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Global Basic Rights$
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Charles R. Beitz and Robert E. Goodin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199604388

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199604388.001.0001

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The Alleged Dichotomy Between Positive and Negative Rights and Duties*

The Alleged Dichotomy Between Positive and Negative Rights and Duties*

Chapter:
(p.92) 5 The Alleged Dichotomy Between Positive and Negative Rights and Duties*
Source:
Global Basic Rights
Author(s):

Elizabeth Ashford

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199604388.003.0005

This chapter reinforces two of Shue’s principal arguments against the existence of a fundamental distinction between liberty rights and welfare rights, such that only the former are genuine human rights. The first argument is that the enjoyment of the right to subsistence is essential to the enjoyment of any other rights, and so has to be acknowledged as a basic human right. The second argument addresses the duties imposed by welfare rights. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 1 discusses Shue’s account of the interdependence between the right to subsistence and other rights. Section 2 argues for a substantive interdependence between them. Section 3 analyses the Kantian rationale for the claim that duties of justice must be perfect in nature, and that positive duties, unlike negative duties, cannot be general duties of justice. Section 4 discusses Onora O’Neill’s account of coercion, and argues that child labour plausibly constitutes coercion on this account. Section 5 argues that, because of the interdependence of the right against child labour and the right to subsistence, then unless the right to subsistence has been secured, the right against child labour is more plausibly seen as imposing imperfect duties. It concludes that the standard dichotomies between positive and negative duties are overly rigid.

Keywords:   Henry Shue, liberty rights, welfare rights, human rights, subsistence, Kant, duties of justice, Onora O’Neill, coercion, child labour

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