Front Page Titles (by Subject) Human Rights and Political Change - Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4
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Human Rights and Political Change - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Human Rights and Political Change
“On Human Rights, Feudalism and Political Change” in Alan S. Rosenbaum, ed., The Philosophy of Human Rights Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, Chapter 12.
Machan challenges the relativist conception of human rights: that different societies could have different but equally valid ideas as to what rights human individuals have. He provides a brief history of this issue and discusses why even the absence of a clear conception of human rights are universal moral/political principles.
Machan develops the case for human rights very briefly and in plain terms, appropriate to a nontechnical book. Such rights mean that because human beings are moral agents living in this world, others in society should not interfere with their lives, liberty, and property and may be rebuffed when they do so (by the victim or by his or her agents, possibly governments).
The essay next turns to some of its most novel features, namely, what is to be done where human rights are not respected in law and practice. Machan develops an ethics of striving to have a constitution of human rights established and administered, urging that this ethics must not lose sight of the very principles which are being fought for. Some examples are explored. Feudalism in Hungary is used as the model by which the ethics is tested and developed.
The last portion of the essay examines the foreign policy of a society in which a constitution of human rights is being administered in law. What should such a society's relations be with others which do not respect human rights? Is there cause for hostility or armed conflict? The general point stressed is that a constitution of human rights does not imply that a society should strive to implement it everywhere, especially not if this requires force.
The last section of this essay considers the delicate moves of diplomacy to demonstrate the respect for human rights which serve as principles to respect and protect human individuals in their persons and properties.