Simon Jenkins, in the Sunday Times, recently declared his enthusiasm for the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham who said that all that matters is the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and that the whole idea of human rights is therefore "nonsense upon stilts". But Europe, led by Britain, rejected Bentham's utilitarianism after the second world war when it established the European human rights convention. The 20th-century tyrannies have taught us that protecting the dignity of human beings, one by one, is worth the increased discomfort and risk that respecting human rights may cost the public at large. The Human Rights Act, which makes that convention part of Britain's own law, was one of the great achievements of this government. It is sad that Blair's political weakness has tempted him to rubbish ideals of which he and the country should be proud.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Human rights do not fit a cost-benefit analysis
Professor Ronald Dworkin of UCL is as appalled as I am at Blair's ignorance on human rights: