Philosophy, Politics

Curing “rights talk” with more “rights talk”

John Gray reviews Dominic Raab’s The Assault on Liberty: What went Wrong with Rights and makes an important observation:

Ironically, while he astutely criticizes the rise of a legalistic culture of rights, Raab seems to believe we can extricate ourselves from our present predicament through another exercise in legalism. Yet when much of the British political class no longer cares about freedom and barely understands what it means, a Bill of Rights can hardly be expected to turn the tide. It was not law or rights that Churchill invoked when dismantling wartime infringements of freedom. It was civilization, which requires a measured restraint in the use of power on the part of our rulers without which bills of rights are not much more than scraps of paper.

Classical liberals should not be surprised about the current proliferation of rights. As soon as the term right is divorced from actual contract, the road is cleared for all other kinds of rights claims. The challenge is to overcome the incoherent thinking about rights as such.