance. Not least because of the steadily creeping definition. ... Not long ago I discussed Michael Ignatieff’s take: human rights are merely useful, and that is good enough. I find this mostly persuasive. If I had to draw the veil of ignorance, not knowing what role or gender or nationality I would receive, I’d be much relieved by a world with human rights.

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