Social Change, Public Policy and Law
Public administration practices and public policies are inevitably rooted in the philosophical assumptions that animate a particular society’s legal structures. The thesis of this paper is that certain constitutive decisions—particularly decisions allocating authority for public and private decision-making—will increase or decrease the liklihood that social and cultural changes will be managed with a minimum of social and political disruption. Using the United States as an example, the paper will make explicit 1) the nature of those constitutive or constitutional decisions; 2) the evidence for their utility in managing social change and mitigating violence; and 3) the parallels between the past experience of the United States and the emerging realities of globalization in the 21st Century.
Social Change, Public Policy and Law
Sheila Suess Kennedy
Associate Professor, Law & Public Policy
School of Public & Environmental Affairs
Paper prepared for Research Symposium
“Public Finance/Budgeting and Government Reform”
June 2, 2007
* Please do not cite without author’s prior approval
The goal of civilized societies is to achieve and maintain a just peace; that is, to create institutions that allow citizens to settle even their deepest differences without violence or the potential for revolution or insurrection that all too often accompanies the disenfranchizing of dissenting voices. For most of human history, those goals were national or regional in scope; however, as the pace of cultural change accelerates in our increasingly globalized world, the challenge for government units of all sizes—subnational to pan-national—will be to manage cultural change and conflict with the least amount of disruption to operation of the government involved, and the least amount of civil discord in the relevant populations.
This paper uses the experience of the
In a global economy, where markets and technology encourage communication and interaction among previously insular populations, there are as many opportunities for increased friction as there are for increased understanding. The challenge of the twenty-first century will be to maintain social stability in the face of accelerating change. I will argue that the best way to do so is by establishing institutions that protect basic civil liberties and human rights while respecting, to the maximum extent possible, the sometimes bewildering array of cultural and normative imperatives that comprise the global village.
To frame an issue is to make a value judgment. By using the American experience with liberal democratic theory as a paradigm for this discussion, I am making the following assumptions, all of which are open to debate:
1) Self-determination and a significant degree of autonomy are personal, ethnic and national goods. That is, protecting the ability of individuals, cultures and states to determine and pursue their own ends is desirable.
2) Absence of insurrection within, and warfare among, nations and eradication of violence between peoples is desirable.
3) Peace achieved through the exercise of authoritarianism, or through the domination of some by others, is neither desirable nor sustainable. That is, while suppression of violence through the exercise of power may be preferable to war and insurrection, it is both less desirable and less likely to endure than a peace that respects the basic human rights of individuals, groups and countries.
4) Increased contact among nations and peoples is inescapable, due to technology and a growing world marketplace. Isolation is no longer a viable option, and social change is an inevitable consequence of our increased interrelationships.
5) Maintenance of social diversity is a good. Enforced uniformity and cultural genocide are to be avoided. Futhermore, in the face of new integrative and transportation technologies, totalitarian regimes can no longer be maintained over time.
6) As a result of increased contact, potential for conflict will increase. It
will become more difficult to balance respect for autonomy and diversity against
economic and political pressure for increased integration of global financial, cultural and social institutions.
7) Supra-national forums and authorities will continue to be established, in order to deal with various aspects of global economic and personal relationships, and their effectiveness in mediating conflict will depend upon whether they are perceived as legitimate and effective by those over whom they assert jurisdiction.
If these assumptions are correct, the American experience may prove instructive. The
In this paper, I will define the fundamental elements of liberal democratic theory, discuss its operation in the context of the American historical experience, and consider what its application to global governance might look like.
The Liberal Paradigm
Liberalism has been defined as “a principle of political organization that accords individuals the freedom to navigate a course of their own design, constituted by self-elected plans and purposes.” (Beiner 1996) William Galston has suggested that liberal societies are characterized by a strategy that minimizes coercion (Galston 1991), and Ronald Dworkin has defined liberal constitutionalism as “a system that establishes legal rights [to self determination] that the dominant legislature does not have the power to override.” (Dworkin 1995:2)
Liberal theory accords to individuals the broadest moral authority over their own lives consistent with the maintenance of public order. So long as individuals do not act in ways that harm the persons or property of others, they are to be free of state coercion. Liberalism thus rests upon a view of the world that separates—as many cultures do not—the public from the private. Liberal theory distinguishes between the communal and the personal; with respect to communal behaviors, it further distinguishes between public activities that are governmental, and communal actions taken through voluntary associations (not-for-profits, or NGOs), which are considered private. Although the historic distinction between public and private is being substantially eroded by current practices of government subcontracting (Kennedy 2000; Jensen and Kennedy, 2006), the distinction remains a bedrock of liberal democratic theory. The most doctrinaire libertarians would limit the role of government to the conduct of activities requiring the use of state coercive powers: controlling crime, waging war, levying taxes, enforcing private agreements (Boaz 1997). They would leave other activities of a communal nature to civil society, which is composed of churches, mosques, synagogues, arts organizations, private charities and a multiplicity of other voluntary associations and nonprofit corporations (Tocqueville 1835,1956; Putnam 2000).
