Text of lecture given at London School of Economics and Political Science [pdf], October 29, 2009
Before trying to address the current state of human rights, it is worth considering what is admitted into that sacred canon. The question constantly arises, quite concretely. For example, 10 days ago, on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, when Amnesty International declared that “Poverty is the world’s worst human rights crisis.” Or two days before that, on World Food Day, when the UN food agency reported that the number of people going hungry rose to over 1 billion, while rich countries sharply cut back food aid because of the priority of bailing out banks, and Oxfam reported that 16,000 children are dying a day from hunger-related causes — that is twice Rwanda-level killing just among children, not for 100 days, but every day, and increasing. And the issues regularly arise even in the richest country in the world, where the question of whether health care is a human right is being hotly debated while some 45,000 people die a year from lack of insurance, unknown numbers from utterly inadequate insurance, in the only industrial society I know of where health care is rationed by wealth, not need.