BC - Rights as Trumps..pdf - UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND...

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRONIC RESERVE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND WARNING This material has been reproduced and communicated to you by or on behalf of the University of New England in accordance with section 113P of the Copyright Act 1968 ( Act ). The material in this communication may be subject to copyright under the Act. Any further reproduction or communication of this material by you may be the subject of copyright protection under the Act. Do not remove this notice Citation Dworkin, Ronald. 1984. ‘Rights a s Trumps’. In: Theories of Rights / edited by Jeremy Waldron. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.153- 167. This file is a digitised version of printed copyright material. Due to the process used to create it, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Please refer to the original published version if you have any concerns about its accuracy.
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VII RIGHTS AS TRUMPS ·RONALD DWORKIN I. RIGHTS AND UTILITY RIGHTS are best understood as trumps over some background justifica- tion for political decisions that states a goal for the community as a whole. 1 If someone has a right to publish pornography, this means that it is for some reason wrong for officials to act in violation of that right, even if they (correctly) believe that the community as a whole would be better off if they did. Of course, there are many different theories in the field about what makes a community better off on the whole; many different theories, that is, about what the goal of political action should be. One prominent theory ( or rather group of theories) is utili- tarianism in its familiar forms, which suppose that the community is better off if its members are on average happier or have more of their preferences satisfied. There are, of course, many other theories about the true goal of politics. To some extent, the argument in favour of a political right must depend on which of these theories about desirable goals has been accepted; it must depend, that is, on what general back- ground justification for political decisions the right in question proposes to trump. In the following discussion I shall assume that the back- ground justification with which we are concerned is some form of utili- tarianism which takes, as the goal of politics, the fulfilment of as many of people's goals for their own lives as possible. This remains, I think, the most influential background justification, at least in the informal way in which it presently figures in politics in the Western democracies. Suppose we accept then that, at least in general, a political decision is justified if it promises to make citizens happier, or to fulfil more of their preferences, on average, than any other decision ·could. Suppose Adapted by the author from Ronald Dworkin, 'Is There a Right to Pornography?', Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 1 (1981), pp. 177-212. Copyright © Ronald Dworkin 1981.
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