Having defined spheres of human activity in this way, liberalism (at least initially) fostered a definition of justice based upon a concept of “negative” liberty, a conception that accorded great importance to personal liberty and individual autonomy, which were in turn defined as the right to be free of governmental constraint. That economic or personal factors might operate to constrain autonomy as dramatically as any government edict was seen as unfortunate, but beside the point. The point was to limit the exercise of state power.
This original understanding has been criticized as representing a cramped view of human rights and so strict a libertarian paradigm no longer describes American political reality. However, the importance of negative liberty and the high priority assigned to limitations on government power continue to inform liberal public policy. Legislative bodies in the United States have constantly struggled against the limits imposed on government in the American system, and in many cases, so-called “positive rights” which were not included in the original U.S. Constitution have subsequently been extended by statute.
A negative approach to the exercise of public power posits government as a neutral arbiter among citizens who are legal equals. There are many problems with such a “neutral” system, not least the fact that it does not address systemic inequalities, and does not recognize nor compensate for the absence of a level playing field. Indeed, there are many justice issues that simply fall outside the paradigm of negative liberty as conceived by the liberal state. An even more fundamental problem is that neutrality is not experienced as neutral by those who hold comprehensive doctrines, whether those doctrines are religious or political. For such “seamless garment” believers, no system that fails to recognize the supremacy and impose the mandates of their own belief system can ever be legitimate.
Within the western liberal tradition, communitarians, like the socialists and communists before them, complain that a neutral state that places process above substance and sees individual moral choice as a private rather than public concern, fails to meet the universal and human need for meaning. They contend that liberal theory suffers from an “impoverished vision of citizenship and community” (Sandel 1996). Communitarians and other critics of liberalism take issue with the most fundamental commitment of liberal democracies: that persons should be free to govern themselves, free to set and pursue their own ends, in accordance with their own values. They argue that freedom, properly understood, is “freedom to do the right thing” and that political community, in order to be experienced and sustained as a true community, must insist upon a shared telos, an agreement on moral ends (Mulhall & Smith 1992; Sandel 1996). In this view, it is more important that those ends be the correct ones than it is that they be freely chosen.
Whatever the merits of the communitarians’ argument, however, and whatever the deficiencies of liberal democratic regimes, a system of government neutrality and negative rights has one overriding virtue: it makes the use of power to enforce conformity largely illegitimate, and thereby minimizes conflict between citizens who hold different values. That is, by “privatizing” hegemonic belief systems and restricting government activity to those matters which must be addressed communally, liberal systems minimize—although they certainly do not eliminate—political struggles for control over the mechanisms of state power. Furthermore, because liberal systems require those with contending views on matters that are properly governmental to participate in public debate in order to persuade their fellow citizens, they operate to moderate more extreme positions.
Liberal democrats further argue that liberalism does endorse ends: liberty, individual autonomy, equality before the law, tolerance. The American Bill of Rights has even been referred to as a moral code (Kennedy 1997). Liberal theory begins with respect for the value and uniqueness of each individual, and requires behavior consistent with that respect, notably tolerance for those who differ. Liberal political theory values a unity that can accommodate diversity (Kymlicka 1996); and affirms the belief that society is strengthened and enriched by a multiplicity of voices and a constant testing of moral and political theories. To allow the state to prescribe a particularistic moral code or to impose political uniformity would violate the conscience and insult the personhood of citizens. It would also undermine its own legitimacy, and engender resentments ultimately dangerous to continued social stability and civic peace.
Liberalism also challenges the notion that human community must be defined politically. It asserts that political communities, in common with religious communities, ethnic groups, professional or fraternal organizations, and any number of other associations that are meaningful to their members, are partial communities, and that their utility in promoting stability rests upon the fact that they provide room for competing allegiances.
