"Human Rights, Responsibilities, and Democracy": Comment on Tasioulas and Moyn Papers

By Sikkink, Kathryn | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, November 2019 | Go to article overview

"Human Rights, Responsibilities, and Democracy": Comment on Tasioulas and Moyn Papers


Sikkink, Kathryn, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS    I. MORALITY VS. LAW?       1316  II. RIGHTS VS. DEMOCRACY?   1323 III. CONCLUSION              1330 

The approach of this Article is different: unlike Tasioulas and Moyn's Articles, this Article is not skeptical about human rights law. The 2017 book, Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, offered an evidence-based evaluation and defense of the legitimacy and effectiveness of international human rights law, institutions, and movements. (2) The book confronted a series of critiques that were unsubstantiated historically and empirically, including some arguments in the earlier work of Samuel Moyn. (3) But the content of that book will not be rehearsed here. These particular Articles offer a more nuanced and interesting critique of human rights law that in a few ways coincide with some of this author's own concerns and recommendations, as elaborated in this author's forthcoming book, The Hidden Face of Rights: Towards an Ethic of Responsibility. (4)

I. MORALITY VS. LAW?

Tasioulas wants to "sav[e] human rights from the way in which they have been distorted by human rights law that has transgressed its proper bounds." (5) In particular, he wants to save law by "bringing it into greater alignment with... human rights morality." (6) For Tasioulas, the role of human rights law is to "give effect to universal moral rights." (7) He argues that people have an intuitive sense of moral rights, and that these rights should not be confused with interests and values. (8) One way to distinguish moral rights from such interests and values that Tasioulas stresses here is that moral rights are associated with obligations--not just obligations of states but obligations for all. (9) These obligations are categorial: they cannot be ignored or denied or traded off. (10) But in Tasioulas's view, human rights law has strayed beyond the range of these rights involving obligations, and this in turn leads to human rights inflation. (11)

Not all good things in the world should be called human rights, and not all human rights should be judicialized. There are some important universal moral underpinnings to current international human rights law that should not be ignored. One of the main arguments in Evidence for Hope was that the origins of international human rights law were far more diverse than is often understood, deriving not only from the Global North, but importantly as well from countries and movements in the Global South. (12) Such diverse and widespread origins and support for international human rights law point to a deeper moral basis for the law shared by many cultures.

The comments here, however, will mainly address Tasioulas's belief that not all good things in the world should be turned into human rights law. (13) This author, in a forthcoming book, has made a related argument with regard to some issues, such as the environment. (14) Some progressive writers and activists are so focused on rights that they bend over backwards to frame all environmental issues as rights claims. For example, environmental activists have increasingly started to speak in terms of rights: the right to a clean environment, the rights of trees, the rights of rivers, or the rights of Mother Earth herself, as reflected in the Pachamama laws of Bolivia and Ecuador. (15) An environmental group has brought a lawsuit to give the Colorado River legal rights. (16) If it succeeds, that river will join a small handful of others, such as the Ganges, that have legal rights. (17) There is nothing wrong with the idea of rivers, trees, or even Mother Earth having rights, but it is even more important to stress the responsibilities of countries, corporations, states and municipalities, organizations, and individuals to protect them.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our age, but it is not an issue where the framing in terms of human rights is particularly helpful. (18) Instead, it should be framed primarily in terms of forward-looking responsibilities of the kind discussed by Iris Marion Young in her book Responsibility for Justice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"Human Rights, Responsibilities, and Democracy": Comment on Tasioulas and Moyn Papers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.