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A System of Rights$
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Rex Martin

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198292937

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198292937.001.0001

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Civil Rights

Civil Rights

(p.98) 5 Civil Rights
A System of Rights

Rex Martin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Civil rights are universal rights, rights that hold good for all citizens or all persons in a given society; on the assumption that rights are beneficial to the holder, civil rights are justified by the fact of their general and mutually perceived benefit. Typically, there are many rights in a society devoted to civil rights; the problem then, is that rights can conflict. Even though this problem of conflict of rights can be solved by careful drafting (legislative balancing, as it is called) or by assigning priorities in zones of conflict (through assigning weights to given rights), such devices can’t solve conflicts between different exercises of one and the same right (so‐called ‘internal conflict’). Thus, we need as well on‐site resolution of conflicts by administrators and judges. In sum, we need institutional measures to harmonize rights; only then can we eliminate conflict between rights. Natural rights, which disavow such measures in principle, would inevitably conflict and hence collapse into an incoherent set.

Keywords:   benefit, civil rights, conflict of rights, conflict resolution, internal conflict, legislative balancing, natural rights, priorities, rights harmonization

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