Volume 33, 2017
Power and Public Reason
Realizing the Power of Socioeconomic Human Rights
Human rights are high priority norms that empower right holders to demand the benefits protected by their rights. This is no less true of socioeconomic human rights than civil and political human rights. I argue that realizing human socioeconomic rights requires that they be enacted into state law in such a way that individual right holders have the power to bring legal action in defense of their rights. Contrary to Thomas Pogge, it is not enough for states simply to provide the benefits required by human rights. Unfortunately, limited resources mean that successful litigation by right holders threatens to disempower other right holders by distorting a fair distribution of limited resources, since those with the resources to litigate can command a disproportionate and unjust share of limited resources. Using the human right to health as an example, I argue that an important part of the solution requires specifying different aspects of the content of the right to health and adopting appropriately strong standards of judicial review.