Published March 1, 1995

1. In the days when he represented the United States at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, my friend Michael Novak used to ask whether, if there was a “right to development,” there wasn’t also a “duty to develop”? And if so, when were certain Third World governments going to get out of the way of their societies’ fulfillment of that duty?

2. Adherence to the principle de mortuis nil nisi bonum may surely be suspended in order to note that for the U.N. to hold a major international conference on population—with all that this issue implies for the most personal of human decisions—in the Romania of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu tells us something important about the U.N. and human rights.

3. Even minus its madcap Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the Clinton Administration seems incapable of learning much of anything from Cairo. It now proposes to bring the New Age to the world by having the Copenhagen Summit mandate “… school-based health information programs to … include information about prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HI V/AIDS; reproductive health, including family planning; and training in non-violence.”

4. That the idea of “universal and inalienable human rights” is culturally conditioned “all the way down” is also a theme struck by Western deconstructionists like Duke’s Stanley Fish, author of There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech, And It’s a Good Thing, Too. But among the signs of divine mercy to be detected in contemporary life is the fact that the Duke English department will not be running U.S. foreign policy in the near future.

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