Die meisten sind heute der Meinung, dass Menschenrechte eine universelle Errungenschaft ist, die ohne zeitliche und räumliche Begrenzung gilt. Das war nicht immer so, es gab Zeiten, zu denen sich die Zeitgenossen sehr bewusst darüber waren, dass Menschenrechte ein Verhandlungsgegenstand sind, der in Gesellschaften immer neu verhandelt werden muss. Einer, der dies in sehr anschaulicher Weise darstellt, ist Abraham Edel, der ein Buch mit dem Titel “Analyzing Concepts in Social Sciences” geschrieben hat, dass sehr lesenswert ist. Wir zitieren aus dem Kapitel “Some Reflections on Human Right”:

“Controversy often centers about interpretation of the human right even when it is being accepted. Let us take two examples form the touchiest of rights in modern times, those about free enterprise and property. In the growing atmosphere of postwar planning toward the end of World War II the National Resource Planning Board in a report for 1943 proposed a New Bill of Rights to go with the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear) that had been enunciated earlier. In his message to Congress in January 1944, President Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights to supplement our traditional political bill of rights. Now compare what the Planning Board and the President said about free enterprise. The Board includes in the list: ‘The right to live in a system of free enterprise, free from compulsory labor, irresponsible private power, arbitrary public authority, and unregulated monopolies’. The President says: ‘The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad’. Again compare the formulation on property in the UN declaration of what is said by a UNESCO committee on the theoretical basis of human rights. The UN declaration says: ‘Every one has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property’ (Art. 17). The UNESCO committee says: ‘Every man has the right to private property and the use of his family: no other form of property is in itself a fundamental right’.

The contrasts are instructive. The Planning Board apparently broadens the concept of free enterprise so that it will mean a quality of the individual’s life, directed against various types of coercion. Contrastingly, in the same period, Herbert Hoover was writing about free enterprise as the fifth and most fundamental freedom, in the sense of the freedom of business enterprise, and claiming that the war was being fought to restore it throughout the world. Rooesevelt’s formulation keeps the term in its restricted characterization of business, but directs it against monopolies. The UN declaration states the traditional rights to property for individuals and associations (including cooperations). The UNESCO committee explicitly removes large-scale property in business activity from the protection of a fundamental right. In all such conceptual skirmishing, we see that the social conflict of the age are finding intellectual expression” (Edel, Analyzing Concepts in Social Science, pp. 118-119).