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The Perplexities of Worker Rights

The Perplexities of Worker Rights Richard McIntyre Introduction Rights talk makes economists nervous. Not all would subscribe to Bentham's notion that this is just high-minded hot air, what he called "nonsense upon stilts." Still, the influence of the utilitarian tradition and its predilection for positive rather than normative science makes most economists want to leave the room when the subject of "rights" comes up. Despite the easy acceptance of rights politics across the political spectrum in the United States, economists' reaction is not necessarily inappropriate. In the nineteenth century the concept of human rights was so thoroughly criticized by conservative, liberal and socialist writers that it had little credibility in sophisticated circles. Remarkably, since World War II, "rights talk" has made a comeback in political discourse to the extent that the assertion of rights is now often the primary strategy taken by those who want to challenge (or defend) the political-economic status quo. And yet even some of the proponents of a rights based politics are now wondering what other agendas are crowded out by rights talk. In the United States workers and their organizations have not generally expressed their demands in terms of rights. Recently the idea that "worker rights are human http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Good Society Penn State University Press

The Perplexities of Worker Rights

The Good Society , Volume 16 (2) – Jul 23, 2008

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Pennsylvania State University
ISSN
1538-9731
Publisher site
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Abstract

Richard McIntyre Introduction Rights talk makes economists nervous. Not all would subscribe to Bentham's notion that this is just high-minded hot air, what he called "nonsense upon stilts." Still, the influence of the utilitarian tradition and its predilection for positive rather than normative science makes most economists want to leave the room when the subject of "rights" comes up. Despite the easy acceptance of rights politics across the political spectrum in the United States, economists' reaction is not necessarily inappropriate. In the nineteenth century the concept of human rights was so thoroughly criticized by conservative, liberal and socialist writers that it had little credibility in sophisticated circles. Remarkably, since World War II, "rights talk" has made a comeback in political discourse to the extent that the assertion of rights is now often the primary strategy taken by those who want to challenge (or defend) the political-economic status quo. And yet even some of the proponents of a rights based politics are now wondering what other agendas are crowded out by rights talk. In the United States workers and their organizations have not generally expressed their demands in terms of rights. Recently the idea that "worker rights are human

Journal

The Good SocietyPenn State University Press

Published: Jul 23, 2008

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