“Freedom-promoting social orders are, it appears, pluralistic; societies
of partial allegiances in which groups endlessly compete with each other
and with the state for the allegiances of individuals, and in which individuals
loyalties are divided among a variety of crosscutting (or only partially
overlapping) memberships and affiliations.
Liberalism needs community life, therefore, and it needs community life to be
constituted in a certain way. Liberal statecraft should aim for a complex, cross-
cutting structure of community life in which particular group-based allegiances
are tempered by other, competing group allegiances and by a state representing a
common, overarching, but partial, point of view that gives everyone something in
common.” (Macedo 1996:255)
Governments are one mechanism among many for the expression of social values and communal aspirations, and liberals warn that there is substantial danger in reposing all moral authority in a coercive state. If the goal of political community is unity without uniformity and diversity without culture war, tolerance for the divergent lifestyles and diverse values of multiple communities is both a tool and an end.
Liberal democrats also make another, quite practical argument: there is no reasonable alternative to state neutrality, unless one opts to use the state’s coercive power to impose ends endorsed by the majority upon unwilling minorities, and thereby risk engendering backlash and undermining state legitimacy. John Rawls defends the liberal enterprise by positing an “overlapping consensus” of shared limited goals (Rawls 1993). The complex framework he establishes rests in part upon a central insight: every time you add a goal that government is to enforce, you introduce a new source of conflict. In the
“Neutrality about the good is, for liberals, also central to their strategy for preserving internal peace. Liberals hold that we can reduce political and social conflict if we place certain matters beyond the bounds of political decisionmaking. Extreme and dangerous political conflict, the kind that leads to civil wars, results when governments prevent some citizens from pursuing ends of fundamental importance to them. When governments respect our rights, though, people are free to make decisions for themselves about these matters. Thus conflict about divisive issues is prevented. This strategy of avoidance is one of the prime ways in which liberals hope to keep the peace. Of course, some people may be frustrated because they cannot attain their own ends by using the power of the state to restrict what other people say and do. The liberal expectation, however, is that people would rather have their own freedom protected than interfere with the freedom of others, if only because they recongnize that an illiberal regime might at some point turn against them.” (Stier 2000:3)
The American Experience
Cultures are not static; they change and are changed by historical experience.The
American history since the Revolutionary war has been an ongoing process of encounter—confrontation with explosive national growth and unpredictable world events, with new immigrants and their cultures, with science, technology and modernism.
Several cultural shifts occurred during the post-revolutionary period. The Second Great Awakening, itself a reaction against the emergence of more liberal, intellectual approaches to Christianity, encouraged individualism by offering people a broad choice of affiliations available from a growing religious “marketplace.” Feminist groups began demanding the right to vote. The Women’s Temperance Union and the New York Anti-Slavery Society were founded, the former in 1826 and the latter in 1833. Democracy and mobility gave people previously unimaginable choices. Social protest and change were everywhere.
The American West was an enormously important element of this climate of change and renewal.Certainly the existence of vast expanses, uninhabited except for the Native Americans (whose claims were recognized by very few), encouraged a spirit of adventurousness and independence—not to mention acquisitiveness—and reinforced an already potent belief in
Throughout the post-Revolutionary period, the issue of slavery continued to fester. In a country that had expressly committed itself to the proposition that all men were created equal, inequalities of many kinds remained glaringly obvious. As James Morone has noted, however, slavery was inequality of a different magnitude. “Americans have been furiously assigning one another to balconies since the seventeenth century. We sort each other by religion, ethnicity, gender and bank account. But nothing marks American differences quite like race.” (2003:119)
By the 1830s, the energies of the always numerous moral reformers had largely converged on opposition to slavery. As abolition conflicts polarized north and south, another change occurred, a regional shift that has had continuing consequences for American political and religious institutions. As a number of historians have noted, by the early 1830’s, modernism and liberalism had largely moved north and west. Southern religion and culture became increasingly orthodox. As many times as the turbulence of the era has been described, it remains difficult for modern Americans to grasp. Lynching of black men in the South, particularly
It is impossible to overstate the influence of race and racial politics on the American character. If the Civil War was our most painful wound, it has yet to fully heal; we continue to deal with the innumerable structural, psychological, economic and religious consequences of slavery.
