Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Silly me

I have just finished reading Lynn Hunt's Inventing Human Rights. It is easy to read and informative. She develops the idea that increasing middle-class wealth in the 18th century prompted more people to read and become engrossed in novels and their characters, to develop a heightened sense of empathy and to take seriously the idea of human rights. Hence the U.S. and French declarations of human rights.

Yet, in 250+ pages, there is nothing on property rights. In passing, they are mentioned towards the end as something that socialists and Marxists wanted to do away with.

But property rights acrue to humans. They are the right to the fruits of one's labor. This means they are a human right. A wonderful summary of the economics of property rights is by Andrew P. Morriss in the March 2007 edition of The Freeman. (It is not yet posted but, I am told, it will be soon.)

I am perplexed that the human rights story can be told at this late date by an erudite scholar, such as Hunt, who manages to avoid the idea and the importance of property rights.

I would not have thought that this is possible. The 1960s are long gone. It is 2007.