From Chase Madar: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/whats-wrong-with-rights/
We Americans know our rights! At least we talk as if we do, almost incessantly. The language of rights is how we discuss, and perceive, almost everything in our political life. But what guidance do the Bill of Rights or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offer when it comes to proper healthcare policy, financial and immigration reform, and where and whether to go to war? Is our national “rights dialect” really the best way to talk about the problems we face?
Mary Ann Glendon is not so sure.
Rights are essential and they are good, Glendon argues, but they have come to dominate our public discourse in ways that are not healthy. We tend to throw down rights as if they were absolute trumps. But they are not, and must be measured against competing rights, values, and obligations. Rights are by nature individualistic and frequently unable to deal with non-individualist struggles in our social dimension. Rights are legalistic, and the spurious law talk they carry with them has corrupted public debate outside the courtroom, from the town hall to the kitchen table. (Glendon, a bit of a self-loathing lawyer, laments our culture in which public discussion takes law and legalism as the highest authority.)
But the main drawback of rights talk is that it has crowded out other modes of political thought, debate, and even action. Glendon points out how rights-based claims have been powerless to turn back or even slow the dislocation and destruction of formerly thriving communities by both de-industrialization and so-called urban renewal. When a Youngstown coalition of unions and religious groups tried in 1980 to fight further plant closures by haltingly asserting a “community property right” in federal court, the sympathetic judge had no choice but to dismiss their case out of hand and tell them to try the national and state legislatures. A similar coalition in Detroit failed to save the Poletown neighborhood from eminent-domain confiscation, as they could find no rights-based legal claim on which to hang their case.
Reading Rights Talk, we realize how virtually every political tribe in America across the left-right spectrum is in thrall to the rights dialect. The Tea Party tends to reduce politics to property-rights fundamentalism whereas liberal technocrats create new “positive” rights—to housing, to healthcare—for an expanded welfare state to service and manage. To envision a politics that isn’t rights-based almost seems as difficult as fishes dreaming of fire.