The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Thirteenth wrote emancipation into the constitutional fabric. The Fourteenth required state governments to extend the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship and the “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens within their jurisdictions. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, effecting a significant structural change to
The legal changes effected by the Fourteenth Amendment were ultimately transformational, as were the social and cultural consequences of those changes. As Theodore Lowi has written: individual rights expanded; rights necessarily involve morality; and morality radicalizes. Lowi has located the beginnings of what Americans now call the “culture wars” in the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. As he argues, authoritarianism finds expression in the religious and moral beliefs of local communities, with real families, identifiable institutions and traditions. So while the early national elites, educated in Enlightenment philosophy and devoted to Lockean ideals, were busy shaping national governing institutions, conservative authoritarians had been content to concentrate their energies on their local communities. (Lowi, 1996) When local communities remained free to impose their views of morality on their neighbors, they were largely content to ignore the federal government. Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment thus introduced new tensions into the relationship between the central and state governments. It did more than nationalize the Bill of Rights; it nationalized—and radicalized—populist (nearly always religious) conservatism by giving federal courts a veto over local government decisions. The 14th Amendment intensified the power struggles between units of government, and the conflicts introduced by that structural shift have continued into the present.
A number of subsequent conflicts have revolved around
It wasn’t only science that was challenging the accepted order. The gulf between conservative and liberal religious beliefs was widening. The Industrial Revolution, increasing urbanization, and a constant influx of immigrants brought disorienting changes that further differentiated and secularized American life. Pluralism suddenly meant something other than different kinds of Protestantism, and the metaphor of an American “melting pot” that included Catholics and Jews came into common usage. Economic disparities were glaring. Predictably, people with different cultural and religious worldviews responded to these new challenges very differently, and responses to the insecurities and hardships of these times took very different forms. Nativism ebbed and flowed. Meanwhile, population distribution added its own dislocations to the civic landscape. During the 1920s, for the first time in American history, more people lived in cities than in the country, making it more difficult to ignore American differences.
During the late 1920’s and early 1930s, the major fact of American life was the Depression, an experience exerting enormous stress on citizens and governments alike, and which eventually required a more robust central government structure in order to deal with it. The interconnected reality of the the American experience continued to grow, with a number of technological innovations, like the telephone and radio, accelerating centralization and the pace of change. Standards for food and drug safety, control of air traffic, provisions for interstate commerce—all required national co-ordination. By the beginning of World War II, the Bill of Rights had been nationalized, social security and other national social programs had been instituted, and an ever-growing number of federal agencies were intruding on the traditional prerogatives of local governments. The pace and scope of change was dizzying. Then World War II affected American culture—and American religious and regional subcultures—in innumerable ways. Among its numerous other effects, the war once again generated large numbers of new immigrants, with strange cultures and beliefs.
Cultural change continued to alter the American landscape in the aftermath of World War II. Suburbanization increased, and with it economic stratification and dependence on personal automobiles. Television brought the news and entertainment to the living room—and showed everyone how “the other half” lived. Advertising and growth in disposable income encouraged consumerism. Women—including those with children at home—entered the workforce in ever-larger numbers. Black soldiers who returned home to find segregation and Jim Crow in the South, and less overt but still widespread discrimination elsewhere, joined a renewed movement for racial equality. Whole books have been written tracing the cultural consequences of each of these—and many other—developments.
The postwar period gave rise to a surface religious ecumenicism, but enormous differences in worldviews contributed to continuing tensions over church-state relationships, particularly the 1963 decision striking down required prayers in public school. In 1954, the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, requiring racial integration of the public schools. The ruling sparked such fierce resistance that President Eisenhower dispatched troops to
The turmoil Americans still refer to as “the sixties” actually lasted well into the 1970s. Its major flashpoints were the struggle for civil rights and the protests against the Viet Nam War, but publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique in 1963 also led to a proliferation of feminist “consciousness raising” groups, and emergence of a full-fledged Women’s Movement. Universities were under attack by everyone—students protesting the draft, parents horrified by the weird, “atheistic” ideas their children were suddenly spouting, and various defenders of the
of Life convinced that “academic freedom” was a liberal, elitist defense of communist propaganda in the classrooms. Protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention were clubbed in the streets by
Constant confrontation and disorder shattered the complacency that had characterized so much of middle-class life in the Fifties. Television news and an ever-more ubiquitous popular culture forced Americans to confront divisions and issues they preferred not to acknowledge. Among those was the profound social division that occurred in the wake of Roe v. Wade in 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down state laws forbidding abortion. Another source of political unrest was the immensely unpopular Viet Nam War.
