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Can Markets Secure Human Rights?


  • Manuel Couret Branco

    (Universidade de Evora, Departamento de Economia, NICPRI and CEFAGE-UE)


In recent years, State inefficiency in delivering some public goods to everybody has been the main argument set forth by those who sustain that markets should play a more active role in providing those goods and services that are needed to secure human rights. In result, in many parts of the world, we have been witnessing extensive privatization of social security and water distribution, for example. This article argues that markets are not fully equipped to play the role of a supplier of goods and services as human rights, and more specifically of the right to social security and the right to water. The main reason for this is that in the language of markets capability to pay is the key question whereas within the rights language it is entitlement. If in the first case exclusion and inequality are acceptable in the second case the only acceptable situation is the one characterized by inclusion and equality. In other words goods and services can be unequally distributed, rights cannot. Secondly a provider of goods and services as human rights must be a democratically accountable institution, whereas markets are anonymous, and therefore, unaccountable by definition. Finally, markets are also inefficient in providing goods and services as human rights, either because human rights “markets” are not competitive or because market incentives for private provision of human rights are notoriously weak.

Suggested Citation

  • Manuel Couret Branco, 2010. "Can Markets Secure Human Rights?," CEFAGE-UE Working Papers 2010_05, University of Evora, CEFAGE-UE (Portugal).
  • Handle: RePEc:cfe:wpcefa:2010_05

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