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Nigel Biggar cites Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke and Onora O'Neill to contest the merits of natural rights. © North Wind Picture Archives/Granger Historical Picture Archive/politics/Alamy Stock Photo 

My rights, your wrongs: Nigel Biggar’s flawed attack on ‘human rights fundamentalism’

A new book’s attempt to critique the philosophy of human rights—and the  “progressive zeal” of the judges who uphold them—ultimately fails to convince, says the former president of the Supreme Court

By Brenda Hale   March 2021

For a lawyer, this is a curate’s egg of a book—parts appear excellent, but those are the parts that I am least qualified to judge, because the author is a Christian and a professional ethicist and I am only one of those.

The title—What’s Wrong with Rights?—is not excellent. As the author accepted in an illuminating webinar organised by the think tank Policy Exchange, there is much that is right about rights, insofar as they fit within his paradigm: a legal right, possessed by an individual or corporation and designed to secure an important element of human or commercial flourishing backed up by authority. Nigel Biggar, who teaches theology at Oxford, wrote this book because, in his view, there are four things wrong with the way some people talk about rights. (These will chime well in those political circles where there is currently agitation to pare back human…

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