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Home Blog Can the state protect human rights?

Can the state protect human rights?

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Prompted by the economic crisis and the sixtieth anniversary of the UN declaration, human rights have been the subject of several pieces arguing that states should have a stronger role to ensure that people's rights are protected. But human rights are not guaranteed by defining them as such, rather they arise by defining the corresponding duties which confer those rights. Once the duties of the state and of the individual are defined, both positively and negatively, the rights emerge naturally.

Of all rights listed, it is the economic ones that are the most critical as without them humans have no means of sustenance, nor of providing themselves with shelter. This corresponding duty is that the state should ensure that everyone has a means of earning their livelihood, and this give rise to a reciprocal duty on the part of the individual, to support oneself and one's family in all normal circumstances.

How is the state to ensure that everyone has the means to earn a livelihood and provide themselves with shelter? Both demand access to land, and it follows that the state  has a duty to ensure that everyone has access to land, on equal terms. The corresponding duty is that the individual should pay the full rent of land to the state. Were the state to do this, it would not need to rob people of the fruits of their labour, in contravention of the Eighth Commandment.

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