Improving Human Rights

Improving Human Rights

Improving Human Rights

Improving Human Rights

Synopsis

The first comprehensive statistical analysis of human rights attainments and improvements over time, this book seeks to answer the question, "Why do some countries better observe human rights than others, and what can be done to advance the cause of human rights around the world?" Haas's data support his argument that economic sanctions against countries that violate human rights are likely to be counterproductive. When information flows more freely and economies are more pluralistic, competing political parties emerge, and basic human rights are increasingly respected. When liberal democracies have sufficient prosperity to adopt welfare state policies, women's rights are most likely to advance.

Excerpt

Human rights underpin the very concept of democracy yet often seem an abstraction until their violation comes close to home. When I grew up in Hollywood in the early 1950s, the impact of the blacklisting of motion picture artists was my first experience of how ambitious, unscrupulous leaders sought to sacrifice productive careers of filmmakers on the altar of political demagoguery. In the early 1960s, I saw a similar spectacle as courageous civil rights leaders, seeking to extend civil rights to black citizens, were abused by police. In the late 1960s, hysteria over protests against U.S. participation in the civil war in Vietnam increased to the point where a colleague of my department was unjustly fired for his political views and, then, after a year of campus unrest, was rehired. In the 1970s, as I sought to bring federal civil rights officials to Hawai'i to investigate complaints that I filed on behalf of ethnic minorities and women, I found my telephone wiretapped.

Internationally, possessions of my hotel room were searched without a warrant, and I was interrogated on a police fishing expedition for "consorting with Sinhalese" (going on a tour of batik art, courtesy of the Principal Information Officer of the Colombo Plan) under emergency rule in Sri Lanka in 1971. In Singapore during May 1987, as I began a summer on a Fulbright research grant, the government presented a case against a dozen Christian social workers, accusing them of being Marxists because they had been helping Filipina maids to counteract mistreatment by their employers. The twelve were held without formal charges on the basis of an anachronistic Internal Security Act designed to prevent treasonous conduct, yet they were accused only of forming organizations to exercise the right of free public expression. As the summer unfolded, the Singapore government paraded a series of phony rationalizations to justify continued detention and a denial of the writ of habeas corpus. Subjected to mental . . .

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