(Today, many commentators draw a parallel between the deep political divisions over
This incredibly abbreviated tour through the history of inter-group conflict in the United States—superficial and inevitably distorted as it has been, given its single-minded focus on what divides Americans—gives at least a hint of the challenges faced by governing institutions throughout our nation’s relatively short history. And yet—contentious and confrontational as our politics have undeniably been—with very few exceptions, our disputes have been resolved politically and peacefully, rather than through violence or widespread civic unrest. The airwaves of our media may be awash in impolite and confrontational dialogue, we may struggle with racial and religious and political differences, but our streets are reasonably safe, our political officeholders are changed through democratic elections, not revolution, and under all the heated rhetoric, there is a genuine patriotism and a pervasive popular commitment to e pluribus unum—a shared belief that, out of the many, we are one nation, after all. That is a significant accomplishment, and it can only be explained by the architecture of our governing structures, which require that contesting viewpoints vie for acceptance in the public square under rules that are fair and neutral. Psychological research confirms that antagonists who believe 1) that the mechanisms of decision-making are fair and unbiased; and 2) that all parties to a dispute are equally entitled to express themselves and to participate in the process, are much more likely to abide by decisions with which they personally disagree.
In the final analysis, it is not the homogeneity of a population, or the absence of discord, that creates stable social systems. It is the “rules of the game” and the perception by most of the “players” that those rules are fundamentally fair that operates to preserve social peace and manage social change.
There are many parallels between our rapidly shrinking world and the American experience. In the Twenty-First century, sophisticated communications are fast creating the “global village” foreseen by Marshall McLuhan. Global markets are emerging, creating new geopolitical realities. As Thomas Friedman has noted,
“Unlike the cold-war system, which was largely static, globalization involves the integration of free markets, nation-states and information technologies to a degree never before witnessed, in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and countries to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever.”
(Friedman 1999: 42)
Alfred Aman has described the implications of so unprecedented a phenomenon
“The end result of these new networks of investment, finance and production is that they help to create relatively integrated markets for their products and they produce new, multiple sets of relationships or economic networks that transcend the geography of states…..As a result, new bodies of global and international law are developing to address issues that are neither wholly domestic nor wholly international.” (Aman 1998:781-82)
This global integration has both positive and negative implications. In terms of diminishing armed conflicts of the sort that the world has previously known, I would argue that global markets are emphatically good. As a general rule, countries don’t bomb places where their citizens own valuable real estate; they don’t wage war on those who purchase their goods and services. It has been said, and not entirely in jest, that no wars occur between countries that both have McDonalds (Barber 1999).
But even if it is true that global communication and a global economy are making large-scale, conventional war less likely, the absence of armed conflict between nation-states is not same as peace, and certainly not the same as a just peace. In such a world, it is still possible (and perhaps even likely) that the strong will dominate the weak, that the gap between haves and have-nots will widen, and that the new dialectic will be tribalism against globalism (Barber 1995). By tribalism, Barber means the resistance of insular religious or ethnic comprehensive cultures to the seemingly inexorable march of global capitalism. Such resistance proceeds largely from a fear of cultural imperialism, fear of having one’s ethnic group or tribe or even one’s nation swallowed up and replaced by a pallid, all-encompassing western materialism. We are currently seeing the emergence of terrorism and local insurrection as the new form of warfare, fought by those who believe that they are thereby protecting their cultural or national or ethnic autonomy against an emerging world culture or new form of imperialism.
It is not only marginalized societies that fear the development of a “new world order,” conceived as a transnational or supranational authority or world government. In the
On a more theoretical level, political scientists who believe global institutions are necessary and desirable nevertheless worry that citizen apathy and political disaffection will increase if too much power is exercised by institutions that are ever more remote. If power shifts to supra-national institutions, the distance between the exercise of authority and the kinds of civic participation that are necessary to legitimate such exercise becomes too great. If global citizens are to retain—or regain—control over the governments that rule them, power must devolve as well evolve, with local, national and international bodies each exercising jurisdiction only over those functions that require action at that geographic level.
