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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 41, 1998

Political Philosophy

R. A. Hill
Pages 110-115

Government, Justice, and Human Rights

This paper explores the relationship between justice and government, examining views on the subject expressed by traditional political philosophers such as Rousseau and Locke, as well as those expressed by contemporary political theorists such as John Rawls and Robert Nozick. According to Rawls, justice is one of the fundamental concerns of a governing body; Locke and Rousseau agree that government and justice are essentially connected. Nozick and Max Weber, however, claim that the essential characteristic of government is not justice, but power. This paper argues that government, as an institution formed and controlled by human beings, is subject to the moral injunction to treat human beings as entities accorded certain rights, and included among these rights is the right to just treatment. Governments are therefore enjoined to be just because human beings, as rational agents, and therefore persons, are owed the minimal respect due a person, such as the right to freedom and the right to forbearance from harm by others to self and property.

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