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From the archives! I wrote this essay in 2012 for my coursework in European human rights law, as part of my masters' degree. Reading it now, five years and a law degree later (!) is a bit cringe, but I think it does a fairly decent job of explaining some of the more theoretical differences in American and European approaches to human rights.
Is the European recognition of positive obligations in human rights law superior to the view taken by the United States Supreme Court?
In the Liberal tradition, democracies emphasise the political and civil rights of their citizenry: autonomy, the rule of law, and both positive and negative liberties of the individual are some of many examples. But what of the negative and positive obligations regarding the state, in as much as human rights are concerned? While the democratic values of Europe and America are largely built upon the same ideals, it is the means by which their different legal systems ascertain government duty wherein a fundamental divergence of responsibility occurs. Principally, the distinction centres on the reach of law, and to what extent conflicts can be ameliorated through courts.