Ted Thomas’s Bruce Jesson lecture on reducing inequality

Last week Ted Thomas gave his Bruce Jesson lecture. The text of it is attached, but his basic argument is that the best way to tackle inequality is a rights-based campaign. As he puts it:

“The community, or groups within the community, will need to take a more assertive, if not aggressive, approach to the task of reversing extreme inequality.  Economic, social and cultural rights, I suggest, are the key. These substantive rights embrace the right to work, in which I would include the right to a living wage, the right to health care, the right to freedom from poverty and an adequate standard of living, the right to security, the right to free and equal education, the right to a reasonable standard of housing, and the right to a habitable environment.”

Human rights are the best bet, he argues, because pragmatically they are the most compatible with the existing social and economic structures:

“Human rights are basically ego-centric.  As a result, the enforcement of human rights by individuals – or groups of individuals – is compatible with individualism.  The enforcement of human rights is probably now the most productive means of protecting the individual or groups of individuals from the harsh extremes of liberal individualism and capitalism.  To a large extent, the protection of human rights is beyond or outside the political and economic systems.  Irrespective of those systems, people can insist upon their “rights”.”

He concludes:

“The denial of substantive rights, therefore, must come to be viewed as an intolerable injustice, such as to lead to outrage and a burning anger at the hardship and misery that inequality has visited upon so many good people.”

Ted Thomas – Bruce Jesson lecture 2013