Politicians are not unaware of the dual nature of globalization’s pressure. In a discussion of Tony Blair’s celebrated “third way” of governing, which rejects the prior European political categories of Left and Right, the Economist Magazine reported on a seminar devoted to an exploration of the new approach as follows:
“The old left sought to maximize the role of the state, the old right to minimize it. The third way should seek instead to restructure government, at all levels. It should promote subsidiarity and address the “democratic deficit.” Measures included constitutional reform, greater transparency, and more local democracy…The third way recognizes that we no longer live in a bipolar world and realizes that states no longer face enemies, only dangers.” (Economist 1998:52)
Some governing functions must be handled globally. Others are best addressed locally. A growing number of commentators and political scientists are considering (or challenging) the widely-held thesis that, under the press of globalization, political authority is draining away from nation-states, simultaneously moving upward to supranational organizations, downward to sub-national units, and “sideways or laterally to private actors assuming previously ‘public’ responsibilities.” (Kahler and Lake 2000)
Whether that thesis is proved or disproved, the central challenge to governance in this brave new world will be to identify not only what functions are appropriately governmental and nongovernmental, but also, for those that are deemed governmental, to identify the proper unit or level of government to exercise jurisdiction of the matter.
Mediation of treaties, trade disputes, environmental threats and international peacekeeping are inescapably global issues. Justice systems, transportation and labor policies, central banking decisions and the like are generally issues of national concern. Burglary and assault, traffic engineering, garbage collection and similar matters are just as clearly local. A workable international federation must reflect this reality, or it will not have the support of the nations it purports to represent nor the legitimacy to exercise the limited powers it must have.
An international body based upon liberal democratic principles will not intentionally suppress indigenous cultures or supplant existing national governments. Like national governments in the libertarian political tradition, its power will be limited. If the liberal democratic distinction between public and private informs the conduct of such an international institution, it will prohibit interference with the internal affairs of its “citizens”—in this instance, member nations—much as the Bill of Rights in the
While such an approach holds great promise, knotty and enduring problems remain.
There will always be those who resist membership in a world community so conceived, just as there have always been those who have resisted national and subnational authority—those whose religious views or cultural ambitions impel them to attack democratic institutions, subvert popularly elected governments, and otherwise engage in activities intended to shift the balance of power in favor of their own comprehensive worldviews. An international body committed to respecting the internal affairs of member nations will find it extremely difficult to justify measures taken against such efforts, which are likely to take the form of intrastate conflicts.
Even more difficult will be conflicts between fundamental human rights and national sovereignty. In the
If intervention into the internal affairs of nations can be justified on the basis that it is necessary to put down subversion, or to protect the bodily integrity of women, can it also be justified in order to redress economic deprivations? It can be argued that a neutrality that ignores systemic inequalities is hardly neutral; that it is only when all people enjoy at least a minimal standard of living that the concept of autonomy has any real content or meaning. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights incorporates that insight. Will we ultimately empower a global authority to enforce the Universal Declaration, much as the
However daunting these and other problems may seem, there is no turning back. Governing institutions—national and global—will be vested with authority for the same reason that governments have always been formed: to enforce civil peace, meet common challenges and mediate disputes. The issue is not whether to create such institutions, but what form and authority to give them.
The alternatives to a liberal democratic order are authoritarianism, on the one hand, and persistent conflict, disorder or chaos, on the other. With all its deficiencies, I submit that democratic liberalism based upon the rule of law offers the best avenue to global peace and stability. A liberal federation governed by a global authority required to respect individual, ethnic and national autonomy, encourage diversity within unity, and enforce the fundamental human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is most likely to manage social change with minimal disruption, engage the allegiance of the human family, and most likely to achieve and maintain a just world peace.
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 How “harm to others” is to be defined is, of course, a highly contentious matter. Liberal principles are deceptively simple; their proper application (as evidenced by the thousands of books written on the topic) is anything but simple.
 This emphasis creates genuine problems when, for example, the United States is asked to endorse Conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which include as rights affirmative entitlements to food, housing and medical care.
 For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
 The question of who will choose the ends, who will define what the “right thing” is and exercise the power to enforce “right ends” is seldom addressed. Presumably, the majority will do so.
 This example points to the inevitability of some degree of government authoritarianism, in any system, and raises the issue (a staple of political conflict in the
 William Whitford has offered an excellent definition of the term “rule of law” in an article by the same name to be published by the Wisconsin Law Review. According to Whitford, the original meaning of the term “rule of law’ was that no individual should be “above” the law; that government actions should be accountable to some set of pre-determined standards, to be applied by an independent body (probably a court) and contained in constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations and common law precedents.