September 23, 2014

MEANWHILE, THE MOST DEMONIC FIGURES OF THE RIGHT...:

Without means, there are no real rights : Socialism--even social democracy--is in retreat as capitalism reigns triumphant. But if we care about political freedom, we have to care about economic freedom too: without means, civil and political rights are empty. (STUART WILSON, 23 September 2014, OpenDemocracy)

The promise of rights is that they reclaim neoliberalism's central insight--that human freedom is perhaps the most important political value. The best account of rights then takes that to its logical conclusion. Freedom from state interference with thought and political action is of course important. But what about other freedoms--freedoms from disease, ignorance and poverty? Freedoms to realise one's self, and to pursue a healthy, well-informed, comfortable life?

The political left's greatest contribution to the theory of rights is this: if political rights are to be worth anything, they entail recognition of the means necessary to exercise them. Civil and political rights are indivisible from economic and social ones. Of course, adequate education, healthcare, housing and employment are good things in themselves, but it cannot be taken for granted that everybody thinks that everyone else is entitled to them. The beauty of indivisibility is its strong central challenge: if you really care about political freedom, then you have to care about economic freedom.

But economic freedom in this sense is not just autonomy. It is self-realisation. Economic freedom, understood as a necessary precondition for the exercise of political rights, does not entail the absolute protection of property rights. It instead requires the redistribution of economic goods to the extent necessary to ensure that everyone has more or less equal access to the means of self-realisation. For without those means, civil and political rights are empty.

An account of human rights which emphasises this indivisibility is perhaps the only way the left currently has of persuading liberals and conservatives--or at least those who genuinely care about freedom--that redistribution matters. Economic goods must be extended as of right to those who do not currently possess them.


...in the imagination of the Left, are precisely those--Pinochet, Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, W--who have sought to redistribute wealth more equally, but in capitalist instead of socialist fashion..

Posted by at September 23, 2014 5:15 PM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING: | Main | THE PRICE OF LEAVING THEM TO THE ASSADS FOR FORTY YEARS: »