How come we have such different visceral reactions to the assertions “I am entitled to a house” and “I am immune in my house”, even though both entitlements and immunities are kinds of rights? Is it really a step forward that the UN has enumerated “rights” in an International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? What are the practical effects of Locke’s and Rousseau’s thought-exercise propounding that man is a blank slate? Were our rights won for us by being asserted by our forefathers against government, or are they graciously granted by government and then curtailed and withheld again by that same government with a supposedly heavy heart?
How is it that the first time the phrase “human rights” was weaponised as a slogan was by sexual proclivity activists in the Weimar Republic organising as the “Human Rights League”, a century and a half after the coining of the term by philosophers? Why can an Englishman eject an intruder from his home but a Continental must wait for the police to turn up and do it for him? Is it sheer coincidence that Article 29 of Magna Carta 1215 seems to have been subverted by the same-numbered article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the so-called Global Magna Carta? Are rights truly about “fairness” or “equity” — or is that actually a swizz?
Join us to hear why David Scott argues that the twentieth-century rights discourse has made us “part-time slaves”; how “You can’t interfere with me” has degenerated into “The government mustinterfere with you because of my rights”; whether we even have a right to bodily integrity any more; how statutes as apparently innocuous as the Local Government Act 1888 hive off rights from us to government; what it means when Continental judges “set aside” their national laws and constitution because of a treaty ratified by their government; and what the lawyerly trick of conflating rights with powers involves. There is no better time to be discussing these questions than in 2020.
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