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The Ironic Tragedy of Human Rights

Fellow Public Reasoners,

I recently posted an essay, “The Ironic Tragedy of Human Rights,” on the Social Science Research Network (at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1330693). As you can see from the summary below, the argument amounts to a very radical critique of human rights. This has left me wondering: have I missed something obvious? Needless to say, I’d appreciate any thoughts you may have.



With the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the idea of human rights came into its own on the world stage. More than anything, the Declaration was a response to the Holocaust, to both its perpetrators and the failure of the rest of the world adequately to come to the aid of its victims. Since that year, however, we have seen many more cases of mass murder. Think of China, Bali, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now Darfur. Of course one could always claim that such horrors would have been even more frequent if not for the Declaration. But I want to argue otherwise. For I believe that human rights have contributed to making mass murder more, rather than less, likely. read more...

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