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Right to common goods, Group rights


Human Rights Law | Law and Philosophy


Individuals have rights. I will assume that this means that individuals have interests which are important enough to justify the imposition of duties on others in order to secure those interests. Groups of individuals, such as nations or ethnic minorities, plausibly have rights as well. Groups of individuals may have group interests appropriately protected by the imposition of duties on others, typically, on governments, or on other larger political entities. My concern in this essay is with the question of what individuals or groups may have a right to. In particular I want to explore the question of whether people can have a right to common goods, such as the flourishing of their culture or national heritage. First, I will explain the concept of a common good and its distinction from other, similar, concepts such as collective and public goods. Second, I will argue that individuals should not have a right to common goods, unless a particular distributive principle applies to the good in question, and then the individual's right is the right to a certain share in that common good. Finally, I will explore the question of how this analysis applies to group-rights.


This article predates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.