I came across an article, “Against Human Rights,” by Eric A. Posner in the print version of the October 2014 Harper’s Magazine. The opening paragraph of the article can also be accessed online. Update: At a Dec. 4, 2014 Guardian article you can read the rest of Eric Posner’s overview regarding human rights law. [End of update]
I found the article of interest.
Posner is concerned with evidence and evidence-based practice.
Evidence, I would note, stands in contrast to truthiness, which describes a situation in which our attempts to make sense of the world do not have a relationship to anything that is real, provable, or factual – that is, based upon empirical evidence. Truthiness is strongly appealing to some individuals and groups. A symbolic interactionist conceptual framework enables a person to understand the dynamics of its appeal.
In his essay in Harper’s Magazine, from The Twilight of Human Rights Law (2014), Posner argues that human rights law has failed to improve the well-being of people and “ought to be abandoned.”
Eric A. Posner argues that neither foreign aid nor human rights reinforcement has achieved much success because “neither system can handle the variation and complexity of non-Western countries.”
The author adds that development economics has made a measure of progress in addressing this failing, however, through implementing a range of randomized controlled trials, using rigorous statistical methods. The aim is to determine how to achieve modest, measurable gains in the well-being of people who live in developing countries.
Such academic rigour, he notes, is absent from human rights law. Few papers in the field take an empirical approach: “Lawyers mainly read and discuss judicial opinions – which affect hardly anyone at all – while ignoring the actual behavior of governments, NGOs, and individuals.”
Rule naiveté & well-being
According to Posner, human rights law also is characterized by what he describes as “rule naiveté – the idea that the public good for any country can be described in the form of simple rules.”
The author argues that when foreign-aid donors try to help a country, they recognize that “the goal is to improve the well-being of the recipients.”
When human rights advocates seek to help a country, on the other hand, he adds, their goal is to bring a country into compliance with a set of rules. The latter approach, Posner argues, does not necessarily “advance the well-being of the citizens in the target country.”
Posner concludes that any state, NGO, or group seeking to provide foreign aid to developing countries should do whatever they can, by whatever means are available, to “advance the well-being of the population,” provided there is cooperation from the government of the recipient country.
There is much to be said for simplicity in communications provided that that the message is based on evidence. One can add that, as Posner notes, not all problems are simple. For that reason, policy development in any field benefits from empirical research, and from an understanding that not all of the problems that we seek to address have simple solutions.
The topic of memes and blurbs, and the manner in which we are hardwired for receptivity for certain forms of communications, comes to mind, as well, with regard to simplicity in communications. A meme ot blurb has value to the extent it’s based on evidence, and serves the interests of both the sender of the message and the recipient of it. When only the needs of the sender are served, the discussion concerns scams and scamming. With regard to the latter topic, we are dealing with truthiness, which among other things is characterized by the concept that “People believe what they want to believe.”
As well, I would add that I like this comment about human rights, at an Oct. 6, 2014 CBC article: “”What we are asking for is what we were already promised,” he says. “Democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”